How to Be Sociable
While it may seem like some people are naturally more sociable than others, remember that social skills can be learned and developed. If you’re looking to break out of your comfort zone and improve your social life, keep in mind that it will take some practice and effort. But you can get there by setting small goals and making steady progress. Work on making conversation with strangers, spending time with acquaintances, and inviting friends out to socialize. Soon enough, you’ll start to gain confidence and reap the benefits of connecting with other people.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Practice holding short conversations with strangers you meet. When you encounter a service worker or fellow commuter, take advantage of the opportunity to build your social skills. Instead of thanking the cashier and leaving, try to make small talk. Ask them a simple, open-ended question to get them talking, then practice your listening skills. Try to make them smile with a funny observation or a nice comment. Do this on a daily basis – at first, it might feel really stressful but with time, it may come naturally to you.
If you practice with strangers, you’ll feel more prepared to chat up someone you really want to get to know.
Avoid compartmentalizing your “social life” as being separate from the rest of your life. If you want to be a sociable person, you’ll need to be social in all aspects of your life, whether you’re partying, networking, or simply running errands.
Make small talk about what’s going on around you while in a group setting. Chat up schoolmates or colleagues during the few minutes before class or a meeting starts. Use your surroundings or the situation itself as a conversation starter. For instance, you could talk about the meeting or class itself or ask them about their workload. When you’re at an event, sit near a friendly-looking person and say hello and ask them how long they’ve been going to these events.
When talking with someone you don’t know very well, start with something you have in common. Then as you start talking more, you can branch out to other topics as they come up.
If you’re coordinating a social outing, pick a unique place where there’s plenty to talk about. For example, try a tapas restaurant so you and your small group will have lots of options to chat about.
If you ever find yourself at a loss for what to say, feel free to bring up a classic small-talk topic like sports, pop culture, or the weather.
Spend downtime connecting with others instead of being by yourself. It can be tempting to isolate yourself when you have a few moments to spare, especially if you’re an introvert. But this might give off anti-social signals to others. Plan to have lunch when the rest of your workmates do instead of waiting so you can eat by yourself later. Instead of heading home the moment class lets out, stick around to chat with your classmates. Next time you have a free afternoon, invite a friend or 2 to hang out with you.
Rather than sitting by yourself and occupying yourself with your phone or a book, push yourself to socialize whenever there are people around.
If you usually spend your downtime practicing in a certain hobby alone, ask a friend to join you next time.
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Accept social invitations when you receive them. It’s easy to make excuses about being too busy or too tired to socialize – especially if you’re feeling anxious. But if becoming sociable is a priority for you, make an effort to get out and spend time with others. Thank your friend or acquaintance and accept their invitation, then stay true to your word and show up on time, with a smile on your face. Return the invitation by inviting your friend to do something else with you in a few weeks’ time.
Remember that you can always leave early if you’re not enjoying yourself.
Learn to differentiate between genuine excuses and those that are fueled by your nerves and anxiety.
If you need to shuffle around your schedule so you have more free time to socialize, try it out. Find gaps in your schedule and fill them with coffee dates or phone calls.
Sign up for a social activity or hobby to meet new people. If you don’t get enough social exposure in your day-to-day life, join an extracurricular group to find likeminded people you can have fun with. Try joining a local interest group, a book club, a sports team, or a volunteer group. Or sign up for a class that meets on a regular basis. Make sure whatever you choose offers plenty of time for socialization. Before, during, and after the meetup, be friendly and make small talk with your peers.
If you want to start playing the ukulele, don’t just teach yourself at home. Instead, sign up for group ukulele lessons.
To really kickstart your social skills, join a toastmaster’s club to practice public speaking.
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Initiate social interactions and outings with others. Good relationships are built upon a mutual effort; if you want to show people that you’re sociable and you value their friendship, reach out to them and create opportunities to spend time together. When extending an invitation, be specific about the activity you want to do, and suggest 1 or 2 days. Don’t be discouraged if they have a conflict; use that as a starting point for your plans. Moreover, you can keep in touch with friends even if they don’t live nearby. Pick up the phone and call them or send them a text asking how they’ve been.
To your coworker who’s been talking about wanting a pampering day, say, “Why don’t we go get our nails done together after work on Thursday?”
If your classmate likes the same singer as you, try this: “Did you see they’re doing a concert here next month on the 26th? Do you want to go with me?”
Don’t just wait around for other people to call you up or invite you out; you’ll never get together if neither party tries to arrange something.
Make a strong first impression with confident body language. If you look approachable, people are more likely to feel comfortable approaching you. Keep your head held high, put your shoulders back and don’t slouch, and make direct eye contact anytime you’re conversing with someone. Smile when you meet someone’s eye; you’ll look a lot more interesting an approachable that way. If your body tends to feel stiff or uncomfortable, practice posing in the mirror until you find some stances that make you look and feel relaxed.
If you know your hands get fidgety, carry around something like a notebook or clutch bag so you have something to do with your hands.
Avoid burying your hands into your pockets. Instead, slide your thumbs into your back pockets for a confident-looking, comfortable stance.
Extend your hand for a handshake when you first meet and don’t be shy about giving someone a goodbye hug.
Ask people questions about themselves or relatable topics. A great way to socialize with someone is to get them talking about themselves. Whether you’re friends, acquaintances, or strangers, ask your conversation partner an open-ended question about their work, studies, personal life, pets, or interests. Try asking them for advice about something specific; this will show that you value their opinions and will give you lots to talk about.
Try asking your English Lit classmates if they’ve been reading anything interesting lately, then ask if they have any book recommendations.
If someone shares details about an upcoming event in their life, ask a follow-up question: “Hey Kip, how did you like the car show last weekend?” or “Natalie! I haven’t seen you since that big exam… did you feel like it went okay?”
Give others thoughtful compliments. A compliment can make you and the recipient feel good, and it can also serve as a conversation starter. Look at people’s outfits, observe their behaviors, and check out their work to find something positive to say. Try to compliment something that’s within their control and that they put noticeable effort into, to affirm that their choice was a great one. Then follow up with a related question to get them talking.
To the barista wearing amazing earrings, say, “Those earrings are gorgeous! Are they handmade?”
To your classmate, say, “Rick, you did such a great job with that presentation. Those video clips you chose were hilarious! Were you happy with how it all went?”
Speak loudly and clearly so others can understand you. If you make it easy for your listener to hear you, the conversation will go more smoothly than if they’re left struggling to understand you. If you tend to mumble, practice raising your voice when you’re talking to others. Don’t rush through your words; articulate them and speak at a reasonable pace.
Whenever someone asks you to repeat yourself, don’t let that get you flustered; just speak a little more clearly.
Remember, the other person wants to hear what you have to say
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Be an active listener to stay engaged in conversations. You don’t have to talk all the time to be sociable. Listen up and follow along when someone else is sharing a story or opinion. Maintain eye contact when they’re speaking and practice using open body language. Smile and nod along to show that you’re following – or use whatever facial expressions are appropriate to what they’re saying – and respond when prompted.
Try not to get distracted by your surroundings, your phone, or the worries in your head; focus on the person in front of you.
Share your thoughts as responses; don’t just keep them to yourself. If you’re an introvert, you might prefer to think instead of talk. However, your conversation partner might start to think you’re not sociable if they don’t hear from you, too. When you formulate a thought or mental response, push yourself to externalize it and say it out loud. This will keep the conversation going and you’ll get to share more about yourself.
If your thought is polite and reflective of your personality, share it! But keep any potentially rude or unkind thoughts to yourself.
A simple observation or opinion can kick off a conversation. Share what’s on your mind and ask the other person how they feel about it. For instance: “Gosh, this project is going to take forever! Rami, how are you planning to get yours done?” or “Okay so this iced tea turned out to be really weird… how’s yours, Alice?”
Shifting Your Mindset
Make a commitment to become more sociable. Whether it will help your career, bring you a more vibrant social life, or help you feel more confident in new situations, reflect on why you’re interested in becoming a more sociable person. Remind yourself of your long-term goals every day to fuel your efforts.
Try putting a sticky note on your mirror with an encouraging message.
Set your phone background to a positive quote that will remind you to look up and interact with others.
Just like getting physically fit, becoming sociable isn’t going to happen without your participation and effort. You have to get out and exercise to get fit, and you have to speak up and put yourself out there to become sociable.
Avoid referring to yourself as shy, timid, or antisocial. The more you use these words to label yourself, the more you will reinforce the idea that you are incapable of being sociable.
Remember that being sociable is a choice, not a predisposition.
Set yourself small goals such as speaking to 1 new person every day. Becoming a social butterfly won’t happen overnight. Focus on taking small steps out of your comfort zone by setting small, manageable goals. When you’re heading to a party, commit to talking to 1 person you don’t know. Anytime you’re waiting in a line, agree that you’ll pay a compliment to the person standing next to you. Once you’ve achieved these smaller goals, increase your goals to more ambitious ones, like speaking to 5 employers at a job fair or inviting an acquaintance out to coffee.
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Give off an upbeat, positive energy to attract others. Everybody likes spending time around a person who is optimistic, encouraging, and happy. Even if you don’t feel positive all the time, try to act positively when talking to other people. Smile, say kind words, and try to cheer people up when they’re feeling down.
When you’re speaking with strangers or new people, use a positive energy to show that you’re approachable and friendly.
Make sure your words and deeds are polite and respectful, too. Others will see you as a nice person and someone they’d want to spend more time with.
Share your vulnerabilities to strengthen your relationships. Don’t change who you are or how you behave based on who you’re with; give people the chance to get to know the real you. Respectfully and authentically share your point of view. And, once you’ve formed deeper bonds with other people, start to open up about your worries, challenges, and insecurities. The more vulnerable you can be, the deeper your bonds will grow.
Of course, it’s not appropriate to offload your personal baggage onto an unsuspecting bystander. But you can share a personal detail when someone else does, answer questions truthfully, and seek out advice.
While it can seem really scary to share your honest feelings and experiences, remember that everyone else faces similar struggles. Sharing yours will bring you much closer to other people.
Even the most sociable people still feel insecure at times; the only difference is that they choose to take the risk and enjoy themselves despite the possibility of feeling embarrassed.
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Dismiss the critical, negative voices in your head that are holding you back. When you notice a self-sabotaging thought pop up in your mind, acknowledge it and then replace it with something positive. Look for the grain of truth in the message, then reframe it to a more encouraging, constructive thought that can help you work through your anxiety.
When you start to think, “I’m super awkward and nobody here likes me,” acknowledge that this is a negative, hurtful message. Swap this out for something that’s more truthful and more constructive: “I feel uncomfortable in this situation because I don’t really know anyone here. If I start 1 conversation, I’ll get to know 1 person here and I might not feel so awkward.”
What separates confident, sociable people is the attitude that they have toward themselves. They tend to focus on the positive while insecure, anti-social people focus on their own shortcomings and are critical of others