Photo credit: Kanegan
Are You 99.9% Socially at Ease at All Times?
(The reason for 99.9% and not %100 is because no one is perfect, we all have social incongruencies at times)
If the answer is YES, I commend you, since it’s not something everyone is capable of, and you probably worked hard at conditioning yourself to become socially spontaneous.
If the answer is NO (the case for most people, including myself… at one point), then you have social inconsistencies that need to be addressed.
I can tell you that just over two years ago my social dynamic skills were sub-par at best. I was semi comfortable in situations where I already new people, but my ability to spark a conversation with a new face was not only intimidating, but it filled me with anxiety that I’d think about for days. My ability to express ideas and opinions were timid and meek, even though I had valuable information to pass on. Approaching a complete stranger that I was interested in talking to was out of my reality, and I never thought there was a possibility to build long lasting relationships that way. Now I can happily say that all those feelings of inefficiency are in the past…
Whoever you are in this world, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to feel at ease and work a room full of people, WHEN and WHERE you want. If you find yourself at numerous social events, or constantly walking into people you’d like to meet, then you should learn how to maximize your presents regardless of your introvert, or extrovert personality, your past, your looks, your shyness, or what ever insecurity you’ve identified yourself with.
Do not hinder your progress by identifying yourself with insecurities, present your strengths instead.
In this article I will break down THREE social environments that you will find yourself in the majority of the time, followed by THREE strategies that you can implement right away while attending them to cultivate your social spontaneity.
The Social Playgrounds
Photo credit: Rolands Lakis
Generally the three environments that people seek to meet face-to-face and build relationships are at…
House Parties and Gatherings
Family members, friends, lovers, colleagues, acquaintances, and so forth will throw events either at a private residence, or a remote location indoors, or outdoors. In these environments you will usually walk in the environment already knowing someone. If you decide to roll solo, more power to you.
These events are comfortable and natural to be socially at ease in since you will recognize a number of familiar faces, and have pre-exisiting rapport established. If you haven’t built rapport with anyone, you’ll be forced to hang out alone until you approach someone and initiate a conversation.
What looks better? You standing in the corner alone with a drink by your chest, or talking to several people generating laughs and sharing stories? Of course the latter. If you wanted to be alone you could’ve stayed at home, but your are out, so make the most of it.
In most cases, since you already know people at these events you will naturally migrate to the group that you have pre-existing rapport with. It is in our human nature to gravitate towards familiarity since we have a pre-determined sense of what the outcome will be. Unfortunately this does NOT elevate your social spontaneity skills.
The longer you focus solely on sticking to the confines of your established groups and cliques, the less aware you will be of the satisfying potential to meet new people.
Clubs, lounges, bars, pubs, concerts, restaurants, you name it. Venues simply inhabit your conversation with another human being; the setting has been created for you to simply have fun and interact.
If you are NOT naturally the type of person that will spark a conversation on a street corner, then venues are a hot spot to practice speaking to a high volume of people whether you know them, or not.
Just make sure to keep away from high amounts of mental toxicity in these environments such as designer drugs and alcohol consumption. Ideally you want to build social acuity WITHOUT harming your mental sharpness during the process.
Go ahead and enjoy a few drinks, but don’t let that be social crutch.
Networking Events and Social Groups
Meetups, conferences, outdoor clubs, Mastermind groups, and so on. You are in these environments because of commonality; you want to meet people that share similar beliefs and interests as you.
If you are someone that seeks out these great environments, you are usually pretty open to interaction with a variety of people. If you don’t attend many of these events, then you are missing out on meeting people who are succeeding in pursuits you are craving to experience.
I suggest attending as many networking events and social groups that you can; they are great places to connect with like-minded individuals.
Three Strategies to Cultivate Social Spontaneity
Do This Instantly!
Say hi and/or introduce yourself to at least THREE people in the first SIX minutes upon entering a social playground. That leaves TWO minutes for each interaction (you don’t have to time this, just be cognizant of the minutes).
It doesn’t matter whether you already know this person or not, what matters is that you get this reflex of social spontaneity down before you grab a drink, sit down, lean in the corner, drift towards people you’re already acquainted with, start looking at your phone, or go to the washroom.
For many people, this is a cakewalk, and they already do it subconsciously. For others it’s a responsibility their not willing to invest in. Do this exercise at your next outing, and you will instantly feel energized to initiate more interactions with enthusiasm and wit. This strategy is greatly rewarding when you approach complete strangers (soon to be friends, lovers, or business partners, the options are endless) at entertainment venues, or networking events.
Don’t just hang out with your friends, break social boundaries and greet yourself to the unexplored.
Use Your Environment to Create Statements
State your opinion by utilizing what is provided from your surroundings. Always be inquisitive about your environment; if you see or hear something around you that can be instantly capitalized on, make a direct comment about it without holding back. It’s not always what you initially say, it’s what comes afterwards.
A simple exercise would be to pick out several objects in your environment and make statements about them throughout your conversations. This is a way of becoming expressive by using the material around you.
Next time you walk into a social event, pick at least ONE thing in your environment (music, furniture, wall paint, etc.) and make a statement about it to the person you are speaking with.
Be inquisitive, be bold and be direct.
Selectiveness Is Inadmissible
Do not be selective or overly judgmental about who you are interacting with, and who interacts with you. If you are someone that is already grounded, there should be no hierarchy of what you perceive to be entitled to. Everyone you chat with is an opportunity to gain more insight about your social skills. Don’t act as if you’re of higher value, or lower value, just be enthusiastic and enjoy the process of getting to know the person in-front of you.
A good exercise is to chat with at least THREE people throughout a social event that you instantly had an intimidating vibe from, but were still tempted to talk to. This could be a potential client, or someone you think is attractive; everyone has different thresholds for what intimidates them.
Approach this person directly and initiate basic small talk, “hey, how’s it going?”, “what’s your name”, “what are you drinking tonight”, “where are you from?”, and then start communicating your intentions throughout the conversation. For example, if it’s a potential client, get them to talk about their vision for their company, and what their business is currently struggling with so you can gain a better sense of how to provide potential services to them. If it’s someone you are attracted to, ask for their number so you can set up a date in the future.
In the end, whether the conversation is uplifting or not is irrelevant, since you already overcame what you feared doing in the first place… which was to approach someone you found intimidating to talk to.
Make It a Consistent Habit
Photo credit: JD Hancock
These are basic strategies you can do over and over again to invigorate your social acuity anytime, anywhere. Have fun in these environments without being highly dependent on a specific result, or outcome. Remember to implement the THREE strategies mentioned above any chance you get and you’ll start noticing a flood of expressiveness from both you, and other individuals in the interaction.
If you really want to decrease your social anxiety…
Approach and talk to people until you feel mentally and physically drained (because it is at times), and then repeat… and repeat again and again, until you can wholeheartedly say with utter congruence that you are 99.9% socially at ease in any interaction.
How will you know this?
You’ll know when you can literally walk up to anyone, anywhere and start a conversation that is so efficient and enlightening that both parties leave the interaction BETTER then when they entered it.
What is your method of becoming socially spontaneous? Leave a comment below if you’ve used similar techniques before, or if there is something else you’d add to the list.