Do you feel uncomfortable meeting new people, have trouble starting and holding a conversation, or find it hard to make new friends? Although there is nothing wrong with being shy or being an introvert, social unease can mean you’ll miss out on good times and a lot of opportunities.
Outgoing people tend to have more friends, sometimes better relationships, and more opportunities. Being outgoing is about being comfortable in your skin, being confident in social settings and expressing yourself fully.
While some people are natural extroverts being more social and outgoing. This is, however, a skill that you can also develop over time if you choose to. There are no prerequisites, all you need to have is an open mind to explore a little.
This article helps explain some effective ways to become more outgoing and enjoy a more active social life and friendships.
- Take risks. You need to be willing to take a chance, and go out and meet new people. You’ll have to put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable deliberately. You also have to be ready to face rejection. Even if you make an effort to talk to 10 people, know that not all will want to talk to you. Don’t take it personally. Some of them may be shy like you or going through a difficult time in their life.
- Become more social. Look for social activities that you would actually enjoy.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a party. You can socialize with people at the lunch table at work, join a club, take a hobby class, enjoy community activities, or whatever you may enjoy that involves being with new people.
- Find places where people congregate at work. Every workplace has a place where people tend to congregate. It could be the lunch room, the smoking area or the water cooler. Try to stop by and chat with your coworkers. Keep the conversation friendly. You can also keep it short if that helps. When you make an effort, people will perceive you as more friendly and positive.
- Say ‘yes’ to social invitations. Force yourself to say "yes" when you feel like saying "no" when you receive an invite to somewhere or something. If you repeatedly decline, people will stop inviting you once they learn that you don’t generally show up. The next time you are invited to a party, and you don’t feel like going, tell yourself to just drop in for a few minutes. If you do not like it in there, you may take a quick exit.
- Give genuine compliments. Compliments are great icebreakers, and they help you build relationships. If you are interested in people, compliment them often. If you’re observant, you’ll usually find something about the person you can genuinely admire and compliment them on. Make sure that it’s a genuine compliment and not a statement to flatter the person you are complimenting.
- Be aware of your self-limiting beliefs. When you tell yourself that you can’t be outgoing, you are limiting yourself. Confront such beliefs or thoughts that stop you from being outspoken. Make deeper connections with people. Be more engaging and friendly. You don’t have to be the center of attention, but let others get to know you by being available and open to them.
- Examine the reasons that hold you back. Whenever you feel uncomfortable around new people, try to find the reason behind it. For instance, is it an unpleasant experience or some rejection that you faced in the past? Being aware of the reasons will help allow you to take action to overcome them. This will give you more confidence when approaching new people.
- Manage your self-talk. Learn to manage your self-talk. If your self-talk is critical and harsh, it can cripple you emotionally. Identify the inaccurate and dysfunctional things that you say to yourself and correct them. For instance, you might tell yourself, "You should have kept your mouth shut yesterday at the party. You sounded ignorant." Instead, tell yourself, "I just expressed myself, and I am glad I stuck to what I said. That’s what I believe in." Using constructive self-talk, you cheer yourself on and focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Your aim should be to make yourself feel good about what you’ve done. Doing this will change not only your habitual self-talk but also your underlying beliefs.
- Permit yourself to make mistakes. It is a common misconception that being outgoing means, you have to be verbally perfect in every conversation. You should not make any mistakes, or you should impress everyone when you start speaking. When you place such expectations on yourself, you will be under pressure, causing you to avoid social situations. So, set a reasonable goal. Don’t judge yourself on how well your interactions go with new people. Just focus on meeting and talking to more new people.
- Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Mistakes happen to the best of us. Therefore, awkward silence or saying something out of place in a conversation doesn’t matter much.
You may feel uncomfortable around new people because of the false belief giving you the impression that people will not like you. This could also be due to past experiences. However, if you believe there is a positive future for you regarding social situations, you are more likely to succeed and overcome your past. Try saying something slightly embarrassing about yourself in conversations. This will help you get used to being vulnerable.
- Be yourself. Your flaws make you more human and likable. People generally don’t like to be around others who make them feel inferior. When you are around people, don’t brag about your achievements. Accept your flaws and be comfortable talking about them. Being candid and honest about your imperfections and setbacks allow others to better relate to you.
- Let go of negative people in your life. When you are not very outgoing, you can be grateful to people who are willing to spend time with you. You might put up with friends who treat you poorly or are negative toward you because you are afraid of losing them. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. When you do that, you can let go of negative people and leave space for positive people to enter your life.
- Work on your self-confidence. When you validate yourself, rather than looking outward for acceptance and validation from others, you become more confident. And, this self-confidence will help you become more outgoing.
Keep reminding yourself of your past achievements to make you realize that you are a valuable person. Remember you're worth it.
- Fake it until you make it. Pretend as if you are very social and comfortable with people. This will help you break out of your self-imposed social limitations. And before you realize it, you will actually start becoming someone who is more confident and social.
- Read body language. Pay attention to how people behave around each other. Is there someone who makes you feel very comfortable? Notice how they behave with you. Observe body language, both yours and others’. For instance, if someone is focused and interested in what you are saying, they may lean forward, rest their elbows on a table and their head in their hand. Become aware of how their body language affects the way you perceive them. Learn and pick up on social cues through observation.
- Switch your focus from yourself to the other person. In certain social situations, you might overthink about how others perceive you. Questions like "What will they think of me?" "Do I look cool?" keep popping up in your head. This will cause you to be more conscious and engrossed in your own thoughts, rather than connecting with the person in front of you. Instead, shift your focus from yourself to the other person.
When you see or meet a new person, ask yourself questions about them. "Where is she from? Does she live with her family? Does she have kids?" This will help you take the focus off yourself and cultivate an interest in other people. People will feel like you are investing in them.
- Start small. Start practicing your social skills by taking small steps. For example, talk to your barista at Starbucks. Smile at a stranger while crossing the street. Doing these little things will raise your confidence and make it easier to break the ice in larger social situations.
When you meet new people, be curious about their thoughts and struggles. Listen to what they have to say and ask questions. If people feel that you are genuinely interested in knowing them, they will find you more likable. Whatever you do, you should be genuine and polite in your approach.
- Aim to meet a new person each week. Take the initiative and talk to new people and make new friends. Set a goal to meet at least one new person each week. This new person could introduce you to new things and will help you grow in life. When you meet a new person, ask questions about where they grew up and about their childhood. Have conversations about sports, movies, music or TV series.
- Be an active listener. If you spend way too much worrying about yourself, you’ll be too busy to notice little things about people that can help you connect with them. Details like someone’s tattoo on their arm can make for a great conversation starter. You could ask where they got it done and why they choose that particular design. If during a conversation, the person happens to mention a recent trip, you could take the conversation in that direction by asking questions about it. For this, you have to be present in the moment and be actively listening to the person. Being present in the moment increases your social ability, making you more outgoing.
- Use positive statements. When you start talking to a new person, use positive statements. People tend to associate or remember you for the tone of the things you say. If you talk about negative things, others may associate you with negativity. Don’t start a conversation with "Isn’t the traffic pathetic here?" Instead, try saying "Isn’t the weather pleasant today?"
- Do things to help others. When you meet a new person and start having a conversation, probe them to see how you can help them or add value to their life. For example, if you’re talking about work, you could refer them to a colleague who could help them network with someone else at an event.
- Connect with more people who share your interests. When you are with people who share your interests, you are more likely to be comfortable and enjoy the outing. When you meet a new person, and you learn that she enjoys photography, instead of asking her to join you for a cup of coffee, ask if she is interested in going with you to a photography exhibition. Social outings centered on your common interests will help strengthen your relationships.
Note: The content has been edited and reviewed by Angela Webb, Licensed Psychologist.