Have you ever walked into a party or social event and felt completely awkward and out of place? Have you ever hid in the loo to avoid having to make small talk? Or do you avoid these social situations altogether? You’re not alone. Even people you believe are outgoing and confident feel nervous in certain situations. If you’re shy or an introvert, social events may seem impossible. But there’s a simple way you can cope by learning the art of conversation. It won’t solve everything, of course, but if you know how to act in these situations, they won’t seem as daunting.
The hardest part of socializing is entering a room full of people who are already talking and standing in groups. Try to find the host, if possible. Say hello and thank them for inviting you. If they’re a good host, they will introduce you to a few people. This will break the ice and get the conversation started.
If you can’t find the host or if it’s a larger event, look for people you know. Or, look for open groups. These are groups where people are facing outwards and look as though they would welcome another person. Closed groups are where people are standing close together and facing inwards with their back to the rest of the party. Walk over to an open group and introduce yourself. This will be the hardest part of the whole event. Once this bit is over, everything else will seem easier.
Ask About Them
A good place to begin is always to ask about the other person. People usually like talking about themselves and will be glad to engage. Ask open questions, rather than responses that just elicit a yes or no. This is a great way to get warmed up and start a new topic. Sites like liveboldandbloom.com often have useful ideas about what questions to ask.
People who show an interest in others appear more interesting themselves. They appear as though they enjoy meeting new people and learning new things.
Look For Other People Standing Alone
If you spot other people standing alone and looking uncomfortable, go over and engage them in conversation. It’s a win-win; you find someone to talk to, and you get to help someone else in the process.
What To Talk About
If you’re the host, you have an advantage in that you know who is attending. You can find out about them in advance. Do a bit of detective work and figure out what they do for a living and what their hobbies are, etc. This is useful in situations where you’re meeting your partner’s coworkers. You can then swot up on that subject, so you appear interested and informed.
If you’re not the host, you’re less likely to know everyone in the room, and this is fine. Brush up on current and interesting topics. Talk about what’s in the news if it’s not too somber or divisive. Discuss the books you’re reading or a museum you visited recently. Even if you haven’t been to see a film or exhibition, you can mention it and say it looks interesting. Most people enjoy good food, so keep up-to-date with new recipes and wines. Blogs like www.withmywine.com/weekly-roundup will do the groundwork for you and test the wares. You’ll also find some good wines to serve.
If you don’t understand what someone is talking about, don’t bluff. You may be able to get away with a tiny white lie, but it’s not worth the risk. If you’re found out, you’re likely to look and feel foolish. So be honest and explain that you’re not familiar with that subject. But say that it sounds interesting and ask a question.
Having a few conversational tricks up your sleeve won’t cure your social anxiety. However, it will help you feel better prepared and a little more confident.