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Get Out More: 6 Ways to Be More Social

Get Out More: 6 Ways to Be More Social

6 Ways to Be More Social

    Whether you’re a web worker, an overworked corporate employee, or just a homey sort, you’ve probably heard the refrain: “Get out more!”

    Yes, you could take a walk, take to drinking alone in a seedy bar, or drive around looking at billboards, but it’s likely that just physically getting out of the house isn’t all you need. No, those people who care about you are telling you to go out and meet some people, to be a little bit more social.

    Being social is good for you, of course. As social animals, our emotional and even physical health depends on social interaction. Our social relationships can help us deal with depression, stress, and plain old loneliness. Having a strong social network can help you find jobs or clients (some 70% of jobs are found through personal contacts, usually friends of friends).

    But some of us have a hard time figuring out how to be more social. Maybe you’re introverted and are pretty comfortable in your own company, most of the time. Maybe your job keeps you away from people – you work at home, or your work ties you to a PC screen all day, or whatever – and you just don’t have a lot of ties to other people to get started with. Maybe you just moved to a new city and don’t know the social landscape very well. Maybe you’re just too busy to get out much.

    Here are six ways to get started, ways to put yourself into a space where social ties are made. You’ll have to take the next steps, of course: showing up regularly (when appropriate), approaching people, speaking out, and so on, but if you put yourself into a situation where such social interaction is expected and normal, you might well find that the rest just follows.

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    1. Join a club.

    No duh, right? Yet American civic participation has dropped sharply over the last few decades, and other countries’ rates aren’t that far ahead.

    There is a club for almost every possible passion, from anthropology to zoology. Like to dress up in animal costumes and flirt with other similarly costumed folks? There’s a club for you. Enjoy collecting Japanese war memorabilia? There’s a club for you. Into gardening, feminism, or farming history? There’s a club.. well, you get the picture.

    The question is, is there a club for you near where you live? Check out your local alternative weekly’s “events” listing; many of the ongoing events will be club meetings. Check your library district’s website, too. And your local Parks and Recreation department might have listings for clubs. Or Google national associations related to your interests and see if they have a local chapter.

    If all else fails, and you’re feeling entrepreneurial, start your own club. Contact your local library, place of worship, or community center and see what you have to do to reserve a space (they’re usually free for community groups), put up a free website, call your local alternative weekly’s events desk and see about getting listed, and you’re off.

    2. Attend a Meetup.

    If a club sounds a little too… well, “clubby” for your tastes, maybe you’d be happier at a meetup. Meetups are semi-informal gatherings of like-minded people, often at a bar or restaurant, who get together to just chat and get to know each other.

    Meetup.com is the place to go to find meetups in your area. You can search by topic or by distance from your zipcode; I recommend the latter, since you might find groups devoted to topics that you wouldn’t have thought to search for. If you’re in a reasonably large metropolitan center, you should find dozens of local meetups on all manner of topics, from blogging to politics to knitting.

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    The typical meetup group meets once a month, either at a fixed location or by polling members to decide on an appropriate venue each month. You might be asked to pay a couple of dollars to help defray the organizer’s costs – Meetup.com charges a few dollars a month for listing and administering the group.

    3. Take a class.

    Whether you choose a traditional, semester-length class at a community college or university, a short-term workshop series through your local adult extension, or a one- or two-day seminar through an organization like Learning Annex, taking a class is a great way to meet people – while learning something new at the same time.

    Unless you’re under 22, my advice is to take evening classes or adult extension classes; these courses are most likely to include a large number of adults taking classes for their own professional development or personal improvement. While younger students can be incredible people, you may find that you have very little in common with them, and that they really don’t understand the kinds of pressures you face as a working adult and possibly parent. (And they can’t get into bars, which cuts out an excellent site for post-class camaraderie!)

    4. Teach a class.

    Nothing is more social than sharing your own hard-earned knowledge with people who can benefit from it most. Community colleges, adult extensions, and local government organizations (such as Parks and Recreation) are always on the lookout for people to teach either full-blown courses or shorter workshops. Pick up a copy of your local college’s catalog, or check out your city government’s class offerings online, to get an idea of what kind of courses they tend to offer and what you might be able to add to their line-up.

    The pay is often not very good, but that’s not the point. Think of it as something you do a night a week, where you meet interesting people and help them to advance their lives and careers. Or think of it as a chance to build up your professional presence: while you shouldn’t promote yourself in class, it can’t hurt to have a couple dozen people or so who know you’re a web designer or writer or marketing expert or business consultant or whatever – they have friends! And it looks pretty good on your resume.

    Most of all, though, you’ll be in the company of interesting adults once or twice a week, and while you want to be careful about too much fraternizing if you’re giving grades, the in-class interaction can be very satisfying. And if you’re not giving grades, there’s no reason at all not to take your students up on that offer of a beer or a cup of coffee after class – and you will be invited.

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    5. Look up local bloggers or twitterers.

    Since you already spend a good chunk of your online time reading blogs or tweeting, why not add a few local bloggers and twitterers to your feeds?

    There are a number of services to find blogs by location, some based on the blogger’s profile, others on geo-tagging information added to their feeds. I like these:

    • Feedmap.net: Enter a zip code or city name and hit search. This is a pretty new service, so listings seem a little thin, but it also seems better geared to non-US locations than some of the others.
    • Outside.in: Outside.in aggregates local news and blogs into a pretty user-friendly interface. When I visited, it auto-detected my location (useful, if a little scary!). You can create a profile page that will help other local bloggers find you, too.
    • PlaceBlogger: A search engine for blogs specifically about certain places. I had better luck searching by city than by zip code; there doesn’t seem t obe a way to search by “distance from” your zip code, just within it.

    If you’re on Twitter, you can use Summize’s advanced search function to find Twitterers “Near this place” (look at the “Places” box) . You’ll get the latest tweets from everyone near your chosen location; follow some and see what develops.

    Of course, reading local blogs and tweets doesn’t get you out of the house, but you may well start building relationships with people who are close enough that you can get together of off-line fun and mayhem.

    6. Go to conferences.

    Some people hate conferences. I don’t get that – where else do you get to interact with dozens or hundreds of people who are all interested in the same things you are?

    Seek out local conferences, take a stack of business cards, and go spend a day in the expo hall (which is usually free or pretty cheap). Hand your card out to all and sundry, and collect theirs as well. When you get home, send them each an email, or give them a call, just saying how nice it was to meet them.

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    But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, isn’t it? At the conference itself, make a point of asking vendors what their product does. Don’t waste their time if their product is totally useless to you or your company, but don’t feel like you’re intruding, either, if there’s any possible connection. Learn as much as you can – you never know what you might learn that you can use later. And that’s what the vendors are there for.

    Try approaching a few of your fellow conference-goers, too. They’re all there to network with people in their industry, so go ahead.

    Get out there!

    The hardest part of being more social is usually just getting out the front door of your house. Once you’re in the right context, unless you’re painfully shy, interacting with people will be a given. Push yourself a little to introduce yourself, speak up when necessary, and generally make yourself known – we rarely end up making the fools of ourselves that we’re so afraid of.

    There are other ways to be social, of course, but I’ve tried to focus on the most productive of them. Binge drinking, gambling, going to the movies or to exotic dance clubs – these might get you out of the house, but they’re highly unlikely to form the basis of lasting social relationships. What tips do others have for people looking to improve their social life and not sure where to start?

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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