One of the most nerve-wracking situations for many people is attending social events, particularly those where you don't know anyone else. If you're like many people, you have visions of yourself standing alone, looking awkward, sweating, and sneaking out the side door early. Socializing is difficult for many people. Why? For one, it's a perfect opportunity for rejection. After all, if you say or do something stupid, it's very easy for the other person to move on to someone else if they find your conversation dull. Or another scenario is one where you're stuck at a table with a bunch of other people you don't know, and you envision yourself staring at your plate all through the meal, completely at a loss of words.
These fears are very common and normal. That's good. It means that, if you feel this way, you're not alone. It also means that when you're feeling awkward in a social situation, others are as well. Even some people who appear to be completely at ease may have a jumble of nerves and self-doubt inside. So what's the solution?
If you are the person who speaks out first, makes the first move, and begins a conversation, you're taking the pressure off the other person. No longer are you now the one who is awkward at socializing, but you are now someone who is focused on the other people attending.
Changing your frame of mind in this way can be very helpful. It's also more helpful than changing your frame of mind in other ways, such as using alcohol or other medications (unless you've had a thorough check-up with a doctor who has prescribed anti-anxiety medications). It's true that alcohol can put you at ease and make starting a conversation much easier.
The problem is that it also makes it much easier to take another drink, and another, and before you know it (or don't), you really are saying or doing something stupid. Unless you are absolutely confident (no pun intended) in your ability to control your drinking, avoid using this method as a solution to your social fears.
After you have reminded yourself that many other people there are feeling just as nervous as you are, try striking up a conversation. This is easier than it may seem--or at least, it does become easier with practice. One of the best ways to start a conversation is to ask questions. Then keep asking them. People like to talk about themselves, and it's also a subject that we all know well--so this avoids awkward moments trying to discuss the latest political issue or historical fact that someone may not be "up" on for whatever reason (life can get in the way sometimes). The key to making this work, however, is to actually be interested in what the other person has to say. If you're constantly looking around, interrupting, or giving other signs that you're not interested, you'll quickly offend the other person, who may well walk away. Then you will find yourself in the situation you're trying to avoid.
When possible, take a buddy with you. Just be sure that you don't hide in the corner only talking to each other. Instead, use the "buddy system" to meet new people together. It's always easier when you have someone on your side. Simply knowing that at least one other person there likes you and is rooting for you can give you an instant confidence booster as you reach out to new people. Using the buddy method is also a great way to practice before you have to strike out on your own, which is likely to happen at least once in your lifetime. Feeling prepared will make you feel much more confident when you do find yourself in this scenario.
Forcing yourself to learn new social skills is scary. You are taking a risk. However, once you make the effort, even if it doesn't go as well as you'd hoped, you can feel better about yourself knowing you made the effort. Next time will go better. Give yourself credit for trying.
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