I used to Sin a lot socially.
Meaning I used to fuck up when socializing a lot. It wasn’t until a pivotal moment I learned to better my shameful practices.
It was a few years ago. I was at a party of a friend of mine.
We are good friends since childhood, so couldn’t skip this for the world.
I mean, we used to trade Pokemon cards! That is as good as a blood bond. Solid for life!
Once I arrived there, it slowly dawned on me,… I knew no one there…. Well except my best friend, but he was trying to hook up.
Let a bro do his thing. So it was up to me to meet new people.
Immediately my internal debates erupted.
The introvert me was like; “bail bail bail, red alert, gtfo!” “This is not you, you are the quiet guy”.
While the extrovert part of me was; “All right, you can do this, lets meet some new people!”
Extrovert me won round one. I got myself all jacked up. How hard could it be to meet new people?
This way I can make new friends. People who like my buddy can also be my friends, right?
I look around and see this group of jocks. And I’m like, all right, let’s mingle! Smooth so far.
I approach the group. And I just stand there. Awkwardly, waiting till I get noticed. Then one of the guys raises an eyebrow.
I’m like, I got noticed!
Time to open up the big can of verbal whoopass![….]
Then all a sudden I choke! I fucking choke! My mind just goes blank! Ugh.
Then the thoughts – “Say something! Say something,… anything!” jumped into my mind.
Which lead me to sputtering something out between a barf, cough, and a high pitched whisper.
I intended to give a witty remark. But it sounded more like a toad got kicked in the nuts.
In this fraction of a second I desperately hoped to be accepted.
Then the guys lifted their shoulders and gave me a ‘Meeeeeh” response. And turned towards each other again to continue bantering on.
I left with my tail between my legs. A route towards the bathroom.
I tried to recuperate from my shame. And decided to make another attempt. This time with a group of girls.
Unfortunately for me, there was barely any conversation.
After ten minutes of self imposed solitary confinement, I make a weak excuse to my friend and leave.
I felt lonely, ashamed and a failure. Guess I would always stay the shy guy. I thought to myself.
If you have moments like this, I feel for you. Because it sucks.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! I decided on my way back I had to learn the chit chat skill. Since then the shy geeky kid I was, came to be a confident geeky kid! Major difference.
One of the big lessons
There are a lot unwritten guidelines to small talk. Some more elusive than others.
I want to spare you the humbling experience of learning them all through awkward situation. So I’ll share with you some of the lessons I learned.
The goal of small talk is to meet, open up, connect and bond. It is an elaborate bonding ritual. One where personal ‘distance’ is managed. The better the connection ritual, the closer the bond.
There are clear patterns in social communication. One of the most important aspects though is that content is overrated.
It is mostly about the way you communicate to others and how it makes others feel.
Through smooth communication you elicit positive emotions in others. Or put in other words:
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
This also means the opposite, if you elicit negative emotions, others are a lot less inclined to want to talk to you again.
So effective small talk elicits positive emotions in all participants and avoids negative.
First let’s focus on the faults that create negative emotions.
Because there are a few social faux pas that happen way too often. Though sometimes hilarious for others, it is often not a constructive strategy.
Recognizing these social mistakes makes it possible for you to get a lot more out of conversations.
No more exclusion and loneliness at gatherings. But meeting new people.
Here are my 7 social mistakes you can learn from
As mentioned in the story, just standing next to a group, won’t get you into decent conversations.
Not introducing yourself or even poorly presenting yourself to a group or person won’t get a party started.
Don’t be too hesitant and wait to be noticed. You either don’t get noticed or make others reluctantly obliged to make you join the conversation.
If you are gonna join or create a conversation, say hi and introduce yourself. Make a statement and join the banter.
Conversation is a ball game. I say something, you say something back (comment section below).
Preferably completed sentences. Don’t be just silence and nods. Poor reciprocation leads to nothing.
Ask questions in return and don’t only reply in short and closed answers.
Being too silent makes conversation impossible, because there is too little interaction. Not only does this create boring conversation for others, people are drained afterwards.
There is a select group of people who just keep talking, talking and talking, especially about themselves.
No showing interest in others. No questions and little respect. Just a monologue. Though it feels good to talk about oneself, there should be balance.
Don’t impatiently butt in and tell your story interrupting the conversation.
Respond to what is said. Let others have their say as well. You will know when it is appropriate to tell your story.
#4 Body language oblivion
It takes more than just talking to converse. Over half of communication is body language and tonality.
Most people pick up on these cues, whether conscious or unconscious. But some people just lack the instinct or choose not to listen to it.
They don’t look others in the eyes and maintain a very closed posture. Creating barriers for bonding.
Often paired with a disregard for the nonverbal cues of others. As well as not being able to read when others are open to talking.
This is off putting because it intrudes people’s personal space, physically and emotionally.
#5 Constant Competition
No friendly banter but verbal warfare.
There are some who cannot let a single fact or statement be made without questioning, criticizing and arguing about it. “Well actually,…” and people end up having to defend themselves for every word uttered.
Always trying to one up others.
It is no competition. Sure you can tell a cooler story, know something better, but don’t fight for the attention and acknowledgement all the time.
Conversation is bonding not desperately proving that you are cool.
Keep your major problems at home.
Don’t just drop huge emotional statements. Bringing up all kind of insecurities to relative strangers is a big turn off.
It makes others just feel awkward having to be a therapist all of a sudden. Don’t seek explicit soothing and acknowledgement in casual conversation.
There is a distinct difference between sharing your emotions and showing your insecurities for pity.
# 7 Lack of humor
There is nothing so off putting as lack of humor. It’s okay if you are not the funny guy, though if you can make others laugh, by all means do it!
But if you are unable to appreciate humor, conversations can get stale fast.
When people are joking around, enjoy it. Don’t be the one that takes everything way too serious! Hone your sense of humor!
So now we checked off the big no-no’s! What is a shy guy to do then?
Remember, this is a bonding ritual. So focus on putting others at ease and make them feel good.
Here is the quick and dirty for good conversations.
Start by introducing yourself to new people. Be the one who starts conversations!
Remember, most people are just as anxious and shy just like you.
Tell yourself in advance what you are going to say.
Still too hard? Practice at home in front of the mirror, till you feel introducing yourself is hardcore muscle memory.
Start with a smile and a nice introduction. Say “nice/great/awesome to meet you.” To put others and yourself at ease. Or whatever feels most comfortable to you.
Then show genuine interest. Talk 1/3rd of the time. Listen the rest of the time. Ask about hobbies, sports, interests, whatever.
Leave the ‘what do you do for a living’ statements out, nobody likes those.
When you ask questions people can talk about themselves. This makes others feel good.
Be truly interested, don’t fake this. Best questions are a follow up on what’s already been said.
Share a bit about yourself. Amusing, stories or anecdotes. It’s best to try to connect over common grounds.
People like others who have similar traits. Or share similar experiences. It’s a good way to bond.
Make an effort to ask them about stuff you find interesting.
There is bound to be some banter potential there. Listen to them! Then you’ll be able to follow up!
When people ask questions, don’t drop the ball. A dialogue is throwing the ball back and forth.
Reciprocate by asking something in return. Don’t leave the other hanging. There is always a good question to ask.
Show empathy when people share experiences. Don’t be too impassive about things.
Instead, imagine how they lived their stories. Reply by showing you understand their emotions. Or tell them you don’t understand and ask them to explain, but be emphatic about it.
As for body language; look people in the eyes. Smile! and be relaxed. Have open body language and stand with your body and face towards them so you are truly engaged.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Use every proper opportunity to crack a good joke!
Honestly, this all pretty hard to master. But the more you do it, the better you get. By avoiding the nonconstructive tactics you will already get a head start.
What is your biggest obstacle so far in having nice conversations? Let me know in the comments!