We get it. Leaving your house, Netflix, and your creature comforts (your cat, your blanket, your snacks) to strike up small talk with a stranger can be the stuff of which nightmares are made. Socializing is scary, especially if you’re an introvert or someone who values their privacy. While it’s a lot easier to stay inside and enjoy your own company, sometimes you have to take a risk and go to your friend’s birthday party because, well, that’s what friends are for. Socializing can definitely give you the armpit sweats, but the good news is this: once you have a few go-to tips in your back pocket, socializing is a lot easier than you think it is. Below, we offer some sound advice on how to socialize at a party to how to socialize at a work event.
Embrace Small Talk
While small talk seems pointless to most introverts, it’s actually the secret sauce to socializing. Because here’s the thing: strangers are strangers until they’re not. Most people won’t open up to you about their biggest fears or dreams until they’ve gotten a feeling for you and that’s usually established through small talk. Embrace it! Sure, talking about the weather or the latest Netflix binge seems lame at times but if you see it as a means to an end, then you’re more likely to engage and enjoy it.
We tend to feel most anxious when we future trip, which is just another way of saying we’re not focused on being in the present but rather the future outcome. For example, you’re worried about how to respond to someone or what to talk about next or how someone might respond to you. No wonder you’re freaking out! You’re living in your head and not in the moment. Solution: take a breath. Maybe two or three. Relax. Feel your feet on the ground and just focus on being an active listener and being present. You’ll feel less self-conscious in no time.
When in doubt, embrace your inner Girl Scout and come prepared. If you’re attending a work event, prepare a few solid work anecdotes that highlights your skills and interests. If you’re going to a party, consider topical events that could break the ice, like the latest book you’re reading or what recent flick you loved. Keep it simple and stick to what you like and what feels good to you. Because the more at ease you’ll feel, the more confident you’ll be.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Convos fall flat and get awkward fast when there’s one-word responses going back and forth. You can cure that, while also appearing more curious and interesting, by asking the other person open-ended questions. Open-ended questions tend to start with, “What, why, who, or how?” and are simple ways to dig deeper and turn around any boring chitchat.
Small Talk At a Work Event
Introducing yourself is one of the simplest ways to socialize, and is especially wise at a networking or work event. It relays confidence and it will set the other person at ease, which will make the conversation (hopefully) less awkward. At a work event, it’s also a great thing to have a goal in mind. Do you want to meet a specific person or a specific number of people? Is there someone who you admire? Someone who you would love to learn from? Set your target and that should not only help you focus but will also alleviate your nerves. Setting a goal will make the whole experience less overwhelming and more productive, so win-win.
Small Talk At a Party
If you’re daring, consider wearing a statement accessory like a bold necklace or hat. It’s an instant conversation starter that will have people coming up to you. Also, have some fun conversation starters ready to go (pop culture usually works) and ask open-ended questions. Get curious about those around you, and don’t forget to have fun!