Being social is a very simple thing to do, and it should not be something you are either good at or bad at. If you want to, you can learn to be a more social person.
Extroverts, on average, will have less difficulty getting out and meeting new people, but this is to be expected. However, don't think that outgoing people don't make mistakes. There are things you can do to make your life easier while you're out and about.
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What You Should Do
Initiate a conversation – Many people wait for others to approach them when they are out and about. As the saying goes, becoming the person who initiates conversation and breaks the ice is half the battle. As you gain confidence in doing so, you'll find yourself meeting more and more interesting people and forming fruitful friendships.
It can be intimidating at first due to the fear of rejection or being shut down. This is almost never going to happen. At worst, you'll get a polite but closed response. Remember, people are out to socialize. There are small groups of people who stick together, but that doesn't mean they don't want to meet new people.
Smile – If you appear unhappy, you will be less approachable. This is a simple step toward appearing approachable and social. When you strike up a conversation, your smile should be mirrored, and rapport will grow from there.
Enjoy your company – When you appear to be having fun, you instantly become more likable. People want to know people who are entertaining and enjoy being around others. Have a good time with your friends. Although it may appear obvious, many groups of people leave the room and do nothing but scan the room.
People will notice and want to be a part of your fun if you are having a good time.
Recognize strangers – This can be as simple as a smile and a nod. Recognize when you make eye contact with a stranger. If your smile is returned, this will be a simple introduction. Later on, start the conversation.
Making friends with random strangers is one of my favorite things to do when I'm out and about. How else do you meet new people? These chance meetings will lead you to the most interesting and personally suitable people.
Dress the part – This isn't the most important step in my opinion, but it makes life a lot easier when you look like you belong somewhere. Now, I don't mean that you should lose your individuality. I mean, don't go out of your way to appear distant.
Relax if you've just gotten home from work, for example. Unless it's an after-work crowd, you'll feel out of place and are unlikely to be approached. Personally, I don't follow this rule very strictly, but it will make you more approachable.
Individuality, on the other hand, goes a long way. Be true to yourself.
Listen – People enjoy talking about themselves, so pay attention. The worst is when someone simply waits for you to stop talking so they can resume. Show genuine concern for others. People are fascinating, so strike up a conversation with them. There is so much to talk about in this world that small talk isn't really necessary – especially since it can be painfully boring.
Conversely, don't rant – Asking good questions is the best way to elicit good responses from people. Avoid phrases like “what do you do?” and “nice weather,” among others. Discuss something that piques your interest. People enjoy explaining what they know, so if you don't understand what they're saying, ask them. Don't act as if you know anything; they'll be happy to teach you.
Maintain eye contact – Do not scan the room while speaking with someone. It's a dead giveaway that you're not interested in the conversation. If you're not interested in what someone is saying, change the subject. Alternatively, excuse yourself. There are a million reasons to end the conversation; not every conversation must be meaningful.
The ability to look someone in the eyes is directly related to some people's ability to recognize honesty.
Maintain open body language – Whether you're alone or not, avoid closing yourself off by crossing your arms, for example. Continue to be open and active [see Closed Body Language]. Wallflowers are generally avoided by strangers. In any case, what's the point of just standing around?
Do something – It's difficult to talk about your day if you haven't done anything. Don't believe the myth that you don't need to do any work during a conversation. Try to be engaging and interesting to the other person. Call back on another occasion when you were at this location. Did you happen to read anything interesting today? Mention it and solicit feedback. Everyone has them.
The Dos and Don'ts
Place your phone on the table – If I'm having a conversation or am in good company, I usually ignore my phone. Unless it's to set up meetings or something, I'll let it go and return the call when it's appropriate. There's something impolite about being in the middle of a conversation and being interrupted by a phone call. You're alone, sipping your drink, with no one around.
If I see that the call is going to last more than 30 seconds, I usually get up and go for a walk. It's not meant to be impolite. I'll excuse myself and go join someone else, possibly making a phone call myself.
Ignore strangers – As previously stated, meeting strangers is a lot of fun. You don't have to start a conversation right away, or even care about the person. However, being courteous and open to interaction will go a long way.
First and foremost, you might make a new friend. You might get a few free drinks or have an amusing interaction. Second, if you are open to anyone approaching you, you will notice that you will appear more approachable and that more people will initiate conversation with you. You make my life easier!
Dwell on smalltalk – I'm not a fan of smalltalk. You don't have to ask the standard ‘interview' questions. “What do you do?” and so on. Many people are aware that they have uninteresting jobs. Why bring it up when people are out to forget about their work lives?
Granted, it's a quick way to get a general idea of someone, but do you really need it? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to ask questions like, “How's your night going?” or “Have you seen this DJ before?” Inquire about what someone is drinking or where they purchased their shoes.
Smalltalk indicates almost no general interest until you say something unusual, such as “I write blogs for a living.” Similarly, if you're a student, don't bring up the subject of school [If you must, see How To Make Small Talk].
Get blind – If you're out to socialize, becoming a drunken zombie won't help you. I'm not going to say it never happens to me, but if you want a fruitful evening, stay alert. That makes it easier to communicate.
Criticize – It's fine to criticize the music or the beer selection, but don't let it bring you down. Nobody wants to hang out with someone who is constantly irritated over trivial matters. You may be in a dive, but you are still having fun. You usually have the best times in the worst places.
Judge other people – You make it difficult for yourself by constantly judging people before speaking to them. Almost no one's personality matches their appearance. Just because someone isn't enjoying their company – as previously stated – doesn't mean they want to be excluded.
Make an extra effort to approach wallflowers and people who aren't smiling. Don't be discouraged if you don't get a great, or even a polite, response. Some people are unaware that they are sending out specific signals [via body language, for example], and you will be pleasantly surprised when they suddenly brighten up as a result of your witty comments.
The most important thing:
Don't feel obligated to do anything. You're there for your own reasons and intend to do your own thing. What works for one person may not work for another. For example, you may never feel at ease approaching strangers. Find your own rhythm and be true to yourself.
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