Are you a retiring wallflower, or an outgoing party animal? Maybe youfall somewhere in between. The art of social success is often measuredby how smoothly you navigate the landscape of cocktail hours, businessdinners, fundraisers, get-togethers and receptions. Do you anticipate such events with a sense of excitement, or do you dread the moment you’ll have to open your mouth – and hope that whatever comes out of it is truly witty?
There are probably more people at that same event who share your discomfort than there are social creatures who live to shoot the breeze. This is especially true if the event is tied to your business – because then it’s not just your social life that may could be threatened by a verbal, behavioral or wardrobe gaffe. Once we realize that, we sometimes take it too much to heart – and make ourselves nervous.
Next time you attend a gathering, try these 5 simple steps to a more sociable, easygoing you:
1. Introduce yourself…
Grab a drink – it need not be alcoholic, but holding it will give you something to do with your hands. Then introduce yourself to someone who looks as lost as you feel. Ask them what they think of a current film or book, a sports match or a news figure – say anything to get the conversation rolling. Ask how they know the host or, if it’s a business event, what role they play in the company. If you see someone you know, introduce that person to your new acquaintance, and let conversation follow naturally from there. Now you’ve already created a grouping of three. See how easy that was?
2. Be topical
If you do have the gift of gab – the ability to spew witty gems that have people hanging on your every word – consider yourself lucky. If you often find yourself at a loss, do some advance prep work for the party by reading the paper every day for a week – or watch entertainment news to be up-to-date on television, movies and personalities. Consider practicing a joke, so you can deliver the punch line seamlessly – or dream up a funny anecdote.
3. Act up
Even if you are shy, you can pretend not to be. Make the event a sort of personal secret adventure. Be an actor for just a bit – and imagine yourself as the more socially comfortable type. Now try on that personality, and let the conversation flow. Ignore the voice in your head that tells you to hide in the bathroom – instead, be that new person who is comfortable in their own skin. Eventually, you will become that person… at least for the duration of the party!
Try to be an active listener. People who are good listeners are always welcome in an active conversation. Those who focus on the discussion, ask intelligent questions and help move the chatter along with appropriate comments are likely to be socially successful. And, of course, the most successful partygoers are those who don’t need to be the center of attention all the time – know when to fade ever-so-slightly into the woodwork, while still listening and asking questions now and then.
5. Dress for success
Another important step is to think your outfit through in advance – you’ll want to don the appropriate clothes, so you don’t feel either underdressed or overdressed. Having the right outfit for an event, and feeling comfortable in it, will help you fit in with the crowd. There will be some social gatherings where clothing counts more than others – so when in doubt, ask someone you can count on to describe the dress code, so you have the rules of the road.
And remember… be careful not to get too tipsy at the event, especially if it’s a business function – your professional reputation would suffer, along with your social life!
Life is often a series of social settings, so it’s up to you to decide how you will approach them. Rather than fear and trepidation – or a sense of giddy anticipation, which is almost as bad – try to navigate the middle path of simple ease and confidence. You never know what will develop out of just one personal connection – so make every single one count!
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