How to Socialize Comfortably and Well
Clubbing isn't for everyone.
How Do I Know?
If you're here, you may have read my previous post on a similar subject, "The Excuse-Maker's Guide to Making Friends." There, you would have learned about how I'm not exactly the most socially aware person in the world. Sure, I'm smart and chatty, but that often means I say the absolute wrong thing at the worst time!
More seriously though, my anxiety and depression can become major hindrances in my quest to fill my life with lovely people. I'll go out of my way to find these friends only to be stuck in really uncomfortable situations. There have even been times when I've had to contemplate walking home, miles away, in the rain. Let's just say...it's hard to know how to take what I know about making friends and put it to positive use.
In this hub, I want to share what I've learned about socializing comfortably and well so you can avoid those embarrassing, awkward situations that I've had!
The Most Important Step
No matter who you are, who you think you are, or who you want to be, you won't be comfortable or happy if you force yourself into a tiny, human-sized box.
If you want to socialize comfortably and well, that requires you to be around people with whom you are able to feel comfortable and well. There's always a time and place for us to push outside of our comfort zone, but there are some situations we'll never feel right in.
Whether you're socially inept or a butterfly in a tricky spot, the tips below will help you find your place in the world.
Do This, Not That
Instead of stalking libraries, grocery stores, bars, and other places, consider focusing on more specific locations.
Grocery store OR Indoor Container Gardening Seminar
Bar OR Local Brewery Tour
Library OR Slam Poetry Reading
Although these are minor examples, follow the trend of more specific. And, do things you'd like! Hate clubs? Don't go! Just don't do it.
1. Find the right friends.
To really feel at home when you're out and about being all social and stuff, you must find the right people.
Look for individuals who have more than one mere trait in common. For example, I like (okay, love) ice cream, but I'm not necessarily going to join a club for ice cream lovers because that group isn't selective enough. But, if I found a group for recent college graduates with loves of beer, lactose, and postmodern literature, I'd sign right up! That group contains people with 4 crucial personality determinations whereas the ice cream group only has one.
Then, I know that the people in that group will enjoy some of the same things I do. We'd probably go to locations with relatively similar demographics and partake in both beer and ice cream and literary analysis.
In that situation, I know I would do well. In fact, that would be the perfect situation for finding both friends and romantic partners.
If you want to socialize well, you need to look for places that meet your interests and bring out those commonalities with others.
"My Battle with Social Anxiety & How I Overcame It"
2. Attend events in secure environments.
Paranoid about creeps and murderers? Me, too. To combat these feelings of insecurity and anxiety, I always plan ahead.
- If there's drinking, prearrange safe travels home, whether that's calling a friend or getting a cab.
- Always be on the lookout for people following you, altering your beverages, or doing other weird, potentially dangerous things.
- Know the area before attending. It's so much fun to go somewhere new, but either scope out the area a bit before (do an extra drive around or walk a lap) or bring a friend. You'll feel better!
- Learn how to punch people really well. I'm only kind of kidding here.
I know this little list sounds kind of crazy, but as a young female, I feel much better when I'm in a new situation when I know what's going on around me. Plus, you get a nice home field advantage, and you often learn where the extra bathrooms are -- love that!
3. Relax and remind.
Okay, so this is the hardest part. You've found the right event or social outing, and you're excited to go! Except now it's right before and you're feeling terrified and nervous. There's even a 70% chance that you might lose some precious bodily fluids in one way or another.
How do you actually get the guts to go in?
First, deep breathing. It just takes a second. I used to tell my students to put their hands on their bellies and breathe until they felt their belly go out at least 5 times. "It's magic."
While you're doing that, remind yourself who you are and why you're there. Be positive and accepting of yourself, including an out if that could be helpful.
Here's an example of how I talk to myself:
"You're choosing to do this because you want friends, new experiences, and proof that you're as awesome as you think you are. You don't have to go, but you want to! If it isn't good, you can always leave. If people judge you, let them. Be your funny, witty self, and everything will be fine."
Then, I open the door, pretend to smile, and go right on in.
Socializing is just one part of living the life you want. Know why you want it, what it means to you, and how it has to happen, then go for it. You can do it!
4. Find an ally.
If I'm really nervous or going to a big event, I often try to bring a friend. Then, I know I'll have someone to direct my odd facial expressions at when things get tough. But, we can't always take a friend, especially if we don't have any (that's okay!).
In these situations, it's even more important to make a friend right away. Look for someone not in the middle of a group or a conversation. I often try to find someone else sitting alone whether they're at the bar or snack table. Smile, crack a witty reference to the event, and ask a question (not "What do you do?"). Make an ally right away, and the pressure will drop immediately.
Worst case scenario for the most socially awkward (ahem): Find a dog or cat, and just be *that* guy/girl.
Sometimes, it just won't go well.
5. Learn to be yourself.
I know we discussed this earlier, but it is worth reiterating over and over again until you just do it.
Don't be me, don't be your sister, don't be your 5th grade teacher, don't be that awesome kid from college, don't be that jerk from Facebook. They aren't you; you are you. And that's an amazing feat. Look at you being you!
The best way to embrace how great you really are is to follow your gut. Instead of pretending you love fine wines, stop the lies and confess your deep love of wine coolers. Instead of saying you read Tolstoy, tell the truth about how many times you've really read the Harry Potter series.
If you're you, people can be drawn to an authentic person with similar interests. You get what you give.
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