Socializing is generally considered a leisurely, enjoyable activity. But depending on your personality and attitude, it can also feel like work or provoke anxiety.
Whatever your natural inclinations are, you can learn how to communicate more effectively with others and foster supportive interactions. The “doors” of change to more effective interactions are threefold:
- Examine your reservations
- Engage with others
- Expand your social circle
Examine Your Reservations
Everybody feels shy or insecure from time to time, but if you feel inhibited by your shyness, it may be because you’ve developed certain habits of thought that don’t serve your best interests anymore. Below are some strategies to help you examine reservations you may have about engaging in social activities.
- Change ideas and thoughts: In our busy, high-octane lives, it’s not always easy to be aware of our thoughts, especially habitual thoughts that sometimes lurk behind the others. But if we make a point to listen to our thoughts, we may discover some that we’d like to change. Once you begin to recognize thoughts you’d like to change, you can train yourself in new directions. For example, you can start by closing your eyes and visualizing the negative thought. Let it slowly dissolve until it disappears completely.
- Turn a negative thought into a constructive thought: If you find yourself thinking that you’re not suited to joining a group that interests you, turn this thought into a positive one by saying, “I am an interesting person and I have a lot to offer and share.” This affirmation is true! You might want to come up with three or more replacement thoughts.
- Acknowledge that everyone is unique: Everybody experiences high and low points in life. But even if we cannot change external circumstances, we can change our perceptions and attitudes. A happy attitude will always serve you well. “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln
Engage with Others
- Smile: One of the easiest ways to compel yourself into socializing is to smile. Smiling can instantly make you feel more positive. It also draws other people to you.
- Use welcoming body language: If you are at a social gathering, be aware of your body language. Does it signal that you are approachable? Make eye contact with people, give them a small wave or a nod, and look in front of you instead of at your feet or at the floor. When you look happy and ready to talk, people are more likely to come up to you.
- Put your phone away: If you look busy, people won’t want to interrupt you. Your body language should say that you are ready to interact.
- Be genuine: Whether you are talking to an old friend or somebody you have just met, show genuine interest in the conversation. Being fully engaged shows that you are compassionate and makes for more stimulating and fulfilling interactions with others.
- Keep conversations balanced: Ask people questions about themselves. Show that you care by asking others to share.
- Be open-minded: The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is relevant here. Someone you’re ambivalent about could end up being your best friend. Give yourself a chance to get to know others. What interests might you share?
Expand Your Social Circle
- Offer invitations: As you reach out to others, others will be more likely to reciprocate and reach out to you. Call old friends that you haven’t seen in a while and set up a time to get together. Invite a friend to the movies, a baseball game, a concert, or other activity. Consider having a party and telling your friends to bring guests.
- Accept more invitations: Granted, there are only so many hours in the day for socializing. But if you’re in the habit of turning down invitations, try to make a point to accept some—even if the invitation is to attend something out of your comfort zone. You might even want to make a habit of arbitrarily saying yes three times for every one time you say no.
- Join a club or group with like-minded people: Making new friends and expanding one’s social network can be accomplished by joining a club or group. You may even want to consider joining a group focused on something different from what you’re used to.
- Meet mutual friends: Meeting friends of friends is one of the easiest ways to meet new people. Try to view every person you meet in your life as a doorway into a new social circle.
- Look for unique opportunities to be social: This can be as simple as starting a conversation with a checkout clerk—”Hey, how’s your day going?”—instead of remaining quiet.
All in all, make your social life one of your top priorities. Everyone needs some alone time, too, but it’s important to stay connected. Keeping those connections alive contributes to healthy interdependence and personal success.