Most of us will be able to name someone who is confident, witty and charming; at ease in social situations, and never at a loss for words when it comes to making conversation. But most of us struggle in social situations – particularly those which take us out of our comfort zones. Below are some tried and tested tips that will put your social anxieties at bay.
1. Set yourself a goal to talk to a specific number of people at your social event.
Find a number that feels achievable, but which also presents a challenge. Expect most people to be friendly, and they will be. They will also appreciate your initiative in reaching out to them. This step is subject to the law of increasing returns: the more you do it, the easier you will find it.
2. Determine that, when you talk to other people, your focus will be to put them at ease.
The most charming people I know have seemingly no interest in talking about themselves. The majority of their focus is on the person with whom they are having a conversation. Their aim is to make the other person feel at ease. Think about what you can say or do to make the other person more comfortable; for example, could you offer to get them a drink? How do the confident people you know put others at ease?
3. Initiate conversations; don’t wait to be asked a question.
Being the initiator of a conversation will allow you to step back later on as others respond to your contribution. Here are some good ways to initiate a conversation:
“The food looks amazing – it’s such an impressive variety!”
Ask open questions:
“How do you know our hosts?”
Reveal something about yourself:
“When I was last here, this extension hadn’t been built – it’s transformed the feel of the place.”
4. Include others.
If you are in a group and observe that someone in the group is silent, seek to involve them in the conversation using the tips mentioned in the previous point. The same applies to anyone who appears to be on their own. (Tell yourself that they probably find social situations difficult, as you do too.) Your effort will be noticed; not just by them, but also by others.
5. Prepare a good introduction about yourself to offer at social events.
As you will invariably be asked what you do for a living, it’s a good idea to prepare your answer. A good tip is to focus on the benefit of what you do. For example, if you’re an accountant, offer that you help people keep hold of more of their money. Remember to ask a similar question of your acquaintance, but rather than the standard “What do you do?” question, make yours more open; for example, you could ask, “What about you?”
6. Give the person you are talking to your full attention.
This is more difficult than it sounds, but it’s something the socially confident do outstandingly well. Giving your full attention requires listening ‘with your whole body’. It is listening with total rapport and empathy. It is giving your full attention to the speaker. It is having the ability to focus your attention externally and not thinking your own thoughts.
7. Leave a conversation gracefully.
A good way to leave a conversation is to interrupt yourself. Politely ask those you’re with to excuse you, and inform them that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking to them. On leaving, make reference to a specific part of the conversation, for example, “And let’s get together soon to talk about how we can turn around Preston United’s fortunes.” This approach is preferable to simply walking away with a bland excuse or interrupting someone else’s conversation.
Although the above tips will undoubtedly transform your experience of social situations and help you become more socially confident, like most things however, practice is key. Let me know what has worked for you.
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