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Here’s the uncomfortable truth. Some of us feel like melting into the floor the second we walk into a large social gathering. It can be a work function, a friend’s Super Bowl party, or just meeting a group of friends for dinner–doesn’t matter. Large groups make us seize up and devolve into the most socially awkward version of ourselves.

And then, while we’re fumbling to even introduce ourselves to ONE stranger, what do we see out of the corner of our eye? The social over-achiever. You know the one. He or she is always surrounded by a tight circle of fans. They’re throwing their head back laughing, while their entourage leans into the story, clapping and oohing and ahhhhing, and falling off their chairs laughing.

Um, I’ll have whatever she’s having, we think, because we can’t imagine ourselves pulling off the social spotlight that successfully.

The good news? All these feelings are totally naturally. Some of us like people, but we just don’t love them in enormous groups all at once.

Nevertheless, as one piece of evidence that life is indeed not fair, we will still be required to make an appearance at more than one social event in our lifetime. And that’s where this article comes in. Because when we do have to survive a large social gathering, there are things we can do to be less of a giant ball of nerves and more of an…adult person who can enjoy diverse experiences.

Here are 10 tips that will improve your social wizardry skills immediately.

1. Enter the room believing that the experience will be beneficial

It’s fine to acknowledge to yourself that you feel tension, but reframe the night as an opportunity to challenge yourself to grow. After all, research has overwhelmingly shown that relationships are good for our physical and mental well-being.

2. Look interested in meeting other people

meeting-new-people

Here are the cliff notes of what that looks like: Stay off your phone, smile and don’t slouch or cross your arms, and get ready to offer a friendly, confident hello to anyone who makes eye contact or speaks to you.

3. Don’t wait around for someone to initiate conversation with you

Go in with a few versatile small talk topics in mind. Some good starters: Where are they from? Where do they work? How did they end up at the event tonight?

See Also: 10 Ways to Make a Good First Impression 

4. Start by talking to one person

Then, pull a couple others into the conversation. Big groups are less intimidating when you break them into smaller, more manageable conversation groups. If you exhaust one group or are curious to meet additional people, excuse yourself to go and say hello to someone else and begin again.

5. It’s the little things that set you apart

Make sure to get the person’s name and then occasionally use it when talking to them (like say their name three times, as opposed to 30). Then once you’re past the introduction, focus on finding and pointing out some common ground…even if it’s small. Some possibilities: your career field, where you live or grew up, the number or gender of your siblings, the size or makeup of your current family.

6. Ask questions

And then commit to being an above average listener. Tip: Do this by following up with additional questions. You work at Company X? How long have you worked there? (Listen.) What is your role? (Listen.) Do you see yourself there for the long term? (Listen.)

See Also: How To Keep A Conversation Going With 8 Different Topics

7. Be generous

That means being generous with compliments, generous with acts of service (get someone a refill, save them a seat), and even maybe some gifts (a round of appetizers, drinks, or desserts to share, for example).

8. Don’t try to be a Social You–i.e. a pretend, polished version of you

great-listener

When you get nervous, you may be tempted to try to impress people by trying to sound super smart or really funny or by telling some outrageous story. When you feel that urge to put on a show, squash it, and circle back to being Real You–quirks and all. People trust those who share authentically, so go ahead and mention it if you feel uncomfortable in big social scenarios. Or laughingly talk about how you already dropped ketchup on your shirt or drove around for ten minutes looking for the place because you’re so bad with directions. People like and feel comfortable around sincerity.

9. On that last part, show you have some boundaries though

Don’t vulnerably spill the “whole story” about any of these topics the first time you meet someone: your divorce or breakup, medical or psychological issues, long term grudges or personality conflicts, your miserableness at work.

10. Set realistic expectations that allow you to be resilient

Don’t go into large group gatherings expecting to walk out with five new best friends. Best friends are usually forged over smaller gatherings. Large social scenes are just a chance to have some positive interactions and maybe meet someone you could hang out with in the future. If someone’s verbal or non-verbal signals suggest they aren’t interested, then, prep yourself not to take it personally, and move on to someone else. They might not be in the mood to talk, but one person of many shouldn’t shut you down for the night.

Finally, just like you couldn’t read an article on how to throw a javelin and immediately go out and compete in the Olympics, you can’t read an article on socializing and be an instant social wizard. Start small. Have one good conversation. Do one thing outside of your comfort zone. And the next time you go out, try again. Practice will turn these suggestions from “tips” into habits if you give them a chance.

 

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