If you’re the type of person that enjoys a warm cup of tea and their computer on a Saturday night as opposed to a party, then you might be an introvert. Introverts usually tend to keep to themselves and have trouble adjusting in social situations. If you’re used to being alone, it may be hard to enjoy and participate in social events.
Social problems aren’t exclusive to introverts; however, even extroverts can find themselves struggling with socializing. This could be due to anything from social anxiety to trust issues but worry not: there are multiple things that you can do to help you enjoy socializing.
Diagnose the Problem
The number one question on your mind before you focus on improving your social life should be: why don’t I enjoy socializing?
The University of Pennsylvania describes social anxiety as “a marked, intense, and persistent fear of social situations that can be differentiated from the more typical fear that comes with discomforting situations.” Primarily, if you feel dread before every single expected social encounter, you may be suffering from social anxiety.
Unlike shyness, Social Anxiety is constant and casts a shadow over every single social event that you partake in. Social anxiety is also sometimes referred to as “the irrational fear of embarrassment” because those who suffer from it often feel they will be humiliated in situations where it is improbable.
Harvard Medical School states that 12% of Americans have social anxiety in their lives, and 7% have it each year. If you believe that there is a chance that you may be suffering from social anxiety, seek out a diagnosis from a licensed professional.
Being shy is one of the most common problems facing people all over the globe. If you’re hesitant to speak in social environments, and fear being disliked, then you are not alone. According to PsychCentral.com, “40 to 60% of adults report being currently shy people.”
As long as it doesn’t actively inhibit you from enjoying your life, shyness is nothing to be ashamed of. Just being quiet isn’t a problem in and of itself; nevertheless, it never hurts to be better in social situations, so you will still find some helpful information in this article.
Become Comfortable Around Strangers
One of the most important aspects of socializing is making friends, but before you can do that, you have to become comfortable with people that you’ve never met. One of the main reasons people skip out on social functions is that they’re nervous about making a good impression on strangers.
Once you overcome the fear of the unknown, you’ll have a much easier time being comfortable while socializing. Here are some tips to help you become more relaxed when meeting new people.
If you feel confident, people around you are more likely to respect you and listen to what you have to say. It’s a well-known fact that confidence is often affected by how you dress and how clean you are. If you’re happy with the way you look, you’ll be satisfied with what you say, and you’ll make a much better first impression.
Remember That You Aren’t Alone
Remember that 40-60% statistic we brought up earlier? As it turns out, millions of people are uneasy around new people. When you’re in uncomfortable situations, remind yourself that what you’re feeling is entirely normal, and most of the people around you are probably anxious as well.
Think about it this way: the strangers that you’re meeting are probably just as worried about meeting new people as you are; they won’t judge you for being a little nervous.
Ask Interesting Questions
If you find yourself unsure of what to say when meeting someone new, try asking them a question. The goals of asking a question are to learn more about the person you’re talking to and to start a conversation so that you don’t have to worry about what to say. When you get an answer, all you have to do is naturally comment on something they said, and the conversation will go from there.
Make sure you’re always asking questions that require more than a yes or no response. If you ask thoughtful questions, you’ll find that you often get friendly answers in return.
Recharge Your Batteries
According to BYU, introverts need their alone time, as they “recharge their batteries” by spending time by themselves in a quiet space. For introverts, enjoying socializing also means enjoying time alone, but what are the benefits of alone time for someone who’s not an introvert?
For one, it’s much easier to work in an isolated environment than it is to work in an open space, according to a study by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear. It turns out that privacy and quietness are essential to maintaining prolonged productivity. This study isn’t just directed towards introverts, as alone time increases productivity amongst most people.
Without adequate alone time, stress can build up and become a problem in the long term. Stress can have many effects, such as sleep loss, being unfocused, binge eating, and much more. While dealing with all the side-effects of stress, socializing may become a chore, so always ensure that you set aside time every day to be alone and destress.
If you’re always on the move and busy, you’ll never have time to sit down and think about the things that are important to you. Whether it be a relationship or an important life choice, no great decision can be made without proper thought, and no adequate thought can be conducted without some peace and quiet.
While you may think that making time in your schedule for being alone is a waste, it is actually essential to your mental health. Take a good look at your calendar and designate any empty slots to alone time. Even just one hour a day can help you better prepare yourself for whatever may come your way, be it work, school, or anything else. \
If you usually have trouble talking to people at parties or other social gatherings, it may be because you have no idea how to start a conversation. We’ve all been there, you see someone interesting, but you have no idea how to approach them. It is always challenging to start a conversation with a complete stranger, but here are some tips to make it easier.
Talk About Your Surroundings
The one thing that everyone has in common at a social gathering is the scenery. If you can’t think of anything to talk about, try starting a conversation by bringing up something about the place that you’re at. For example, you could nudge the person beside you and say, “I’ve been looking at that plant all night, but I just have no idea if it’s real or not!”
Additionally, you can also talk about things that you know both you and the person you’re talking to can relate to in regards to where you are. For example, at a work party, you could start a conversation with your coworkers by saying the following: “Did you see the boss’ tie when he gave that speech? I had no idea that he had such a strong sense of style!”
Approach with Common Interests
At any gathering, try to think of interests you have that may align with the other people there. If you think about where you are, it can be quite easy to find people with common interests. If you’re at a cat cafe, for example, try starting a conversation about your favorite cat breeds. If you’re at a gaming convention, start a discussion about your favorite game genre.
Give Someone a Compliment
If you ever see someone wearing a cool shirt or with a cool hairstyle, don’t hesitate to compliment them. Not only will you make their day, but you may also make a friend. For example, after you compliment someone’s shirt, you could ask them where they got it; then, they might tell you why they like it and praise your shirt as a result.
If you need some more help starting a conversation, check out these easy conversation starters from Utah State University.
Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
While it has been established that alone time is healthy, too much time alone can be bad for your social and mental health. According to Caltech, excessive social isolation can lead to various mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. It is crucial to make sure that you’re socializing regularly, even if it may be difficult at times.
Sometimes we feel like just sitting at home and watching Netflix, not leaving the house except for work and groceries. While it is okay to feel like this, we also must acknowledge that it is unrealistic to live a life of social isolation. Humans need interaction, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it.
On days when you feel like doing nothing, force yourself to socialize. Even doing the bare minimum, like giving your best friend a call is better than keeping to yourself. Of course, you should never force yourself into a dangerous situation, but sometimes being a little uncomfortable can go a long way when it comes to your mental health.
One exercise you can do is make an online choice picker and put in various social activities. Every day spin the wheel and challenge yourself to do whatever choice it lands on, regardless of how much you want to. Eventually, you’ll be more open to participating in events out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be able to enjoy socializing much more often.
Find a Hobby
According to the New York Times, having a hobby that you enjoy can lead to a number of health benefits such as better overall health, better sleep, and less stress. One of the most significant benefits of having a hobby, however, is being able to socialize with like-minded people.
The first step to finding a hobby is assessing your interests and deciding whether or not there are some interests that you would like to pursue deeply. For example, if you’ve always been interested in fixing cars, then you may be interested in taking on car restoration as a hobby.
The next step is to find a meetup or weekly gathering for your hobby. For this, you can look at your local newspaper, or use an online gathering site such as meetup.com. By participating in a local meeting, you’ll be able to meet locals who share your interests and already have something in common with you, making socializing much more enjoyable.
The final step is to develop your hobby further and continue to meet more people and attend more gatherings. The more you immerse yourself in your hobby, the more opportunities you’ll have to participate in the community and make more friends who can also help you develop your hobby.
Having a hobby does take up a good chunk of time, but if you’re willing to invest that time, you’ll find many lifelong friends and gain a lot of useful experience in socializing. Another concern besides time is that hobbies often cost a lot of money to start and participate in. While this is true for some hobbies, there are also many hobbies that you can start without paying a dime.
For a list of cheap hobbies that you can start today, check out this article from The Telegraph.
Hang Out with Friends You Already Have
If you have trouble socializing, you may be able to get your friends to help you out. Sometimes we can feel more confident and relaxed while socializing if we’re with someone that we’re very close with. You don’t even have to have any close friends, even just bringing a sibling or cousin along with you while socializing can be helpful.
If you already have a few close friends, try asking them to introduce you to some of their friends. Your best friends would usually love to introduce you to some of their other friends because it means that they can invite you to more gatherings and events. Next time your friend goes out with a group of their other friends, it does no harm to ask if you can tag along.
If you’re not comfortable with meeting new people, you can practice socializing with your best friend or family. Hang out with the people you’re comfortable with as often as you can, and ask them if they can give you any feedback to help you improve your social skills. Even if you can’t currently meet new people, you can always practice until you are comfortable.
Lastly, even if you’re not looking to practice or meet new people, hanging out with your close friends is something you should do as often as you can. As your basic social support system, you want to have a strong bond with your close friends and family so that you can rely on someone in tough times, and so that they have someone to rely on in return.
Meet New People
If you want to enjoy socializing, you’ll want to fill your social life with people that you can relate to and enjoy life with. There are many different ways that you can meet people based on your interests and preferences
When you volunteer, not only are you meeting new people, but you’re also helping your community in the process. There are many different ways you can volunteer. One way is to do a quick google search for nonprofit organizations near you and get in contact with them. Another way you can find volunteer work is to see if a global nonprofit has a branch near you.
If you are religious, a local mosque, synagogue, temple, or church is likely to have people with shared beliefs and values. Most religious spaces have many community projects and fundraisers that you can participate in to help out and meet other people of your religion. Much like having a hobby, faith connects you to people that you can instantly relate to.
In recent years, meeting people online has become commonplace. The best places you can look for like-minded individuals are large social media groups tailored towards your interests. For example, if you’re an avid gardener, try joining a Facebook group dedicated to gardening and meet new people through there.
One of the best sites for meeting people in a specific group is Reddit. Reddit features many different active communities (called subreddits) that each tailor to a different niche. From gaming to literature, if you’re interested in something, there is probably a community for it. It is also worth checking out groups that are dedicated to making new friends.
Prepare Before Socializing
If you go into a social function clueless, you’re likely to feel awkward and anxious because you have no idea what to say. While we would all like to believe that easy socializing comes naturally, the truth is that most of us have no idea what we’re doing half the time. Here are some tips that you can use to prepare yourself before socializing.
Practice Approaching People
In your mind, visualize what the upcoming social situation will look like, and go over how you are going to approach someone that you want to talk to. Note your posture and body language as you act it out in your mind.
Next, practice saying hi to strangers as you commute to work or school: a passing wave or smile is more than enough. Take a mental note of how they respond to your greeting; think about their posture and body language. Next, think about how similar your reaction would be if someone approached you.
Next time you start a conversation with someone, act natural; remember how it felt to approach someone on the street and replicate what you practiced.
Check Your Hygiene
The last thing you want to happen while socializing is for someone to be uncomfortable because of your hygiene. People tend to form first impressions based on the five senses; if you look disheveled or smell foul, people will remember you for that.
To improve your first impressions and give your confidence a boost, always make sure you look and smell good before you go out.
Just as with hygiene, people tend to remember you for how you dress. If you work in a formal work environment like an office, dress accordingly. If you show up to a formal gathering in sweats and a T-Shirt, people will remember you as “that guy who wore pajamas to work.” You don’t want to be that guy.
The same goes for the opposite situation. If you’re going to a club, don’t wear your Sunday best unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb.
Socializing can be overwhelming if you try to do too much at once, especially for introverts. If you’re not used to socializing too much, start with baby steps. Maybe ask your friends to hang out one night a week, and then see how comfortable you are with that.
The more you socialize, the more comfortable you will be, but if you don’t start with casual meetups and conversations, you’ll never get anywhere. The only thing you will get from overwhelming yourself is confusion and embarrassment. If you want to enjoy socializing, then the goal is to have fun, so start with the activities that you like.
Eventually, you’ll want to get out of your comfort zone, but there is no need to do it immediately. Many people who experience social trauma or resentment tried to punch over their weight and had a bad experience. Use your weekly alone time to set up a “socialization schedule” where you allot certain hours of your week for socializing, and slowly increase the hours each week.
If you want an easy to use and free online calendar that you can use both on your phone and desktop try Google Calendar. With Google Calendar, you can make recurring events and set a specific time for each one. Make one called “socialization,” and slowly increase the time that you give it as you feel you are comfortable to socialize more.
Know When to Leave
Picture this: it’s midnight, and you’re at a party, you were having fun at the start of the night, but now you’re tired, and you want to go home. What is the best course of action in this situation? If you’re going to leave, then leave.
You’re not hurting anyone’s feelings by leaving when you don’t want to socialize anymore; it’s your right to stop anytime that you see fit. One of the essential parts of healthy socializing is respecting other people’s boundaries. If you’re being pressured to stay somewhere or talk to someone and you feel uncomfortable, your boundaries are being crossed.
If you ever want to leave a social gathering, the best thing you can do is be honest. If someone asks you why you are leaving, you don’t have to make an excuse like, “oh, I forgot I had to walk my dog.” All you have to do is say, “I’m going to go home now, thank you for having me,” then leave.
In addition to knowing when to leave, you should also know when to accept someone’s invitation and when to decline. Like we said earlier, if you never step out of your comfort zone, then you’ll never improve, but if you feel that accepting an invitation would put you in danger, then you have every right to decline politely.
The first thing you should do before using any of this advice is to get help from a doctor or psychiatrist if you feel that the problem is too serious. While this information will help you better enjoy socializing, it is far from medical advice.
The key to a good social life is also to have a good life in every other aspect. Before worrying about social problems, examine everything else in your life and ask yourself if anything else could be the problem. Often our social problems are just reflections of our financial, medical, and relationship problems.
At the end of the day, it’s okay to struggle while socializing. No one is born a social butterfly, and even those that appear proficient have their own problems. Meeting and hanging out with new people may never be completely comfortable for you, but with experience, it will get easier.
There will always be someone who will enjoy your company. Whether that be a coworker or someone you’ve never met in your life, there is someone out there that is a perfect match for you. All you have to do is socialize as much as you can, and eventually, you will find people that you enjoy being around, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.