I want to teach you how to authentically be more social.
Here’s the simple truth: You can’t be financially or professionally successful without superior social skills.
You are not alone if you have always wanted to be more social. Maybe a little more outgoing. Maybe with a dash of confidence?
There is a way to be more social
…even if you are an introvert.
…even if you have social anxiety.
…even if you are not naturally outgoing.
How Many Friends Should I Have?
Have you ever wondered if you have enough friends? Too many? Turns out there is research on this too. I found this fascinating:
“Research says that we have the most friends we’ll ever have when we are 29.” -Jessica Pan
As we enter into our thirties our social circles decline, and it becomes harder to make friends as fast as we lose them due to such things as parenthood, moving, job changes, apathy.
Bottom line: We have to work at keeping and making friends. And this means being more social.
- We have to be more social with our existing friends to maintain the friendships that matter to us.
- We have to be more social to meet potential new friends as we grow and change and need new connections.
How long does it take to make friends?
It takes 6 to 8 meetings with someone to feel like they are your friend according to Ellen Hendriksen. And it takes 50 hours to consider someone a casual friend, but 90 hours before upgrading them to a real friend according to another study titled “How many hours does it take to make a friend.”
That means you have to put in some serious social time to upgrade your friendships.
Here’s how you can be more social (even as an introvert)…
Step #1: Start Fresh
Everyone has a friendship narrative they tell themselves. Negative ones sound like this:
- No one likes me.
- I’m too awkward to make friends.
- People are boring.
Positive friendship narratives sounds like this:
- I can make friends if I try.
- I work to be authentic with people I meet.
- I like getting to know people.
What does your friendship narrative sound like?
Our previous relationships experiences—from middle school to college to new work colleagues—shape how you approach your current friendships.
This means that one or two bad experiences can taint your future.
I cannot tell you how often I hear people tell me things like…
- I tried that conversation starter once, but it didn’t work. So I’ll never try it again.
- One time I cold-approached a group at a networking event. It was a miserable failure. I’ll never do that again.
- I couldn’t make that conversation starter / body language tip / charisma cue work so I won’t try it again.
If you had one awkward interaction, one bad conversation, one bad party, it does not mean that will always happen. BUT our brains like to find patterns.
Here’s the thing: One bad social experience does not make a social rule.
How to Be More Social Tip: I want you to start fresh. If you want to be more social, more outgoing, more confident, you have to wipe your slate clean. Forget past experiences and start with new goals. Which brings me to Step #2.
Step #2: Set Social Goals
Just wanting to “be more social” isn’t specific enough. It’s like telling yourself you want to “lose weight.” It’s not specific enough to act upon, so it’s hard to accomplish.
Now that you have a clean slate (see Step #1) I want you to set some social goals. These should aim towards how and why you want to be more social. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself about why you want to be more social:
Do you have existing friendships you want to level-up? Who? Set a goal to level-up 3 specific relationships in your life:
Do you want new friends? What kinds of people do you want to meet? Do you want friends to be social with? Do you want to be social to make business contacts? Set a goal for 3 types of social relationships you would like to build:
Do you want to be social to feel less lonely, more happy, more fulfilled? Sometimes we want to be social to feel better. Humans inherently need to be social. We need social connections to thrive. Set a goal for how you want your social interactions to make you feel:
I want to be social to: ________________________________________.
How to Be More Social Tip: Focus on one social goal and stick to it.
Step #3: Be More Outgoing
Introverts can still honor their natural introversion while optimizing outgoing traits. I want you to be strategically outgoing.
The biggest mistake people make when they want to be more social is they start with interactions that mean too much to them.
Yup, you read that right.
You should NOT start with relationships or interactions that are high on your goal list. Why? Too much pressure!
Being social is like flexing a muscle. You have to work on all of your social skills:
- Make a killer first impression
- Remembering names (our simple trick)
- How to make great small talk
- Giving non-awkward hugs (practice with a great hugger)
- Giving the perfect handshake
- Which memorable conversation starter to use and when (57 of our favorites)
- Decoding body language
- Reading facial expressions (there are 7 you should know)
- How to gracefully exit a conversation
- …yes, you should read all these guides after this article too! They are here to help you.
And that takes practice! Here’s my seemingly crazy recommendations of where you should start to be more social (they really work!):
- Get more haircuts! Barbers and hairdressers are the PERFECT people to practice being social with. First, they want to interact with you. Second, they are often great at reading people and practicing the art of smooth conversation. Get more frequent haircuts or shaves (or waxes), and go with the intention of being social. The practice will help you with the people who really matter to you.
- Pick up groceries/milk/a newspaper daily. This might sound silly, but building a relationship takes time. The best way to practice this is to visit somewhere every day—a local grocer, a corner store, your local gym. And practice a little schmoozing with the retail person. Every day, work to go a little deeper. This practice is invaluable.
- Talk to delivery folks and servers. First, this is nice—delivery folks and your servers work hard. Second, they are great people to practice being social with. They can help you find your best openers, transition into smooth conversation, and remember facts about people.
How to Be More Social Tip: Pick one method to hone your social skills in a low-pressure way. Do this for a few weeks and then practice the art of being more social…
Step #4: Use Great Openers
Have you ever pushed yourself to be social—signed up for a networking event or RSVP’d “yes” for a party—then got there in a bad mood? Don’t let this ruin your sociability!
Stuck in traffic on the way to an event? Had trouble with parking? Stressed at work? DON’T MENTION IT! Many people don’t realize that starting on a low or with mention of a stressful event sets the tone for your entire interaction. You want to start on a high to have the best possible interaction. One study put this to the test by tracking room service tips. In this clever study, waiters brought breakfast to rooms in hotels with no windows—so they couldn’t see the weather outside. They tested three scenarios. Can you guess which got a better tip:
- #1: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you.”
- #2: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you. Looks like it will be great weather today.”
- #3: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you. Looks like it won’t be great weather today.”
It was waiter #2, the waiter who gave good news, who got a higher tip—26.65% higher! Whether you’re interacting with clients or networking events always start with the positive.
How to Be More Social Tip: Before interacting with ANYONE (a colleague, a date, an old friend) think of 3 positive things you can mention right away. This instantly makes you more pleasant to talk to.
Step #5: Use Like-Dar
Although opposites can attract, we love people who are similar to us. This is called the Similarity Attraction Effect. This theory, researched by Ellen Berscheid and Elaine H. Walster says that we are attracted to people who have traits, values, and similarities in common with us.
- Like-dar (a silly word combination of like and radar that I completely made-up) is the nickname I use for how to approach an initial conversation. When you first begin speaking with someone, make it your mission to find out what you have in common. This could be sports teams, favorite restaurants, or people you know in common. Not only will this increase your likability, but it also gives you more to talk about!
The like-dar also helps you focus on the good of people and stay away from internal judgment.
Remember, people are more influenced by someone who is “like them” than someone who is judging them.
How to Be More Social Tip: When you are interacting with someone try to highlight at least 3 similarities during your interaction.
Step #6: Vulnerable Colored Glasses
Rose-colored glasses are great—positivity can definitely increase your likability. But I want to push you a step further. I want you to use vulnerability.
“Strength may be impressive, but it’s vulnerability builds friendships.” -Jessica Pan
Whenever you are with someone, think about how you can make them feel more comfortable, at ease, and safe. In other words, how can you cushion their vulnerabilities?
We all have a deep-rooted fear of being inadequate. This fear can make us awkward, closed off, or—at times—cranky!
In fact, do you wish you could read people’s minds? Let me save you the trouble. Most people, most of the time, are desperately trying to hide their weaknesses. They are wondering what people think of them, trying to make a good impression, and trying to hide vulnerabilities. But, research shows that hiding weakness does the OPPOSITE of making people like you.
In one study of job interviews, researchers found that when candidates mentioned positive traits or achievements early on in the interview, they were rated as less likeable than candidates who admitted to weaknesses early on in the interview.
What the what!? Yes, you read that right. Admitting to weaknesses, instead of strengths, actually makes us more relatable, more trustworthy, and more human.
The research found the best possible combination is admitting vulnerabilities early on and achievements later.
I do this by sharing seemingly small, but important self-truths. Like:
- I was so worried I wouldn’t know anyone tonight. I am so happy you are here!
- I’m a recovering awkward person, so it is so nice to talk to someone like you.
- I seriously almost canceled tonight to watch Netflix at home, but I am so glad to meet you.
- I recently Googled “How to be More Social” and found this article that told me to go out more, so here I am. Thanks for helping me on this journey!
Here’s a big one:
If you want to be more social, tell people you are on a sociability journey and ask for their help.
If you are nervous, share it! If you are awkward, laugh about it. If you were antisocial before but now want to make more friends, tell people you want to make friends.
How to Be More Social Tip: Don’t feel like you have to hide your vulnerabilities to be more social. In fact, I spend an entire chapter in my book Captivate talking about why our secrets make us MORE likeable, not less. I would be honored for you to check it out.
Step #7: Harness Curiosity
Being curious makes you socially irresistible. As the renowned Dale Carnegie used to say, “To be interesting, be interested.” When you’re speaking with people, think about answering the following questions:
- What motivates this person?
- What is important to them?
- What energizes them?
- What do they love to talk about?
- What shuts them down or closes them off?
- What do they value?
Make it your goal to answer these questions about every person you are speaking with to give you a social mission. Before you know it, the person will find you fascinating even though you have been trying to learn about them!
Most importantly, show how curious you are about someone by always asking thoughtful follow-up questions.
How to Be More Social Tip: Next time you are interacting with someone pretend you are about to introduce them to your boss or your mother. What would you have to learn about them to give an impressive intro?
Step #8: Don’t Flake
A poll of 2,000 people found that 46% of millennials don’t see a problem with flaking. And more than half didn’t see a problem accepting an invitation that they had no intention of following through on!
It is really, really hard to be more social if you flake. Why? Not only will you not build relationships when you flake on opportunities, but people will also invite you out less often.
If you flake you are insulting the people who don’t.
Here’s how this happens. When you say yes to a party or an invite you assume that by the time the event comes around you will be more confident, self-assured, and well-rested. But this rarely happens.
So, say yes more carefully.
I have a rule for myself where I never say yes on the spot. I always say, “I have to check my schedule” or “that sounds great, let me get back to you about if I can come!” And then I really, think carefully about whether I want to go or not.
How to Be More Social Tip: Don’t be a flake! And be sure that you do not engage in other socially flaky behaviors:
- Don’t arrive late. It’s much harder to break into groups and conversations that are already going.
- Don’t end conversations too early. Psychologists say it takes time for people to warm up. If you leave early or only have 10-minute conversations you are not giving yourself or the others the chance to succeed.
- If you say yes, show up.
Step #9: Confident Body Language
Confidence is attractive. Confidence is charismatic. Confidence is contagious.
Body language is a great way to show and feel confidence. Most people go on interviews or dates and only think about the words they are going to say. They think about what they are going to say, but rarely think about how they want to say it.
Nonverbal communication makes up at a minimum of 60% of our communication ability—some say it’s up to 93%! So if you only focus on your words, you are using only 40% of your ability.
You have to get into the habit of portraying confidence with both your verbal AND nonverbal content. Here’s how:
- Roll your shoulders back so you look relaxed.
- Use armrests to take up more space naturally.
- Relax your jaw and neck (this gives your vocal chords more space which helps you SOUND more confident).
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor so you feel grounded.
How to Be More Social Tip: Next time you are interacting, start from the outside in. If your body language looks confident you are more likely to feel it. Watch my TEDx Talk for more:
Step #10: Don’t Be Hard on Yourself
I always wondered how I could possibly be more social when I often feel like this…
And then I learned there is some social science that can help us out. It all comes down to our dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a molecule that our body makes. It controls our sociability, pleasure, and drive. (This is a very simplified explanation, but is enough for our purposes).
Here’s where it gets interesting… Researchers have found that dopamine comes from a gene called DRD4 and it drives our sociability. People who have long versions of this gene tend to be:
- More outgoing
- More novelty-seeking
- More fickle
- Less tolerant of boredom
1 in 5 people have the longform of DRD4. Are you one of those people?
If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you are not. Many of us who have the short version of DRD4 compare ourselves to these outgoing, confident, adventurous extroverts. We wonder…
- What’s wrong with me?
- Do people like me?
- Do I like people?
- Why can’t I be more outgoing?
The answer is: It’s not your fault! It’s your genes.
If you have social anxiety, it’s ok! The baby steps in this article can slowly help you build your confidence. Do not be hard on yourself if being social does not come as naturally to you—I feel you!
Here’s the bottom line: If you want to be more social, you CAN be more social. It just takes a little courage and some leveling-up on your social skills. I would be honored to help you in any way that I can. It is my mission to help you build better relationships.
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