How to be part of the group without saying anything smart or funny

Last updated on


Most of my life, I’ve been torn like the girl in the comic above.

I don’t want to stay home and feel lonely, and I don’t want to go to a party and feel awkward and exhausted by all the interaction.

It’s human to not want to go to some high energy, uncomfortable, and loud social place when we’re comfortable at home.

A friend of mine even said:

“Cancelling a plan last minute is like Heroin.”

I was at a meetup last weekend. Two of the participants were each other’s opposites:

One woman was active in the conversation pretty much all the time. (This approach makes people notice you, but it drains your energy.)

Then there was a guy there who kept to himself. He had even brought his laptop and barely said a sentence during the entire weekend. (This is easy, but it makes you unapproachable. No one talked to him, because he didn’t seem interested in socializing.)

Few know that there’s a hack that’s both easy and makes you part of the group.

When I discovered this hack, socializing became so much more enjoyable for me.

At social events, a circle of people often forms after a while. It could be around a dinner table, in the sofas, or people just standing in a circle.

Here’s my hack to make socializing easy:

I go to that group and pay attention to the conversation: I show that I’m listening with facial expressions, laughs, and hums.

Here’s the trick: You don’t need to be funny, talk, or say smart things to be part of a group. As long as you show that you’re interested in the conversation.

People will feel like you’re part of the conversation. They won’t even notice that you actually don’t say much.

Most people fail here because they aren’t good listeners and zone out. If you zone out, you end up in your own world. You don’t laugh when others laugh or react to the conversation. That’s when you come off as distant and weird. People will assume you don’t want to talk to them, so they’ll avoid you.

But if you show that you are engaged in the conversation, even if you don’t say anything, you come off as approachable. Imagine how much energy it will save you when all you have to do is to listen rather than constantly having to come up with things to say.

But David, people will think I’m weird if I don’t say anything!

In a group conversation, only one can talk at the time. This means that at any given time, everyone but one is listening. We only come off as weird if we stop listening and reacting to the conversation. If you join their world by reacting to the conversation, you’ll fit right in.

Still don’t believe me? Do this: Pay attention to others in group conversations who are reactive, and notice how they feel like part of the group of friends even when they don’t say anything.

Whenever I have the opportunity to go somewhere but I don’t feel like socializing, I tell myself this: David, go there, approach a group conversation, and just listen and react. That’s all you need to do. Listen and react.

Then, when I’m there, the group often touches on some subject I’m interested in and want to join in about. And if nothing comes up, I’ll still come across as an approachable and outgoing person.

To prepare yourself to try this hack: First, think about when you last canceled plans to some social event without a reason. How did you feel about the event before you canceled? What excuses popped up in your head?

Now, the next time you get that feeling before an event, remind yourself of the hack: Approach a group conversation, listen, and react.

To improve your chances of success, write down in the comments one time you’ve canceled an event without a good reason. This will help you be more aware of your actions, which is powerful when it comes to improving. It will also help inspire others in the community who can relate.

Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/shreyadoodles/

8 years ago, I committed to build my social confidence and become great at connecting with people.

Hundreds of books and thousands of interactions later, I'm ready to share with the world what I’ve learned.

The interest in my findings has been beyond my dreams. We now have 30 000 members taking our courses. Perhaps you’ve seen my writing in magazines like Business Insider and Lifehacker.

Follow me on Twitter or Read more.

12 thoughts on “How to be part of the group without saying anything smart or funny”

  1. Thanks for your article, David. I tried this out myself last week on a garden party – though I only found your website yesterday. What I did at that party was imitating a friend of mine who is a very outgoing person and knows lots of people. I studied his behaviour at the party closely. While most people remained sitting or standing together with the people they already knew, he visited all of those groups during the evening and made conversation with them. So I decided to follow him and started by just listening to the conversations. After a while I made a comment or something. It worked surprisingly well.
    Later when like ten people or so got up and danced I thought “I really don’t want to join them” but I did. Just slipping into the circle they had formed with a smile.

    My tip for getting smoothly out of conversations with people you really no longer want to talk to is saying something like “Excuse me, I’ll get myself another drink.” Everyone understands that this means “conversation’s over” and the other person can save their face. If on the other hand you really like the person say “Let’s get some drinks.”

    Reply
  2. Aah! Then I know why I feelt so “offside” today at a familyreunion 🙂
    But then I have a question: If you’re “in the conversation by just listning, what do you do with the fear of “when the hole group turns to you, to be the center of attention for a sec or two” ?

    Reply
  3. Thanks, a good advise that might reduce some anxiety.
    Some anxiety in my case comes from my youth and is hard to get rid of. My shyness sometimes got commented in front of everybody, -why don´t you say something, -speak up, -what are you scared of so on so on and when I did speak up, -where did you get your air from?? followed by a laughter.
    Of course this did not accure everyday but I think that this is one of my ugly memories that haunts me and when I feel a bit scared makes me think that it will happen again. If you have a trick to “fool my thoughts” it would be nice:)

    /Ingrid

    Reply
    • Same happened to me. But you know what? Fuck everybody else, you speak up! At first they’ll laugh because they are stupid but everyone will get used to it after a while

      Reply
    • Those things they said are horrible, so sorry you had to endure that. I think you are brave for sharing.

      I think the best way to “fool your thoughts” is to challenge them. Take small steps to do things that are just a little bit scary for you to do. When you do those things, you gradually build up your confidence and prove your thoughts wrong. For example, a small step could be to ask a stranger about the time, or just ask a coworker how’s it going. When you complete a challenge like that, you will feel better because you challenged your fear and won. The result of the interaction itself doesn’t matter.

      Reply
      • David,
        thank you for your support. Actually what you just said is what I have been practising a long time now and it works quite well. I still feel awkward from time to time but compared to how it was before, I made progress
        It´s when I get involved in a new setting, a new and unfamiliar group (or when I think people are socially above me) that my brain sometimes unfortunatly reminds me of “old times” and find myself crawling around in the same old pond again. I consider myself as a awerage smart person but when theese feelings takes my brain on a walk I find my IQ drop very rapidly.
        But as you said, with the right mindset, it can get better.

        Again, thanks / Ingrid

  4. I use this hack a lot. For me, The only problem is when the conversation gets really boring and that’s when it’s hard to not space out.

    Reply
  5. Yes, I think not listening or paying attention to others creates a haze and gives one a sense of feeling more like an outsider. On the other hand, listening and just nonverbally be involved is a simple solution to feeling like an insider and not appearing weird. This is actually proven by my own personal experience.

    Reply

Leave a Comment