June 10, 2006 3:35 PM   Subscribe

How to be more outgoing and social?

I can't call people. I don't know why. And when I'm at social gatherings I never approach people, I just stand in the corner and hope someone approaches me. My whole life I've wanted to be more outgoing because I really don't have any friends that I see on the weekends or anything. How can I work up the nerve to approach people?

Also, I would love to be able to dance but I always get so self conscious
posted by joshuak to Human Relations (23 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who has not been very social I can assure you that a moderate intake of alcohol (i.e. 2-3 beers in 30 minutes) will almost certainly do the trick. It's not a healthy substance and carries the risk of dependency, but it will work.

I've also been in the situation of not having any alcohol, and I find that if you identify who the most approachable, gregarious social person is, move to them, and insert yourself into their circles of conversation you'll be allowing them to do all your hard work.
posted by chef_boyardee at 3:52 PM on June 10, 2006

Oh... and as far as how to approach people in non-party situations.... it's gonna boil down to finding people with common interests and being as casual as you can about proposing low-key, fun activities (coffee, eating out, shopping, whatever) and taking it from there. Activities among extroverts tends to just "happen" naturally, and if you're not naturally extroverted then I think you'll find yourself somewhat unapproachable and will be having to do most of the legwork.
posted by chef_boyardee at 3:58 PM on June 10, 2006

Another good trick is to fake it. Put on a persona, pretend you're playing a role, whatever. Just get out there and act like the person you wish you were. You don't have to be afraid because, hey, you're just pretending, right? It's a game. And eventually, you won't be pretending anymore. It'll be you.
posted by web-goddess at 3:59 PM on June 10, 2006

(I believe the poster is a teenager, if I'm not mistaken, so maybe we can steer clear of the drugs/alcohol stuff? Works great for us old folks, tho.)
posted by tristeza at 4:05 PM on June 10, 2006

It helps a lot when you have some kind of "official reason" to be interacting with people. Just walking up to them out of the blue at parties can seem daunting, presumptuous... and what do you say?

Go audition for a play. It's a good way to meet people in a context where you have something to DO together. You really can't NOT interact with your co-cast. The practice you gain doing stuff like this helps a lot in general life later on.
posted by scarabic at 4:09 PM on June 10, 2006

Response by poster: I can't act or perform anything. And as much as I'd like to, I don't drink, nor do the people I tend to associate myself with
posted by joshuak at 4:26 PM on June 10, 2006

A play is a great idea. Be a stage manager or on the tech crew if you're not really an actor -- although if your high school is like 99% of high schools in America, just being male will get you cast in any production the school is putting on. If you really don't want to do that, find another activity that meets pretty often. The key is really to find a way that you can interact with the same people on a regular basis. You might have to go outside your comfort zone a little to do this, but it will make things a lot easier on the social front.

Keep in mind that there aren't that many people who are naturally super-outgoing. Most people have to work at it a little, even if it doesn't seem like it. When all else fails, just try to act interested in people -- you don't have to say much if you can get them talking about themselves.

Last thing -- when you get invited to do something, GO. Even if it sounds boring or not really your style, go anyway (unless you have a reason to think that it's not safe or whatever). Think of it as social practice if you need to.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:05 PM on June 10, 2006

Speaking as a fellow introvert, my suggestion would be "practice when/where it doesn't matter."

For example, chat with every service-person you run into in a day - they are (partially) paid to be pleasant, and they'll forget anything you say to them in 15 minutes or less. They are zero-risk practice on how to start conversations.

After a while, you'll be commenting on the weather and recent sports highlights like it's not even a challenge, and you'll be able to reliably get a chuckle out of cashiers.

Though not quite the same as chatting with a stranger at a party, it's practice, and practice is the key.

Similarly, going on social events like walking tours of a museum, will force you to rub up against strangers you'll never see again, and can practice conversationally with. Start with short events at first, so if you do sour the group you'll only be stuck for a little while.

Eventually, of course, you'll start to run into people again at these sorts of events, but by then you'll have some practice.

The key is to find people to practice with who don't intimidate you, either because screwing up doesn't matter, or the situation has an easy exit. Then put yourself in as many situations like that as possible, until you've got a good repetoire of conversational maneuvers to use.

This will probably never make you outgoing at parties -- if you're an introvert, you're never going to find parties energizing the way an extrovert does, but at least you won't find them stressful, because you'll be ready to start a conversation with the girl by the 'fridge when you grab some ice, and even if you bollocks it up, you'll have experience with getting out of there, too.
posted by Crosius at 6:42 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

And as much as I'd like to, I don't drink, nor do the people I tend to associate myself with

There's your problem! Just get new friends.
posted by Pacheco at 10:07 PM on June 10, 2006

Oh man, I was so you. What really helped me was taking jobs where interacting with people was part of the work. Not just "would you like fries with that?" but leading tours of a museum or historic site or something like that. (Help me with more examples, Mefites.)
posted by LarryC at 10:15 PM on June 10, 2006

maybe a sales job?
i remember one of my first jobs was cold-calling old and prospective clients to sell them new products. for someone who was very shy, let's just say it was a crash course in learning how to talk to random strangers. it had a high learning curve but ultimately i was grateful i was put in that situation because i feel like i can go and talk to anyone right now, in person or on the phone.

i do still have those moments of "oh crap" ... what do i say and how do i say it. but you take a breath, collect your thoughts and realize that the other person is not as conscious about what your insecurities are about yourself as you think they are and that they will more than likely be recepetive to your talking. sure the first few time will be awkward and you'll feel clumsy but you'll get the hang of it soon enough.

just remember to have fun. it'll be fine.
posted by eatcake at 10:37 PM on June 10, 2006

Hmmm. Think of it as interviewing people. Other people LOVE to talk about themselves. Ask them questions like: what's bugging you these days? what made you laugh really hard recently? what would you change if you ruled the zoo?

I have phone phear myself, but it helps if I'm focused. What do I need to know from this person?

Good luck!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:11 PM on June 10, 2006

oh! dancing! take a dance class!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:12 PM on June 10, 2006

--when I'm at social gatherings I never approach people, I just stand in the corner and hope someone approaches me.

chef_boyardee's suggestion of finding the most outgoing person at the gathering is a good one. They've usually got a circle of people around them listening in.

Once you're a little more confident, a good way to handle social gatherings where you don't know anyone is to take the opposite tack: look for someone who's standing by themselves looking uncomfortable, and talk to them.

Getting a job or a volunteer position that involves interacting with people is also a great idea. The more practice you have with just talking to people, the better.

You might want to check out the book When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel Smith. It's a good book on assertiveness. Includes some basic information about how conversations flow that you might find helpful--you ask the other person something, you share some information about yourself, there's a back-and-forth. You look for something you have in common--a school, a teacher? Sports, music, work?

You might look into taking a one-day workshop on assertiveness or self-esteem, if they have them in your area. It's a chance to talk to other people about personal stuff, and listen to them as well, in a safe group setting.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.
posted by russilwvong at 11:18 PM on June 10, 2006

If you think you are an introvert you may find this book interesting. It does not cover your questions but it may help to understand why you act like this.
posted by donut at 12:25 AM on June 11, 2006

There are probably a lot of people here who can relate.

I certainly can. When I was a teenager I made myself go to parties and talk to people. I wasn't too good at it but it worked. One thing that would have been great to do is learn to dance. Seriously, you should look into it.

You get older, you get over things. People I knew who couldn't talk to people at parties in their early 20s are now proficient at it 10 years later.

If you can, do things where you can socialise with the gender you're interested in. Dancing is good, drama, whatever.

When you're talking to people make sure that you're not talking at them. Many, many guys do that (myself included). Play a game where you just try and get the other person to talk. Ask people open ended questions. Keep them talking. Make short, quick jokes. And smile.
posted by sien at 1:20 AM on June 11, 2006

Definitely practice in low-key situations. Before you go to a party, look at a newspaper. Pick out a few interesting pieces of news. Have a few intro lines handy.

You start by saying "Hi, I'm Joshuak" and extending your hand to shake. You may feel dorky, but it's effective. Ask them how they know the host, or what their major is, or if they saw that thing in the news about %something. The weather works, that's why people talk about it all the time. Positive comments like, "great tshirt/tie/mullet, where'd you get it," are good, or ask a question, like "What's this song? I can't remember where I've heard it." are good.
posted by theora55 at 5:01 AM on June 11, 2006

Practice -- working as a waitress helped me a lot.
posted by ruff at 9:16 AM on June 11, 2006

I give this advice every time a variant on this question comes up: take an improv class. (It helped me a lot.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2006

I would also second the dance class thing. Think of it as an intermediate level socializing tool. I am taking Swing classes here in Seattle and, although I am WAY out of my element, I am having a great time. (Bonus is the fact that I got to hang out with a cute girl this last Friday that I met there. =) Keeping fingers crossed on that!) Thing I had to learn was, if there was a girl standing around I wanted to dance with, I just had to walk up and say, “Care to dance?” Three words and the effort to walk ten feet and 9 times out of 10 I was dancing with a cute stranger. It does wonders for the confidence, especially when you start to learn some neat moves.
posted by Chickenjack at 7:49 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: My cousins tell me that college is a LOT easier. Is that true?
posted by joshuak at 12:08 PM on June 12, 2006

Yeah. You will likely never again have an environment remotely as conducive to making new friends as college. I've heard wide agreement on this, and it's been my experience.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:24 PM on June 12, 2006

When I've been thrown into a group of folks I don't know well (like my in-laws at Thanksgiving!), I give myself a job. If I've brought a camera, I take pictures of groups and make a point of asking names so that I can make a photo album of the event. Just doing those 2 things - taking pictures and asking people for names - opens a lot of conversational doors, and all of a sudden, you can be talking to someone about something and not realize it :o)
At other get-togethers, I volunteer to do something, like hand around snacks, or help folks get their name tags, or walk folks to their cars with an umbrella.
Give yourself a job and you'll feel much more comfortable than just standing by yourself. It works for me :o)
posted by crepeMyrtle at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2006

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