How to Be Social at a Party (With People You Don’t Know)

how to be social at a partyYou walk in the front door of an acquaintance’s house party, and 15 people you’ve never met turn to see who you are.

Wow. What to say? What to do?

Hey, I’ve been there too and it’s not fun. I often felt uncomfortable at social gatherings and it held me back from developing a social circle.

I mean, I’d do fine with friends I was already comfortable around, but if I was at a party where I didn’t know people well or at all, I clammed up. I’d stick to my group of friends and that’s it.

Sometimes I’d do OK and talk to “strangers,” but for the most part it never lead to deeper or “normal” type of conversations.

And the worst part was when someone louder or more assertive would join the group. I’d suddenly feel invisible and not interesting enough. That made me sink even further into my shell.

Eventually, I found myself avoiding those types of social gatherings altogether. My excuse was I just didn’t enjoy them. That they weren’t my cup of tea. But if I were really honest with myself, I wanted to do well at house parties and such. I was just too afraid.

Any of this sound familiar?

So how can you be social at a party and other gatherings? How can you be more outgoing and engaging with the people there?
 

First, Get Over the Fact You Don’t Enjoy Going Out

There’s no doubt you could meet more people, network, make friends, and more if you could be more social at parties. But the first obstacle is getting yourself to go, right?

If you don’t enjoy going to social events like parties, then how can you ever expect to do well there? Well, unfortunately, I believe this is a case of the chicken or the egg.

Because the way you begin to enjoy social events more is by being more effective in them.

Think about it…

What if next time you go to a house party you had the ability, the skills, to talk to most everyone there with ease and little to no anxiety? The people you talked with engaged you back and enjoyed chatting with you. People liked you and deeper connections were made.

Now tell me, if that were the case, would you enjoy going to these events more, or less?

My bet is it’s obvious you would enjoy it more. Because even if you are an introvert and you enjoy your alone time, we all crave social connection. So really, a big part of not enjoying social gatherings is the fear, shyness and negative feelings we experience related to them.

Take all that bad crap away and replace it with the “rewards” of social success and you’d be much more inclined to say yes to these types of events.

So part of the process here is fighting through the crappy times right now so you build your social skills. That way you’ll develop the abilities to help you get the most out of parties and such later.
 

How to Be Social at a Party and Confident with Strangers

But how can you become more confident at social gatherings and parties where you don’t know anyone? How can you be more open and engaging to the people there?

Well, there are a few scenarios that seem to bother reserved people over and over again at social gatherings. I’ve suffered from all of them too. So here are some of the issues you might encounter and suggestions to help you through them.

Research Shows Feeling Uninteresting is Often Just Your Imagination

If you find yourself constantly thinking, “I’m not interesting. This person doesn’t like talking to me.” Just know, you’re not the only one who feels that way. NO, I don’t mean that in a mean way!

Researchers have found that socially reserved and anxious people often imagine others don’t like them, even when it isn’t true. In his book Shyness, researcher Philip Zimbardo describes a study where actors were videoed saying “Hello. How are you?” First in a warm, friendly way; then in a neutral way and finally in a “I don’t like you” type of way.

The researchers then had a group of people view the videos. Half of them were confident, the other half were self-proclaimed shy or socially uncomfortable. While watching, they were told to imagine they were meeting the video actors in person for the first time.

The result? The socially anxious people felt the neutral actors and even some of the “warm” actors were rejecting them. On the other hand, the confident people felt everyone was warm and friendly or at worst neutral, even the “I don’t like you” actors.

So just remember next time you think someone doesn’t like you, you’re probably imagining it. Be sure to remind yourself of the interesting things in your life often. Remind yourself that some people DO find you interesting and that others are likely to also.

What About When Someone “More Assertive” Enters the Scene?

I totally understand the feeling of “not being good enough” when someone louder or “more charming” comes around. Many times, I could do well socially until a more outgoing guy showed up. Then I’d feel out-shined and like I couldn’t compare.

But think about it, just because that person is good socially and charming and all…does that mean you suddenly can’t talk to people, befriend them, get to know them and them you?

No it doesn’t mean that. All it means is that, for the time being anyway, you aren’t quite as outgoing and socially savvy as that assertive person. But in your own way, you can still engage people.

Maybe you do this one on one instead of holding the attention of the group. But hey, that still works! Start there and build on that. Eventually, you’ll get better.

Remember People Go to Parties to “Get Away” From Normal Life

Think about it… Most people lead mostly boring lives. They…

  • go to work or school
  • come home
  • eat
  • watch TV
  • do it all over

So when they go out on the weekend, they’re looking to get away from that day to day drudgery.

A party is a place people go to do that. In these types of social events, people are in the mindset of “let’s have fun.” They want something else to think about besides work, school, and every-day life.

They want to talk about “fun” things. Maybe that’s a funny story of something that happened to you recently, or their dreams/goals, or vacation, etc. So if you find you’re in a conversation about something “every-day” like work, try changing the subject to something a little more emotionally engaging.

Just remember that normal “mundane” conversation often leads to more interesting conversation. So don’t feel you have to start out talking about “super interesting” things.

Finally, Here’s a Great Tactic for Starting a Party Right

When you first arrive, walk throughout the party and quickly introduce yourself to people. I KNOW, you’re thinking I’m crazy here, but hear me out.

It can work like this…

You walk up to someone with a smile, hold out your hand to shake theirs and say “Hey, how’s it going? I’m John.”

At this point they’ll probably say their name and that they’re doing fine.

Then you say, “Cool, yeah I just got here and only know the host, so wanted to mingle around and meet people. I’m going to keep walking, but maybe we’ll talk later, ok?”

That’s it. There’s no pressure on you to keep the conversation going or anything. You’re just being friendly and mingling. Basically you’re just saying hello. Trust me, most people will be totally OK with this and will in fact welcome it (because they are probably uncertain of how to mingle too).

But what’s great is that later in the party, you’ve basically already “met” everyone, so it’s much easier to just start talking with people. It’s not such a “cold approach” anymore. Does this take some balls? Yes. But it’s really not as hard as you might think.

And the “take some balls” part of this equation is of course all about confidence. So if you’d like a few suggestions, videos and more on being more socially confident, be sure to check out my free Conversation Tips Newsletter.

(photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn via Flickr)

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