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How Not To Suck At Socializing – Do’s & Don’ts

How Not To Suck At Socializing – Do’s & Don’ts

Being socialable is a very easy thing to do, and it shouldn’t be something you’re either good at or not. You can learn to become a more social person – if you want to.

Generally extroverts will have less trouble getting out and talking to new people, but that’s to be expected. Don’t think, however, that outgoing people don’t make mistakes either. There are ways to make life easier while you’re out and about.

To Do:

Initiate conversation – A lot of people, while out, wait for other people to talk to them. Becoming the person that initiates conversation and breaks the ice is, as they say, half the battle. When you feel more comfortable doing this, you’ll find yourself meeting more and more interesting people and gaining fruitful friendships.

It can be somewhat daunting at first because of fear of rejection or being shut down. This will almost never happen. At worst you’ll receive a closed yet polite response. Just remember, people are out to be social. You have small groups of people who are sticking to themselves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to meet new people.

Smile – If you look like you’re unhappy you’ll be less approachable. This is an easy step to appearing open and social. When you initiate conversation, your smile should be mirrored and rapport will build from there.

Enjoy your company
– When you look like you’re having fun you are instantly more likable. People want to know fun people, someone who enjoys company. While out with friends, have a good time. It may seem obvious, but many groups of people head out and do nothing but scan the room.

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If you’re enjoying yourself, people will notice and want in on the action.

Acknowledge randoms – This can be as simple as a smile and a nod. When you make eye contact with a stranger, acknowledge it. If your smile is reciprocated, this will be an easy introduction. Later, initiate the conversation.

One of my favorite things to do while out is make friends with random people. How else do you make new friends? You’ll find the most fun and personally suitable people come from these random encounters.

Dress the part – I don’t find this the most important step, but it does make life a lot easier when you look like you belong somewhere. Now, I don’t mean losing any individuality. I mean don’t go out of your way to look unapproachable.

If you just came from work, for instance, loosen up. Unless it’s an after-work crowd you’ll find yourself out of place and more likely not to be approached. Personally, I don’t adhere to this rule very much, but it will make yourself that much approachable.

Then again, individuality goes a long way. Be yourself.

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Listen – People enjoy talking about themselves. The worst, however, is when someone only waits for you to stop talking so they can begin again. Take a genuine interest in people. People are very interesting, so actively engage in a conversation. There is a lot to talk about in this world, small talk isn’t all that necessary – particularly because it can be painfully boring.

Converse, don’t rant
– The best way to get good responses out of people is to ask good questions. Avoid ‘what do you do’ and ‘nice weather’ etc. Talk about something that interests you. People love explaining things they know, so when you don’t know what someone is talking about, ask them. Don’t pretend like you know, they will be more than happy to teach you.

Keep eye contact
– Don’t scan the room while talking to someone. It is a clear indication you’re not interested in the conversation. If you really have no interest in what someone is saying, change the topic. Or excuse yourself. There’s a million reasons to end the encounter; not every conversation has to be meaningful.

Being able to look someone in the eyes is directly related to some recognizing honesty

Keep open body language – Whether alone or not, avoid closing yourself off by crossing your arms etc. Remain open, remain active [see Closed Body Language]. People will generally not approach wallflowers. And in any case, what fun is there to be had just standing around?

Do stuff – It’s hard to talk about your day when you haven’t done anything. Don’t think that you don’t need to do any work in a conversation. Try to engage the other person and be interesting. Call on another time you were at this particular venue. Did you read something interesting today? Mention it and ask opinions. Everyone’s got them.

The Don’ts:

Sit on your phone – If in conversation, or in good company, I generally ignore my phone. Unless it is to arrange meetings etc, I’ll let it go and return the call when appropriate. There is something very rude about being in the middle of a discussion and being shut off by a phone call. You’re left in the lurch, sipping your drink with no one around.

If I can see that the call will be longer than 30 seconds, I’ll usually get up and go for a wander. It’s not to be rude. I’ll excuse myself and join someone else, maybe make a call myself.

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Ignore randoms – As previously stated, meeting random people is excellent fun. You don’t need to launch into a discussion right away, or even really care about the person at all. But being polite and open to interaction will go a long way.

First of all, you might make a new friend. You might score a few free drinks or have a hilarious interaction. Secondly, if you are open to anyone approaching you, low and behold, you will look more approachable and find more people initiating conversation with you. You’re making life easier!

Dwell on smalltalk – I’m quite adverse to smalltalk. You really don’t need to ask the standard ‘interview’ questions. “What do you do?” etc. A lot of people have fairly uninteresting jobs and know that. People are out to forget their work lives, so why bring it up?

Granted, it’s an easy way to get a general picture of someone, but do you need it? Wouldn’t it be better to ask more pertinent questions like, “How is your night going?” or “Have you seen this DJ before?” Ask what someone is drinking or where they bought their shoes.

Smalltalk indicates almost no general interest until you come up with something out of the ordinary – like “I write blogs for a living”. Likewise, if you’re a student, don’t talk about school [If you must see How To Make Small Talk].

Get blind – If you’re out to be social, becoming a drunken zombie will do you no good. I’m not going to say it never happens to me, but if you want a fruitful evening, stay at least somewhat conscious. It’s easier to talk that way.

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Criticize – It’s OK to give your critique of the music or selection of beers, but don’t let it get you down. No one has any fun with someone that’s continually upset about little things. You might be at a dive, but still enjoy yourself. You generally have the best times in the worst places possible.

Judge people
– You’re making it very hard for yourself when you are continually judging people before talking to them. Almost no-one’s personality matches their look. Just because someone isn’t enjoying their company – as mentioned above – doesn’t mean they want to be shut out.

Go out of your way to approach wallflowers and people who aren’t smiling. You may not get a great, or even polite, response but don’t let that deter you. Some people don’t realize they are putting out particular signals [with body language etc] and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they suddenly brighten up by your witty comments.

Most important:

Don’t feel like you have to do anything. You’re out for your own reasons and want to do your own thing. Different things work for different people. For instance, you might never feel comfortable approaching strangers. Find your own groove and be yourself.

Next week we’ll talk about How To Initiate Conversation in more detail.

Anything you don’t agree with?

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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