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

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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