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Overcoming Shyness--How to Mingle with Ease

Updated on February 18, 2012

If you consider yourself shy or anxious in social situations, you are not alone. In fact, studies suggest that almost half of all people consider themselves to be shy to some degree. If you are shy, the thought of being in a social situation such as a cocktail party can be terrifying. If these types of situations make your stomach churn, your palms sweat, and your heart race, there are several things you can do to help yourself feel more confident:

1 - Scope Out the Scene Ahead of Time, If Possible

If you have to attend a social event in an unfamiliar place, check it out ahead of time if you can. Getting comfortable with the location of the event and the layout of the room can help you better envision what it will be like. Sometimes half the anxiety of attending a social event can be the nervousness of going to a strange place. What will it be like when I walk in? What if I don't know where to go when I get there? Will there be a place to hang up my coat? How big will the room be? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will help you feel more prepared.

2 - Have a Plan

Make a plan for how you will get there, who you will go with, or who you will meet up with when you arrive. Some people have the confidence to attend a social event with no plan at all and even without knowing which friends or colleagues will be there. But for shy or anxious people, this kind of uncertainty is painful. If you know that you are going to be nervous, make sure everything is planned out and that you have spoken with people ahead of time to find out who will be there and when they will be arriving.

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3 - Approach People With Confidence

The thought of taking the initiative to talk with people whom you have never met can be overwhelming to a shy person. It's something that just doesn't come naturally to shy people. To avoid the awkwardness of approaching people at a cocktail party, shy people will sometimes escape the situation and hide out in the bathroom. But you can learn to be more successful at mingling.

It can be very intimidating to approach a group of people if you are alone. Instead, introduce yourself to another solo person at the bar, or in the buffet line. Just stick your hand out, introduce yourself, and explain your connection to the event . (Example: Hi, my name is Jane Smith. This party is being hosted by one of our clients. How about you?)

If you are with friends or colleagues, don't let yourself off the hook and simply follow them around. Stick your hand right out and introduce yourself to new people with confidence.

4 - Make Eye Contact

Failure to maintain eye contact can be a dead giveaway to your new acquaintance that you are nervous. As hard as it is, make an effort to keep eye contact during the conversation. If you need to look away from time to time, that's fine--you can take time out to focus on your food, smooth your pants, etc. But try not to cast your eyes down at the floor while conversing, which make you look scared.


5 - Ask Open Ended Questions

To keep the conversation going, ask the other person light-hearted, open-ended questions that they will be eager to answer. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and will be happy to talk with you if you express genuine interest in what they have to say. Examples of good questions include: Where are you originally from? What line of work are you in? How did you get into that field? How do you know the party host? Do you have family in the area? What are your vacation plans?

6 - Move on After an Appropriate Time Has Passed

If you are in a cocktail party type of setting where mingling is expected, you don't want to "overstay" your welcome with any one person or group. But it can feel awkward to extricate yourself from a conversation without seeming rude. A good strategy is to excuse yourself to get a drink or more to eat. Or you can politely say something like, "It's been great to meet you. There are a few people I'd like to say hello to before I leave, so please excuse me."

7 - Practice Makes Perfect

The more you put yourself in unfamiliar social situations, the better you will become at it. If you are shy, you have probably spent a lifetime trying to avoid these situations, and therefore you have deprived yourself of valuable practice. But it's never too late to start. With a little preparation and practice, you will feel more and more at ease.

If you are really serious about improving your social skills, there are groups like Toastmasters International where you can gain valuable public speaking and leadership skills. Groups like this require no experience and are a great way to meet people who also want to improve.

Good luck in your quest to become a more comfortable mingler!

Sage Carter shares ideas, information, and advice for better living. Visit her at


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      sagecarter 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen and rorshak. I am also in Toastmasters and love it - it has really helped me!

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      rorshak sobchak 5 years ago

      Great tips. Whenever I get into a situation I am uncomfortable with. Especially a large group of people I tense up really bad. It is horrible. I will have to try out these tips.

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      Kathleen Kerswig 5 years ago

      Great suggestions for what to do and how to approach a mingling scenario. Asking open-ended questions always helps me break the ice with people I don't know. I'm a good listener so it usually works out quite well. And I've just joined a Toastmasters group. I'm convinced it is going to help me improve my public speaking skills. Thanks for sharing.