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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 April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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