Ever attended a holiday event where you don’t many people?
Whether it’s a company-wide party, a love interest’s family event or a community group, there’s a good chance we’ve already received an invite to one this year.
If this sort of thing freaks you out, you’re not alone; I used to live in fear of these events. I often forced myself to go but spent most of the time feeling like I was wearing a neon sign reading, “I feel awkward!”
After years of this, I tried some different approaches. I was delighted to find they worked. What’s more, attending social gatherings with a bunch of people I don’t know is now something I enjoy.
Here are five of my best tips:
1. Keep an open mind.
I used to attend holiday parties with judgments of exactly who everyone was and how the event would turn out. Not surprisingly, most of my projections came true. About four years ago, I realized what I was doing and made a conscious effort to drop my expectations. I had a much better time. I was often pleasantly surprised by how different people were compared to my judgments, and how much we had in common.
2. Spend more time listening than talking.
Have you ever spent time with someone who talks incessantly? How does it make you feel?
The next time you’re at a function and in a conversation, really listen to the person. Concentrate on their words and stop yourself from making the conversation about you. The other person will feel your genuine presence and appreciate it. And you’ll receive a lot more from the experience, guaranteed.
3. Make a point to connect.
Human beings need connection to thrive and gatherings like this give us plenty of opportunities; take advantage of them. Make a point to make eye contact with everyone you see. Hold it for two to three seconds, or as long as it takes you to notice the other person’s eye color.
Smiling is another great way to connect. Lastly, introduce yourself and make small talk with as many people as you can.
4. Go deep.
Small talk and non-verbal connection is great, but this is just the beginning. You’ll develop a greater connection if you go below the surface level.
Get-togethers with strangers are ripe for this. Many times it’s easier to connect with someone you may never see again, too. Try open-ended questions like, “What would you do if you knew you would succeed” or “What three things would you take with you to a desert island?” to get the conversation going.
5. Remember this. You’re not alone.
If you feel awkward at a holiday event because you don’t know anyone, take solace in knowing it’s not just you—many people there feel the same way. Fear of new social situations is a pretty common thing. Realizing the person across the room shares your worries will help ease your mind. It also makes a good conversation starter.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jaime Pfeffer
Editor: Renee Picard
Image: courtesy of the author