Once upon a time, I was not-at-all comfortable in my own skin. I suffered from shyness so severe that meeting new people was a stressful ordeal that resulted in sweaty palms, stuttering, and self-conscious thoughts that made me wish I was invisible. As you can imagine, my behavior didn’t exactly make people me comfortable. I’m happy to say I finally dumped my baggage and now love to meet new people. There isn’t a secret to overcoming your shyness, but I can tell you that the best way to cure your fear is through consistent practice. If you would like to become a social butterfly capable of making new friends with ease, I invite you to apply these five easiest ways to make everyone around you comfortable.
1. Pay Attention
Always remember: it’s not about you–it’s about them. People are more distracted than ever in the Information Age, so simply focusing on the other person without staring at your phone every ten seconds will show them that you care. Make eye contact while they speak (but don’t stare!). Don’t interrupt them until they are done (but do ask relevant follow-up questions!). Do everything in your power to show people how thoughtful and caring you are to put them at ease.
2. Be Thoughtful
Did you meet a person wearing a beautiful skirt that is super cute? Did your friend get a stylish new purse that you adore? If so, tell them all about it! It’s amazing how a simple compliment can make a person’s day. If you are meeting a new person and are nervous, start the conversation with a specific (and genuine!) compliment. You’ll feel a lot less pressure when a big, goofy grin and flushed cheeks develop on their face.
3. Speak Clearly
Speaking clearly is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, and it is still something I have to remind myself of even today. I live in Tennessee, a state in the U.S. where most people have southern accents and a slow rhythm to their speech. If the typical rate of speech in this area is like struggling to swim through a pit of jello, mine is more like a starving cheetah viciously pursuing its prey. If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself speaking faster than the other person can even begin to comprehend. It’s not difficult to see how this might make a person feel uncomfortable around you. Be aware of the speech pattern of every person you talk to and be prepared to increase your volume or decrease your rate of speech to make sure they can understand the words that are coming out of your mouth.
4. Display Confidence
A firm handshake, genuine smile, and tall posture will give you the confident swagger you need to be the life of any party. When you meet a new person: lock eyes for a brief moment, smile, shake hands, and say something like, “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you! My name is Theodore. Theodore Roosevelt.” We all know it’s awfully easy to forget a person’s name as soon as you hear it, so stating it twice will increase the odds that you will be remembered. To show confidence in your posture: keep your head tall, gaze forward, chest high, and shoulders down and back. Try not to cover your face with your hands or cross your legs, but instead keep your body as open as possible to reflect a welcoming personality that will make people feel comfortable around you.
5. Tell Stories
Whether it’s a spooky ghost-story told around a camp fire, a Shakespearean tragedy performed in a dark theater, or a steamy romance printed in paperback form, everyone loves a good story! Pay attention to commercials the next time you’re on the curled up on the couch watching your favorite TV show, and you’ll find that even marketers understand the power of good storytelling. Use this power to your advantage the next time you’re at a social gathering by telling a relevant (and tasteful!) joke to the people you meet. You could even tell a personal story about an embarrassing moment in your life to show people you are lighthearted and unafraid to make fun of yourself. If you’d like to continue your learning, check out these 12 golden rules of great conversation.
Final thoughts / what do you think?
I hope you’re able to apply the steps in this article to make everyone around you comfortable! Please drop a comment below if you have any other ideas that will help your readers increase their confidence in a social setting.
But before you run off and wow people with your social skills, I feel the need to express a final thought: the points in this article very intentionally cover factors that are totally unrelated to who you are on a human level. Phoniness can be detected from miles away, so please don’t try to change yourself to fit somebody else’s mold. You are amazing for who you are and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. ― May Sarton
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