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People are social creatures by nature.
Sure, there are plenty of introverts and loners in the world, but even those people get lonely sometimes.
People crave connection, to feel understood, to feel like they are a part of something.
That can be a tough thing when you’re not so good with social skills, deal with social anxiety, or have other issues that prevent you from really bridging the social gap.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about here.
You don’t have to be a social butterfly to learn new skills to get along with people and create connections.
You have to learn more ways to be outgoing and social when your brain won’t do what you want it to do. Once you learn them, you practice them until they become easier and more natural for you to do.
It’s probably going to feel weird and even a bit awkward when you first start learning and practicing, so don’t worry if that’s the case. You’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, that’s a great place to start.
1. Remember, people usually aren’t thinking about you.
It’s been said so much that it’s almost a cliché: “People aren’t thinking about you. They’re more worried about themselves.”
It’s said so much because it’s the truth. Assuming you’re not saying anything overly offensive or making people angry, people generally aren’t going to be looking for every flaw in your social presence.
They are more likely to be thinking about how they come off or working to enjoy the socialization that they find themselves in.
They’re not likely to be thinking about you stumbling over a couple of words. Besides, most reasonable people aren’t going to notice or give you grief about that at all. Everyone stumbles sometimes. It’s okay if you do too.
Simply knowing that the person you are talking to probably isn’t thinking about your or judging you can take a weight off your shoulders and allow you to be yourself without worry.
You don’t need to be so self-conscious about what you look like, nor do you need to microanalyze everything you have said to see if you put your foot in it somewhere.
Try to remain present in the conversation as much as possible.
2. Employ small talk to pave the way to deeper conversation.
Introverts and people who aren’t social often don’t like small talk. They may not feel like it is worthwhile because it can feel uncomfortable or like a waste of time.
Why do something as stupid as talking about the weather or the local sports team?
Well, it’s because you have to start somewhere with new people. You can’t just jump into the deep end with new acquaintances. It makes people uncomfortable, which makes them not want to talk or expose vulnerability to you.
Small talk is important to put people at ease, and it’s easy to practice. All you need to do is strike up a conversation with anyone around you.
A good way to break the ice is to look at them and find something to start a conversation from. You can use something like, “Hey, I like your shirt! Where did you get it?” or “Your hair looks great today!”
The people you see regularly are great for practicing small talk. Maybe you see a cashier regularly when you buy your morning coffee or stand with someone at a bus stop. These are all opportunities where you can work on your small talk skills.
These interactions don’t have to last long for them to help you be more outgoing. They are quick and easy stepping stones that will teach you that other people aren’t as scary as they might seem. In fact, most people are nice and pleasant.
3. Be genuinely curious about other people.
There’s a common piece of advice about socialization that goes something like, “Be genuinely curious about other people to be more social.”
What does that mean? Well, it’s playing into the fact that many people like to talk about themselves. That doesn’t make them self-centered. It’s just easier to talk about something you know intimately, and what subject do you know better than yourself?
Being curios also helps keep your mind focused on the other person and the conversation, rather than drifting off into awkwardness or wondering how you’re doing with the talking. It’s about actively listening to the other person and hearing what they have to say.
By engaging with curiosity, you can find more questions to ask and keep the conversation rolling along.
So, for example, if a person mentions they went to a particular university, you can ask questions like, “What did you study?” “Do you work in the field now?” “What did you love about your subject?”
Enabling the other person to gush about their interests gives you a lot to work with, and it creates a memorable social experience for them.
It will also make a good impression on them. They’ll walk away from the interaction feeling listened to which will give them a little self-esteem boost and a hit of feel-good chemicals in their brain. This will give them a positive view of you and your conversation.
4. Offer some of your own socially acceptable vulnerability.
Offering vulnerability and warmth to other people is a way to help build connections.
But there is a balance to be struck here. The keywords are “socially acceptable.”
There are a lot of subjects that can touch people in painful ways. That may cause anger or defensiveness if sprung on someone out of the blue.
There’s an old social rule to not discuss politics, religion, or money with other people. It’s still a good rule of thumb because those conversations usually don’t go anywhere and only cause bad blood, which is counterproductive to the goal of being more social.
So, what does socially acceptable vulnerability look like?
It may be something like laughing at a mistake you made instead of getting defensive and difficult about it.
It could be sharing a similarly difficult memory if someone chooses to talk about something painful to them.
It may be something as simple as being a friendly ear to someone who doesn’t necessarily understand where the social lines are themselves.
One way to break the ice can be to tell a humorous story about how you accidentally messed something up. That can be endearing and relatable to other people because we’ve all accidentally messed something up at some point.
Avoid self-depreciation. Self-depreciation can be great if you have a thorough understanding of social situations and how others perceive you.
Chances are pretty good that if you’re reading an article about how to be more outgoing and social, that may not be your strong suit. So avoid self-depreciation until you get some more time and experience under your belt.
5. Learn to love rejection and failure.
Why would anyone love rejection and failure? Because they’re the only way to succeed.
If you’re never experiencing rejection or failure, chances are pretty good you’re not taking enough risks or putting yourself out there.
Everyone fails or gets rejected. It’s just part of life. It’s part of going after the things that you want.
What separates successful people is the understanding that they will hear the word “no” and just move on to the next thing.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal if you don’t make it into a big deal. If a person doesn’t want to talk or isn’t interested, all you need to do is smile at them, say “okay!” and move on.
That’s it. That’s as complicated as it needs to be.
It’s not some statement on who you are as a person or where you’ll go. It’s just a thing that happens between the times you get a “yes.”
You don’t need to analyze what happened at all if you don’t want to, but it might help to look at the situation to see if you could have predicted their negative response.
Were they busy? Were they going somewhere? Did you try to engage with two people who were already having a personal conversation? Did they look tired or like they didn’t want to be wherever you happened to meet them?
You won’t always know why someone rejected your introduction, but you might learn to better gauge when someone is open to talking and when someone isn’t.
6. Push your comfort zone to get more comfortable.
You may find that socialization with other people feels uncomfortable and wrong. That is a good way to know that you should do it more often to grow your comfort zone.
If you feel like you should flee from a conversation, try to see the conversation through to the end.
If you feel like it’s hard to approach people, try approaching just one additional person. By adopting this approach, you will help condition your mind to respond to the social situation differently.
Be mindful of the other person’s demeanor while you do. If they are giving short answers or they’re looking away, they might be trying to find their own exit to the conversation, at which point it is right to say, “Well, it was good talking to you. Bye!” and move on.
Do whatever you can to engage in more social interaction with people you don’t know, or those you have only had brief encounters with before.
Again, whilst it might be great to have those turn into longer conversations, don’t underestimate the importance of approaching someone and initiating something, even if it only lasts a few minutes.
That initial step is often the one people who are not naturally outgoing dread the most. So by practicing it without worrying too much what comes of it, you’ll feel more comfortable doing it.
7. Consider your body language.
When people socialize, they are using different parts of themselves to convey a message. It goes far beyond just words.
Eye contact, smiles, an open stance, and active body language help communicate to the other person that you are engaged and enjoying your conversation with them.
And similarly, that kind of body language is communicating to you that they are enjoying the conversation.
Body language can be difficult if it is not natural for you.
For example, eye contact makes a lot of people feel vulnerable or intimidated. You can bypass this discomfort by looking at the bridge of the other person’s nose. They won’t be able to tell that you aren’t making exact eye contact, and it’s less noticeable than looking at their forehead or mouth.
It also gives you the option to flick your gaze to their eyes to make more direct eye contact and confront your discomfort.
And once again, using the right kind of body language is something that you can work on. Don’t try to change everything at once, but focus on one particular aspect of it at a time until those things feel natural.
Don’t overthink it, but just bring your awareness to something you want to do or not do with your body or face every few minutes to correct yourself if needs be. Then return your focus to what the other person is saying.
8. Borrow from other social people.
Hurdling the obstacles in your mind will likely be the biggest challenge you will face to be a more outgoing person.
It’s hard if you’ve spent a long time identifying as an introvert or telling yourself that you just aren’t a very social person. It can be hard to see yourself as anything other than what you’ve told yourself.
That’s why it helps to look for perspective in other people. Consider the social skills of other people you admire for their social ability.
What do they have that you can borrow?
Do they ask great questions?
Know how to make an entrance?
Communicate well through body language?
Tell great jokes?
What is it about them that made an impact on you?
And what can you take from those experiences to roll up into your socialization?
There may not always be something you can borrow, and you want to avoid trying to compare yourself to who they are. Some people are natural social butterflies; some of us aren’t that lucky and have to work for it.
You may even consider asking them for tips on how to be more social, which will give you another reason to engage and work on your skills.
You will likely find people who once struggled with socialization and had to work on their skills to get to where they are. They will probably be keen to help you because they know what it is like to feel out of your depth in social settings.
Socialization is a skill that you can work on and develop with time and practice. Just get out there and keep trying.
Attend any social events that you’re invited to, and maybe try to find a couple on the side. Set a goal to talk to two new people at each event. It’ll make the process all that much smoother.
Practice, practice, practice.
The discomfort will fall away and empower you to be more social.
Still not sure how to be the outgoing person you want to be? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
We really recommend you speak to a therapist rather than a friend or family member. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to find greater confidence in yourself and provide tips on how best to manage social interactions from a mental and emotional sense, because let’s face it, social anxiety can be crippling at times.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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