Picture this: you’re at a party when the only person you know leaves suddenly, leaving you stranded with a group of strangers to make small talk all on your own. How do you feel? Nervous? Like running and hiding? Do beads of sweat start to surface?
If this sounds hauntingly familiar, you’re not alone. Being able to mingle comfortably is something most of us find challenging, despite it being a common occurrence in our modern lives. The good news is that there are some simple strategies you can follow to make these situations easier and far more enjoyable.
We’re all human
Use social skills and self-awareness to make small talk a breeze. Think about who you want to be in the conversation. Kind? Thoughtful? Generous? Compassionate? Let your natural qualities lead, and let your best parts shine.
Be present and use active listening skills to create rapport with other people. Make eye contact, use good manners and genuinely listen to understand instead of listening to reply. Everyone has their own challenges, everybody experiences the same emotions and has had ups and downs, joys and heartbreaks. Acknowledging that we’re all human can ground you in the idea that despite different qualifications, personalities and backgrounds, we’re all the same on the inside.
Love who you are
Not everyone is going to instantly bond with you or want to be your best friend, and nor will you feel a deep soul-sister connection with every person you meet, and that is OK.
Social gatherings are a great opportunity to acknowledge other people for who they are, but it’s also
a time to honour yourself for who you are by being honest, authentic and true to yourself just by being yourself. Much like everything else, the more you practise social chit-chat, the easier it becomes. Through every experience we grow, create new opportunities and get to enjoy the richness and variety of life.
Embrace the fear
The discomfort in these situations is caused by fear — specifically, fear of what others think of us. This fear is what makes public speaking so terrifying. Belonging is a core human need, so how do we overcome the fear of failing to belong? The answer is to make peace with the fear. Acknowledge that yes, you may be outside your comfort zone, but you’re almost certainly not going to be socially ostracised at the cocktail party. Magic happens outside the comfort zone. There may be fear, but you’re in the driver’s seat — throw that fear in the back, take hold of the steering wheel and try viewing the situation as a personal growth challenge for yourself.
Words by Louise Poulson