For people like myself, who are quite introverted and lack an aptitude to social engagement, being social can be a major challenge.
In my personal experience it comes from a fear of discomfort. There are certain aspects of a social situation that I will expect to happen, and then proceed to get stressed about it. I will go over 5 ways that I have used to not only become more comfortable, but also start enjoying social events.
1. Talk About What You Want to Talk About
One of the reasons why I used to despise any social interaction, was that I rarely felt a connection with the people I was talking to. It took me a while to realize that this was simply because I was always taught that you had to talk about what the other person wanted to talk about, and they rarely had the same interests I had.
So I had to find a way to make a social interactions more interesting for me, without dominating the conversation and only talking about me. One of the ways I have enjoyed being more social is attentively listen to someone else talk, and the moment they mention something that is an interest of mine, to move the conversation in that direction.
That way I am still showing interest in what the other person is saying, but I am now more involved in the conversation. This is a great recipe to become someone who is nice to talk to!
2. Aim to Build Meaningful Relationships
A big part of enjoying to be more social comes from our expectations of what such a social interaction means and what it leads to. I personally despise small talk. It does not interest me one bit, but more importantly it never leads to anything meaningful.
I am not a very social adept person and have never been good at social interactions of any kind. A bit introverted and rather socially awkward if I’m honest. However, when I know that a conversation leads to something meaningful, all that awkwardness disappears.
I can say I am grateful to have discovered this because it has really helped me.
Now, in order to expect a more fulfilling interaction, set a goal for yourself to achieve. The goal can be as general as you want. For example if you are just going out with friends, set a goal to talk about at least 5 different topics over the course of the meeting.
Making it like a game has allowed me to enjoy being more social. Definitely give it a try!
3. Avoid Any Unnecessary Stress
I have noticed that a lot of the enjoyment that is associated with socializing can be drained by certain stressors. Take the example where you will drive with a friend to a party or any other social event. There is a good chance you will also drive back home with this friend. This can create unnecessary stress since you might want to leave the event early, but don’t dare say anything as you do not want to ruin it for the person that you are riding with.
If you are stressing about this, it will show in your conversations and in the general way that you carry yourself for the evening. I suggest to limit this as much as possible.
Try to make a list of personal experiences you have had where a situation external to the social event stressed you out, like the example I mentioned above. Getting rid of this stress will make any situation more comfortable for you!
4. Set boundaries
Other peoples behavior can have the tendency to sap the enjoyment right out of any social situation. I think most of us have at one point dreaded to go to that family gathering, where we expect a load of intrusive and often times very personal questions by people that we are not close to at all.
This is also in a way related to the previous section about stress. One thing we can do about these situations is to set our boundaries.
I’ll take a personal example out of my life. I struggled a lot in my first year of university, and so at family gatherings the questions “how is uni going?” bothered me a lot. I didnt like to feel stressed out going to these family “reunions”. So I told myself before hand, if someone asks that question, simply reply with: “It is a bit stressful at the moment so I don’t really wanna talk about it. After all today is my day off!”. Note that the last part I said with a happy tone!
What this teaches your subconscious is that, once such an “annoying” situation pops up, we are completely capable of dealing with it in an effective way. That we don’t have to worry because we got this. This will guarantee a reduction in the discomfort you feel when engaging in social events.
5. Repetition is Key
If my engineering studies have taught me anything pertaining to social skills, its that repetition is a sure-fire way of becoming proficient at any skill.
If you apply the skills mentioned in this article, you will only notice a real change if you put yourself out there. Make it a habit of going to social events once or twice a week and working on the skills that will allow you enjoy socializing.
When you practice these skills, there will come a point where you don’t even have to think about them anymore. It will all come naturally. When you reach this stage no one will ever have guessed that you had trouble with social situations!
Note that the general consensus of this article is to make you more comfortable. Being in your comfort zone allows you to present yourself as you truly are. There are no effects of your nervousness at play. If you have a nice personality to boost, people will genuinely want to spend time around you and conversations will flow effortlessly. Keep working on your self!