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4 Proactive Strategies to Build a Social Life

4 Proactive Strategies to Build a Social Life

A lot of people believe that developing a social life is something that should just happen naturally, on it’s on, without you needing to do anything. I disagree.

I think that while this can happen for some folks, in certain stages of their life, it’s not always the case. Which is why many of us today lack a fulfilling social life. If you’re in college so you get to hang around lots of other people and you’re naturally a social person, your social circle will develop on its own. But if you’re an accountant working in cubicle all day who doesn’t go out much and is kind of shy, your social life may be seriously deficient.

In my view, building a social life requires the same active and strategic approach that making money or building a career requires. An approach based on setting goals and acting on them. Coming from this angle, I want to show you 4 proactive strategies to build a social life.

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1. Understand Your Type

A fulfilling social life looks differently for different people. Some of us need lots of friends and a large social circle. Some of us are more fond a having just a few friends, but who are very close to us. And some prefer a mix of the two. What is your preference? Do you know? Take some time to think about this and visualize what your ideal social circle would look like.

Another aspect to think about is what kind of people you want in your social circle. Do you prefer people who are artistic, or people who are tech-oriented? People who are outdoorsy or prefer to be indoors? Usually, you will get along best with individuals who are similar to you. So I advise you to consider your dominant traits and consciously decide which of these traits are important for you to find in others. If you know what kind of people you want in your life, you’re much more likely to find them,

2. Go Where the People Are

Once you know how many and what kind of friends you’re looking for, it’s time to take action in order to meet them. This may seem obvious, but it’s something many of us disregard: if you just wait for others to come to you, you’ll never build a social circle. You must have the initiative and go to them.

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My recommendation here is to think about activities where you are likely to meet people you’d enjoy interacting with, and get involved in a few of them. For instance, you may take a class on a topic you’re interested in. You may volunteer for a charity organization. Or join some sort of club. Even if you don’t have any friends whatsoever at this point, you can apply this strategy. You can get involved in such activities all by yourself, and you’ll meet others there.

In using this strategy, the Internet is your friend. You can discover all sorts of classes, social events, clubs and organizations near you online. But keep in mind that this is only the first step. Then you need to actually get out of the house, go there and participate.

3. Be Friendly First

So you attend a training program on, let’s say, urban photography. There are lots of other people there. What do you do? In general, the passive approach tends to prevail. Many of us just sit around doing nothing and expect others to come talk to us, ask us questions, and be chatty. And this may happen, or it may not. One thing I’m certain of though is that it’s not the best approach. You want to be friendly first. Be the one to break the ice.

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Walk up to other people and introduce yourself to them. Then start chatting with them. For example, ask them how they found out about the event, how long they’ve been interested in urban photography, segue from there into other topics, and if they seem to enjoy talking to you (which they almost always will), keep the conversation going.

Doing this may not be easy at first, especially if you’re not used to being this outgoing, but it’s something you get used to with practice. The trick is to not let hesitancy prevent you from being social. And I can tell from experience that if you are social and friendly with new people first, you’ll really stand you and they’ll love you for it.

4. Make New Friends through Current Friends

If you’re building a new social life from scratch, the beginning is always the hardest part. However, once you’ve met a few people, it gets a lot easier because you can then leverage them to meet even more people. You can then meet some of their friends and acquaintances, and expand your social circle further.

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Again, a proactive approach works miracles. Let your friends know that you’re interested in meeting new people and you’d love for them to introduce you to other people they know. If they indeed are your friends, they’ll love to help you out. They may invite you to come with them to parties they go to, they may call other people to join you when you go out, and they’ll introduce you to new people. But you have to let them know their help is desired.

The best part is that the bigger your social circle becomes, the easier it is to employ this strategy. Your social life will expand faster and faster, and you’ll find it progressively easier to find people you match well with.

Your social life is completely in your hands. You can have a social life as rich, connected and diverse as you want. All you need is to do a bit of smart planning in this area, and take massive action. There is certainly no shortage of possibilities to meet people and make friends. It’s up to you to capitalize on them. Good luck!

More by this author

Eduard Ezeanu

Eduard is a confidence and communication coach with 7+ years of experience.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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