You check your phone for the third time. Conclusion, you know no-one at the party.
Except for the host, but he is preoccupied with other friends. Awkwardly you say goodbye to him. “Why don’t you stay?” You mumble some excuse concerning another party.
After a depressing trip, you end up home with a bag of chips for company. Netflix, chips and you….yeah party!
Wow,… not the way you imagined.
You hoped for this instead: You go to a party. Meet a lot of new people. Mingle, laugh and have fun. They tell you that they loved the way you make them laugh. You feel cool and confident. Your new buddies ask you, “Want to hang out sometime? We should meet more often.” They love your positive attitude.
A night of banter, laughter, and fun.
Later that week one of these people you’ve met texts you: “I actually dreamed of you last night!”
Hahaha, what!?! Backup! Kind of awkward. Yet awesome!
This actually happened to me. That was when I realized: “yeah I think I finally learned this social thing.”
It was a bit beyond the level of connection I aspired to. But a fun experience nonetheless. Much better than no response at all. The next day I made a “humble” brag to my girlfriend, “I know how to socialize and be cool now! This is so awesome!” She wasn’t impressed at all. Bummer, I thought it was awesome! I felt grateful I had made so much progress!
The conclusion of this short prose: you can learn how to socialize and connect with new people! Social skills are acquirable. And I want to share how!
I used to be the shy guy as well. When I talk to people about socializing, they tell me things old me could relate to:
“I am too shy to step up to people”
“I feel so insecure opening up to strangers”.
They try to get pumped up before a meeting. ‘I am going to meet new people!’, but bail out once they are there.
You always think you can be assertive next time. Right? Or the time after…..procrastination for the win.
Luckily everybody can get out of this abyss of shyness. Let me share a few tricks. I learned them by watching my friends. Started applying them and took control of my social life.
First, start off with the major component on how to effectively connect with people. Small talk.
Why Small talk?
Some people not familiar with small talk often say it is irrelevant. That it is superficial. Well, it is,… kind of.
On the surface small talk and connecting looks like a lot of redundant bull shit. But this bull shit is social lubricant! We need it as social creatures.
You can’t connect if there is lots of friction between you and a stranger. You need a smooth transition into familiarity. So we use small talk to grease up a connection. So making a bond is easier. Small talk is also a way to measure intimacy levels both parties want to have. Keeping a cool professional distance, or a warm friendship. You can imagine, if you can’t use this management tool well, people can’t assess you, you can’t asses them. So they create a distance, just to be safe.
So how to do it well? Here are the basic steps for initiating a conversation. As well as keeping an interesting discourse going.
Let’s begin with the initial barrier. So how can you make effective small talk? Start blurting out words randomly?
Nope, let’s head off nonverbal. No matter where, at a party, store or professional setting, the following steps are applicable.
Start by initiating eye contact. Don’t stare through someone’s skull. Neither immediately look away. Just a steady glance. Might take some practice, but hey what can go wrong?
This creates a small acknowledgment; ‘hey we both exist’.
Then smile! Try to be the first to smile. It is a nice gesture. It makes others feel good. Most people automatically smile back, it is normal. Vice versa, seeing people smile back makes you feel good as well!
Most people are at least a bit shy. Being the first showing positivity and interest opens them up.
I encourage you to make it your obligation to smile first. The best way to start off on a positive note!
Then just blurt out something stupid like; “Hi” or “Hello!”
Rocket science, I know! Haha, I admit it can be hard to do in real life. But give it a go anyways.
Don’t be put off if it doesn’t go well the first few times. Practice makes perfect. When you elicit a positive response in someone, you want to keep doing it!
Once you have crossed this bump, the rest is easy.
So you started a conversation!
Now what? Stay assertive!
Try to stay in control of the small talk. I don’t mean you become the dictator of conversation-land. But find a way to guide the dialogue. To keep the discourse flowing.
Begin by asking questions. Show interest in what people do, like, hate or love. Ask questions concerning emotional aspects of their life. Most people don’t care to talk about their day wasted in a cubicle. But do like to talk about family, hobbies or adventures.
Ask about an upcoming holiday. Or ask about their ambitions. Wonder how they see themselves prospering in the future. You name it!
Make it open ended questions. Not closed questions like: ‘do you like peanut butter?’ to which people can only reply yes or no. But rather ask; ‘Why do you like peanut butter’, or ‘what do you think of peanut butter?’
Using open-ended questions creates a conversation. Closed questions lead to conversational dead ends.
Not sure what to ask? Ask about a subject you like to talk about. Ask how they feel about it. They like it, awesome! They don’t like it, great! There is a subject for discussion or elaboration. Maybe you can passionately make people think otherwise.
You don’t have to be overtly politically correct, please don’t censor yourself! Be honest! The best way to connect. Especially if you disagree.
A great way of guiding people for more openness is asking for stories. Ask people why they’re here. Or how you have the same friend. Sharing stories is awesome.
Don’t ask too many questions. It is not an interview, it is a conversation. Try to switch to statements or stories of your own.
On the other hand, don’t be the douche that just talks about himself. It is a balancing act. As long as the conversation flows you are doing alright. If not, switch from telling to questions, or from questions to making statements and telling stories.
When making a statement try to induce a discussion. You can do this in many ways. If you already established some common ground it is easy. But you can always try pop culture.
You can either make a positive, negative or controversial.
Try positive first. “I like Star Wars”, or maybe negative “I don’t like Star Wars”. But for good banter try to create a passionate discourse. Use a controversial statement: “Jar Jar binks, best Star Wars character ever!”
Remember, to be honest and genuine. Be true to what you think and feel. You don’t have to proclaim your direct feelings in an extravagant fashion.
But be authentic. Don’t go for the most ethical charged subject right away. Best to leave that for a time you are better acquainted.
Laugh generously. Laughter is a bonding mechanism. Though humor and laughter are a bit more complicated than that, in meeting new people, it works like a charm.
When you want to connect and find a bond with equals, laughing connects us on a psychological and hormonal level! So laugh generously and truly, not out of nerves or compliance. Laugh at your own jokes, other jokes or just funny things.
Try giving genuine compliments. Say you like someone’s smile, their shirt, shoes, hair or acknowledge their witty remarks.
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Just simple notifications. “Hey I like your mustache, it is so 80s.” And keep it at that. People are easily flattered and will remember your positive remarks.
Make it genuine and simple Don’t start sucking up, cause it reverses the effect.
Don’t forget to tell your own a story! Share emotions. Share some of your hopes and desires. Or what you like.
Doing it in real life is much more rewarding than that single click on facebook.
Sharing experiences is a powerful way to connect. So get out there, high five people, and tell your story!
So next party, meeting, date, whatever:
See someone you want to get to know better. Make eye contact, smile first, walk up and say”Hello, what’s up!”
Awesome. Follow up by showing interest! Add some thought provoking statements and you are off to the races!