A few years ago, I spent a lot of time on my own. Sometimes I appreciated it, but not having friends to hang out with on evenings and weekends was tough. I started to research what it would take to become a more outgoing person. These are the steps that helped me to get the social life I have today.
1. Start Off Small
No matter how obvious it may sound, it was a huge thing for me to actually realize that outgoing people didn’t go straight from the womb to parties and nightclubs. They had years of practice in safer environments – speaking to their siblings – joking with their mates at kindergarten – attending school discos and so on. They did all that while I enjoyed spending my time on my own.
Once I realized how everyone has to go through this process, I understood that I could simulate the natural way of becoming outgoing – by starting off small and proceeding incrementally.
What’s a small step you can take today to do something slightly more outgoing than you used to do?
Start with people you know, or if you are starting fresh, find a small group of people that you share an interest with. A book club, sports team or hobby group is a great place to start. Next, you should try something new with this group such as participating in a bar crawl or arranging a barbecue and let people bring friends.
Push your comfort zone, but only in such a way that it feels thrilling – not appalling.
2. Track Down The Source of Discomfort
Whenever you feel discomfort thinking about social situations, try to track down the source of that discomfort. Was it from a bad experience? Someone rejecting you?
The goal here is to root out the source and examine the reasons why it holds you back. Simply being aware of the source of bad feelings will help you separate†it from the current situation, which can give you more confidence to approach others.
3. Know That Your Flaws Can be Your Benefits
A common misconception is that people will like you more the “better” you become. A bigger home, a faster car or a well paid job look like great investments when it comes to making friends.
The truth is there is no correlation between success and making real friends. People don’t like hanging out with those they feel subordinate to. Instead of trying to hide or kill your flaws, know that a weak paycheck, a bit of a belly or spending too many hours watching TV only makes you more human and likable.
When I realized this, I started to take myself less seriously. I stopped trying to get people to know about that new surround system I bought or that cool place I went to last vacation. Instead, I could tell stories about times I failed or my shortcomings. The result? People started to like me more.
Does this mean you should give up on self improvement? Definitely not. Just make sure to do it for yourself – not for others.
4. Shift Your Internal Focus
When we’re in a social situation, we often start focusing on ourselves. What will they think of me? What am I supposed to say next? This causes both you and the person you’re talking to end up living in your own heads. There’s no connect.
In comparison, outgoing people are great at keeping their focus on the people they meet. Their brains aren’t interested in what others think of them, their brains are interested in getting to know the people they come across.
There’s an exercise you can do to readjust your focus. Whenever you pass people by when you’re out walking, ask yourself questions about them. “I wonder where she’s from?” “Does he have kids?” “I wonder what her favorite way is to spend her vacation?” This simple exercise will help you cultivate an interest in people you meet.
I discovered that as I started to try to get to know people I meet, questions and conversation subjects popped up naturally in my head – my conversations didn’t end up in awkward silence anymore.
5. Use Positive Jargon
Ever meet someone who used negativity to initiate a conversation? “Isn’t it cold in here?” “Will the bus ever arrive?” While I think it’s important to talk about negative things when it’s needed, using negativity as a jargon is dangerous when it comes to making friends.
Most people already have to deal with many problems and negativity in their lives. When you’re connecting with them, make sure to do that by using a positive energy. People enjoy a break from their everyday lives. Outgoing people are great at giving people the energy they need.
6. Sometimes When You Want to Say “No”, Say “Yes”
If you’re like me, there have probably been many times where you’ve declined party invitations just because you didn’t feel like going. In these moments, try pushing yourself. Say “Yes” when you feel like saying “No”.
A great method I used often when I really wasn’t in the mood for socializing was to say, “I’ve got some stuff to do tonight but I might swing by for just a moment”. It was a great relief to know that I could show up at a party and leave a few minutes later if I wanted to. Another problem with declining parties is that you will receive fewer invites as people learn that you don’t show up. Joining in, even if just for a few minutes, will help you become a more outgoing person.
7. Find Those Who Share Your Similarities
90% of friendships are activity based - meaning that we meet most of our friends through social activities. This teaches us that social activities is the key to making friends.
A couple of years ago I was new in town and tried to make new friends. It just didn’t work out, and now in retrospect I realize how I must have come off as weird. I told people I barely knew that we should hang out or said that we should grab a coffee.
Instead, when I asked if they wanted to join a social activity, everything changed. “It was great talking about photography with you. Are you up for taking a walk and some photos one day? It would be nice to see that tilt shift lens you were talking about as well”. Suddenly, following up with people I met became natural.
This was an important factor in building my social circle. Whenever you want to hang out with someone, do so through a social activity related to a mutual interest.
These seven tips can help you develop the mindset and behaviors necessary to become more outgoing. By taking small steps this will be a fun journey.
Be prepared to make mistakes and mess things up. But remember, the people worth being around will like you for who you are. And in the end, those are the people you’ll want to be around too.
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