@cL - I posit that social skills are somewhat situational and that the benefits described above are somewhat entangled with charisma. A few years ago, we played around with a D&D test
and here's the scale:
- 1 (–5): Barely conscious, incredibly tactless and non-empathetic
- 2-3 (–4): Minimal independent thought, relies heavily on others to think instead ($)
- 4-5 (–3): Has trouble thinking of others as people
- 6-7 (–2): Terribly reticent, uninteresting, or rude
- 8-9 (–1): Something of a bore or makes people mildly uncomfortable
- 10-11 (0): Capable of polite conversation
- 12-13 (1): Mildly interesting, knows what to say to the right people
- 14-15 (2): Interesting, knows what to say to most people
- 16-17 (3): Popular, receives greetings and conversations on the street
- 18-19 (4): Immediately likeable by many people, subject of favorable talk
- 20-21 (5): Life of the party, able to keep people entertained for hours
- 22-23 (6): Immediately likeable by almost everybody
- 24-25 (7): Renowned for wit, personality, and/or looks
($) This descriptor seems off. I'd replace it with "Insensitive, disrespectful and churlish".
I scored 7.4 in the CHA department
(remember to use the translation equation) but also 21.8 in WIS. I read social situations better than most people. This makes for a strange combination.
Effectively, charisma varies by the situation. 7 is my default mode and reticent is the right descriptor. I just don't seek to connect with random people which in turn makes me as uninteresting to them as they are to me. In a work situation, I'll do 10. At ERE meetups or similar, I turn into a 14 and could probably be mistaken for an extrovert. So I have some idea of what charisma feels like.
My best example for explaining why I think charisma is situational is a college friend from the coed dorm and proverbial ESFP party girl scoring around 21. In many ways my complete opposite. A few months after some of us had started the chess club (3 founding members) that quickly turned into the beer and trivial pursuit club (now with 1/4 of the dorm present), she finally showed up. What was interesting was that her otherwise brilliant social skills didn't work at all when seated around the TP table where the social interaction was more structured (and also required trivia knowledge she didn't have much of).
That's my argument for why situational subject-matter is a confounding variable. Another way of suggesting it is Eleanor Roosevelt's comment about "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Well, I'd rather note that only a few minds are interested in ideas, whereas many minds are interested in events such as the weather, sports results, stuff they buy, things they eat, and vacations they've been on; and most people are interested in other people and their [own] children.
In Paul Graham's essay, it's recognized that focus takes energy. Popular people focus on popularity. Nerds focus on nerd stuff. If a nerd wants to be popular, they have to focus more on popularity and less on nerd stuff. They might not consider that trade off worthwhile. To spend less time thinking about, say, trivial pursuit factoids and more time learning the names of football players and developing opinions on restaurants or children's activities or how a coworker behaved so that when the random conversation inevitably falls on that and stays there, they have something to say about it.
This repository of "social information" is not something that can be learned once. It's something that needs to be maintained and something that those who are charismatic spend a lot more time and energy on than those who aren't.
IOW, charisma is a perishable skill.
In my case, after trying a few times, I've just not found it worthwhile to learn and maintain the "social information" needed to make a lot of random human connections. Instead I maintain the information relevant to connect to select humans... such as this forum. It would obviously be different if I was in the business of having to connect with a lot of different persons on a regular basis, like sales, or nursing, or traveling, but I'm not, so I don't. I think as long as one has the social skills to remain above 4 on the charisma scale in a given situation (we've seen some failures on the forum from time to time) and doesn't feel a need for more humans in one's life, then it's okay to be more interested in other things than how to be more social/friendly/popular.
TL;DR - Social skill is not the same as charisma. Charisma benefits from shared interests. Most people happen to share common interests (events, people) which makes socializing easier but some do not.