If you are in a relationship—or want to be—you’re sure to find yourself in a crowd of new people at some point. A friend might drag you to a singles’ mixer, your roommate might host a party with guests you don’t know, or your new partner might bring you to a family gathering.
You may have no problem mingling in a crowd. But maybe you—like many people—find it intimidating. Here’s how to not only survive but thrive when you find yourself entering a social scenario:
- Go in prepared. Ahead of time, think about how you want to present yourself and interact with others. If you were giving a presentation at work, you’d prepare and practice. So why not do the same thing when going into a crowd?
- Quiet your inner critic. That voice in your head might whisper that you’re wearing the wrong outfit, you’re bad at small talk, and your jokes always fall flat. Be aware of these disapproving messages—and tell them to go away.
- Know that you’re not the only one feeling anxious. Lots of people are skilled at covering up their anxiety or compensating for it. But be assured that many people feel uneasy in crowds.
- Let go of the pressure to be something you’re not. If you’re not the life-of-the-party type, so what? If you’re not a social butterfly, so what? Your anxiety will dissipate when you realize you only have to be YOU.
- Remember to smile. The simplest strategies are often the most powerful. A smile stands out from the more common expressions people wear that convey fatigue, arrogance, or boredom.
- Resist the urge to hide. You might feel tempted to find an inconspicuous corner of the room and try to go unnoticed. But doing so will make you feel even more awkward and deprive you of opportunities to meet interesting people.
- Leverage your body language. Your physical demeanor signals important things about yourself. Make sure your nonverbals communicate that you’re welcoming and receptive.
- Don’t wait to be approached. If you hold back, waiting for someone else to initiate, you might be standing like a statue for quite a while. With a smile and an extended hand, go introduce yourself to someone.
- Find a friendly face. Looking around at a roomful of people can be intimidating. But all you really need to do is find ONE approachable person. You don’t have to work the whole room; just get acquainted with one inviting individual.
- Push yourself to participate. Let intentional involvement triumph over your fearful reluctance to join in.
- Realize that someone else will be relieved to meet you too. No one goes to a social event hoping to stare at the carpet all evening. When you make the effort to reach out, you’ll make someone’s day.
- Listen closely. Ask a question, then listen to the response as if there is nowhere else you’d rather be. Most people can’t resist being the object of someone’s attention, and you’ll quickly move past introductions into a genuine conversation.
- Keep conversations positive and upbeat. Conversations that begin with complaints or criticism generally go nowhere but downhill from there. It is far more interesting to discuss your likes than dislikes.
- Assume the best about people. You might presume that others are sizing you up, judging you, or wondering what you’re doing there anyway. The truth is, most people are gracious and accepting.
- Remain optimistic about the possibilities. Everyone in the group is a conversation waiting to happen—wanting to happen. Each person you meet is a potential friend, ally, or love.