Anyone on the more introverted end of the spectrum (guilty!) knows that becoming more social – that is, more comfortable, confident and present around other people – is kind of like the Holy Grail.
The good news is that social skills are just like any other skills – they can be learned, practiced and honed. And while completing this process isn’t necessarily easy, it can be very rewarding, and even fun.
At least, it was for me. Below I’ve rounded up 13 steps, broken out in three phases, you can use to come out of your shell and become more social.
How to Be More Social and Confident
Phase 1: Educate Yourself
For me, the first step in becoming more social was learning what socializing entails. How do you start a conversation? How do you keep it going? How do you avoid those awkward moments of silence?
Before I could go out to start socializing, my analytical (read: mildly neurotic) mind needed answers to these and many other questions.
Submerged in Self-Help
I quickly found that unlike some other topics, for which good sources of information are scarce, socializing has the opposite problem: there are a million books, blogs, podcasts and other resources purporting to tell you exactly how to become socially superior.
I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on this stuff, and after sifting through the rough I’ve managed to find a few gems. Below are the books I found most useful when learning how to become more social.
For most of these books, I actually downloaded the audiobook from iTunes and would play it during my commute to work. That way I was learning how to become more social each day, which helped build momentum toward achieving my goal.
1. The Charisma Myth
By Olivia Fox Cabane
Of the many revelations in Fox Cabane’s book, the most important (for me anyway) was this: charisma is something you can turn on and off. While it may often seem like charisma is some magic power possessed only by those lucky enough to be born extroverted, Cabane demonstrates that charisma is actually more like a muscle – and this book will teach you how to flex it.
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie
Written 80 years ago, Carnegie’s book holds up so well that today it’s regarded as the seminal work on how to interact with humans. Multiple new editions have been released by Carnegie’s estate since the original, but the book’s bread and butter is the fact that his original advice, though anecdotal, stands the test of time.
Carnegie breaks the book into sections that sound like manna from heaven to guys who want to learn how to become more social: “Six Ways to Make People Like You,” and “Fundamental Techniques for Handling People” among them. Though his claims are lofty, for the most part his advice is sound. This one’s an absolute must-read.
3. How to Talk to Anyone
By Leil Lowndes
I may not have believed it myself, but fellas, trust me: this middle-aged woman has a lot to teach young men about how to become more social. (That came out wrong.)
This is one of the few books whose subtitle, “92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships,” actually delivers—it’s probably done more to improve my social success than any other resource. When I was considering reading it, I checked out the Amazon reviews and was sold when I read, “This book can make you into a special person.”
Also by Leil Lowndes
After reading How to Talk to Anyone I was hungry for more from Lowndes, and found this little gem in her catalogue. When learning how to become more social, some guys don’t feel like they can dive right into talking to people – they need advice about getting over their own internal hesitation first. This book does for them what the one above does for guys looking to improve their people skills. If you feel too shy, reserved or hesitant to just dive right in and making small talk, start here instead.
5. How to Work a Room
By Susan RoAne
Once you’ve got a few tips under your belt and you’re more comfortable talking to people, you can move from merely being comfortable in a room to working it, and this book is a helpful resource for doing just that. It leans a little professional, providing tips for talking to people at professional networking events, but also covers weddings, parties and other social situations. Overall, it’s got good tips that can help you stand out from the socializing crowd.
6. How to Instantly Connect with Anyone
Again by Leil Lowndes
At this point I know what you’re thinking, but I swear: I am neither the heir to Leil Lowndes’ estate, nor her scandalously young lover. I just think her books are really helpful! Possible May-December romances aside, this one is similar in structure to How to Talk to Anyone, but it’s techniques are a little more ninja. Where How to Talk to Anyone is a great way to get conversations (and relationships) started, this one helps you take them to the next level.
Phase 2: Practice
The great philosopher Kanye West once said “you gotta crawl before you ball,” and likewise you have to take it slow when learning how to become more social.
Many of the books I recommended above offer practice exercises you can use to ease yourself into socializing. If you feel comfortable, go ahead and try them out.
But if you want to ease yourself into things a little more, here are a couple small, easy-to-do steps that will help you feel more social almost immediately.
7. Smile more.
Simply smiling at people is one of the most social things you can do, and something of a lost art. Make a point to smile at 10 people today while you’re walking down the street, shopping, at the gym, or otherwise just going about your business. It’s easy to do, and the reaction you’ll get from people will inspire you to do it more.
8. Make small talk.
I know, I know: small talk sucks. But the truth is that it’s easier than you think, and having a series of small, quick and pleasant conversations can boost your socializing confidence. Try commenting on anything around you.
If you’re in line at Starbucks, say “I guess everyone had the same idea” to the person behind you. If you’re at the grocery store, ask the cashier how their shift is going and when they get off work. If you’re at the mall, wander into a clothing store and ask the store clerk what new styles they have that might work for you.
You’ll quickly find that making small talk is easier than expected, and people are generally much more receptive to it than you might think – especially if you’re already smiling.
Try the above two exercises for a week as you start reading one of the books mentioned in Phase 1.
I’ll warn you upfront that you may find one or both of these a little uncomfortable at first if you’re not used to them, but you really have to push through this discomfort. If you want to achieve a different result, you have to do something different, and trying something new is always going to feel strange at first.
But you’ll probably find it quickly becomes not just easy, but fun, and I’d be willing to bet you keep doing it for more than just the next seven days.
Phase 3: Hone Your People Skills
After some time spent reading about people skills, practicing your smiling and making small talk with whoever crosses your path, you’ll likely be not just ready, but hungry for some sweet, sweet socializing action. (That sounded a lot creepier than I intended.)
There are almost as many ways to socialize as there are books about how to become more social, so a few of these suggestions may seem obvious. But practice makes perfect, and these will go a long way toward helping you hone your newfound skills.
9. Call Your Friends
Before I started learning how to become more social, I was extremely passive about making plans. I would (usually) accept invitations if offered, but rarely would I initiate plans, even with my closest friends.
But calling up some friends for a low-key night out at a restaurant or bar is a great way to put your newly developed social skills into action. The stakes will be relatively low since you’re starting with people you’re already comfortable with, and you’ll find that simply extending an invite and initiating a fun night out provides an immediate boost to your socializing confidence.
10. Plan a Party
A party is the perfect place to hone your socializing skills. And hosting one yourself means that you control the guest list, ensuring that you’ll be surrounded by people you know – well, mostly.
Unlike calling up your friends for a night out, hosting a party allows for the possibility that your friends will bring some friends of their own, introducing a few strangers into the mix. This is a great way to meet and interact with new people in a low-stakes environment in which you’re in control, meaning that you’ll feel totally comfortable.
If you’re not sure what hosting a party entails, there’s a great primer on what goes into it over on, well, Primer.
11. Try a Meetup
If you’re ready to move beyond your own social circles, a great place to start is Meetup.com. It’s a site where people with similar interests can find each other and arrange to meet up in their home town. They have groups that meet to discuss a whole plethora of topics, from photography and rain dance to java script and love for the word plethora. (Alright fine, I made that last one up.)
Since you’ll already have something in common with everyone you meet, conversations will start naturally. This gives you a chance to meet like-minded people and learn how to become more social in an environment you’re likely to enjoy.
12. Join a Sports Team
This one’s a no-brainer if your interests tend toward the athletic. Most cities will have a Sport and Social Club that you can join as an individual, which will then assign you to a team in the sport of your choice.
As with Meetups, you’ll already have something in common with the people you’ll meet, and more often than not the teams go out for dinner or drinks after the game for some further socializing. It’s a great way to exercise both your body and your new social skills.
13. Go on Some Dates
There’s a reason I’ve left this one for last.
If you’re like me – and since you’re reading a blog post about how to become more confident, I’m guessing you are – chances are good that you view socializing with potential mates and/or sexual partners as the most intimidating of social situations. But it really doesn’t have to be.
Once you’ve educated yourself, practiced making small talk and further honed your skills in any of the situations listed above, you’ll feel much more confident and ready to socialize with the people you most want to meet.
And thanks to the wonders of the internet, meeting those people is easier than ever. You could of course try a dating app like Tinder, where you and your potential mates will judge each other based almost entirely on your photos. But if you’re looking for something a little more substantive, I’d recommend OkCupid.
OkCupid is a free dating site that lets you peruse profiles and send messages to any of its members. This provides you with a low-stakes way of finding potential mates and initiating conversation, because if you send a message to someone and don’t get a response, it’s no big deal. You can just move on to find someone else who looks interesting.
But if they do respond, you can chat online to establish a rapport and see if you think you have some things in common. If you do, you can then ask to meet up.
Once you hone your skills on OkCupid, you can then consider using paid dating sites like Math.com and eHarmony to expand your pool of potential dates and meet even more people.
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Hot chick/nice sweater photograph designed by Javi_indy – Freepik.com
Guy reading tablet photograph designed by Yanalya – Freepik.com
Dating photograph designed by Pressfoto – Freepik.com
Smiling glasses guy photograph designed by Pressfoto – Freepik.com
Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a men’s style specialist, an Amazon bestselling author, an unrepentant introvert, a (patient, if long-suffering) Toronto sports fan and the husband of a wonderful (and fortunately much more patient) wife.