How to be more confident in social situations
By David Morin
What I’ll cover in this guide
- The reason why you shouldn’t think about bars, parties and mingles when you think about socializing.
- A psychological trick that will make you feel more comfortable in social situations in just a few minutes.
- A way to feel truly confident by learning from the appearance of a confident person.
1. Build your social confidence gradually
Naturally outgoing people obviously didn’t go straight from the womb to bars and parties. They built up their social skills and confidence gradually.
Everyone who’s not used to bars, parties and mingles feel uncomfortable in those environments. Some argue that we’re evolutionarily hardwired to avoid situations with a lot of strangers as it could mean danger – what if they all belonged to the rivaling tribe?
Let’s look at the path “naturally” socially successful people take to feel comfortable in social situations and how you can recreate that path.
What they did was starting out in environments where they felt at home and then gradually took on new venues.
Perhaps they started off with a small advantage socializing in kindergarten, used the skills they learned there to continue to socialize at lunch breaks in school and from there got the confidence they needed to attend all those school-discos to be able to feel comfortable at night clubs and mingles today.
I guess this sounds obvious to you presented this way. But when you actually see socially successful people in action it might not feel that obvious. If we don’t think about the work behind who they are, it’s easy to get tricked into believing that they are born that way while others are not.
I think it’s important to be aware of the process that built their social skills and confidence. Just as socially successful people started of easy – so should you.
I will now help you re-create the natural path socially successful people take to build their skills and confidence in social situations.
Ask yourself, “What social situations are a bit thrilling for me, but are still enjoyable?”
Try to come up with a few different situations.
I, for example, used to enjoy parties if I had a good friend that I could hang out with and knew that I wouldn’t be forced to speak to others.
Another example might be joining a club or meetup for something you like to do. I joined a group of entrepreneurs who met once a week because entrepreneurship is one of my interests.
Put yourself in these thrilling – but still enjoyable – situations.
Actually doing this makes the profound difference between gradually changing into who you want to become – or forever staying the same. After a while, these situations will start feeling more natural and you will be able to take new steps.
When a situation gradually starts feeling more natural, ask yourself what new situations you feel slightly challenging and expose yourself to them.
As an example, it was natural for me to, after a while, start to interact with friends of friends, and when I felt that I could handle that, initiating conversations with strangers started to become fun as well.
However, I would have experienced that as pure agony if I hadn’t taken the incremental steps first.
2. The end goal doesn’t have to be super extroverted venues
Of course, bars and night clubs don’t even have to be your final goal.
My goal has never been going to parties (even if I enjoy that too).
My goal has been being able to connect with people and make a lot of close friends. But as parties, mingles and bars traditionally are symbols of the most demanding venues socially, I use them as an example.
The mere thought of talking to strangers makes Jordan sick. But there’s one guy at work he occasionally speaks with.
He studies conversation skills thoroughly and makes sure to speak with that guy whenever an opportunity comes up until he feels confident enough to strike up conversations with others as well.
He makes sure to expose himself to situations that are just slightly challenging because he knows that situations that aren’t challenging won’t make him grow – and situations too challenging makes him feel demotivated.
Fast forward one year, Jordan has made a few friends but still feels uncomfortable speaking to total strangers.
However, he noticed that it feels better when he’s at parties where he already knows most of the people. Therefore, he makes sure to go to a lot of his friend’s parties. He can enjoy this because he knows that he always can end the conversation with a stranger and go back to his friends at any time.
After a couple of weeks, he feels more confident talking to strangers. Now he instead gets thrilled by taking a more central role at parties. He starts practicing telling stories and involving several people in discussions at once.
People start admiring him for his ability to do so and this gives him more self-confidence.
As Jordan starts to identify with a socially skilled person, his self-confidence continues to rise. He no longer identifies with being socially awkward and is seen by others as a socially successful person.
3. Shifting your focus will increase your social confidence
Scientists discovered in an experiment that when test subjects were instructed to focus on the person they were talking to rather than themselves, they felt 67% more self confidentref.
- When you’re in a social situation, try to focus your attention on the person you’re talking to instead of yourself.
You will notice how your mind starts to focus inwards when thoughts come up such as “Now I’m looking nervous” or “Now they’re thinking that I’m awkward”. When that happens, force yourself to ask yourself questions about the people around you instead. These questions might be “What is he working with?” “She said she’s an artist. What kind of artist?” “How is he spending his free time?”. “I wonder how she felt about moving here”.
- When you fill your head with questions about others – it will take some effort to do this the first times, after some practice, it will happen automatically – your brain will be less self-aware and you will become more confident. This is what the scientists experiment proved. Not only that. You will also have loads of questions in your head that you can base the conversation on – that will make it easier to make small talk as well.
- Move the conversation forward simply by asking people the questions you already have in mind. “You said that you’re an artist, what kind of artist?” “Where are you from?” “What are you working with?” “Will there be any time for a vacation?”
4. Memorize a set of questions so you don’t have to worry about running out of things to say
Memorize the set of initial questions I talked about in the previous chapter. Memorizing these questions will in itself make you feel more confident because you always will have a conversation to fall back on.
5. Mimicking the behavior of a confident person.
In general, you shouldn’t fake who you are in social situations. This is the exception to that rule. If you fake self-confidence in social situations, you will get a genuine self confidence in social situations.
When I first heard about this method, I didn’t believe it would work. I advise you to really try this out to see first hand how well it works, as it’s thoroughly proven in interesting experiments, more about that a bit further down.
We all know how confident people behave. James Bond, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, you probably consume hundreds of hours every year watching self-confident people act. Thanks to this, your brain knows instinctively exactly how a confident person behaves.
When you’re feeling uncomfortable at a social gathering, you can mimic the behavior of one of the actors or characters that you’ve watched:
- Pick a self-confident actor or character that you know the behavior of.
- Play the role of that person when it comes to posture, eye contact, facial expression and social value. You will be surprised by how well your brain can handle all these adjustments. You can try this right now and notice how every part of your appearance changes slightly.
- No matter how nervous you might feel, as long as you play this role, you will APPEAR more confident. Knowing that people saw me as a self-confident person made me feel genuinely more self-confident.
Scientists discovered in an experiment that if we act in a self-confident way, we genuinely do become more self-confident . Stress hormones decreased and hormones associated with determination and confidence increased in just a few minutes after changing into a confident posture.
6. Getting a “reality check” can make you feel more comfortable around new people
Did you know that…
- Every fifteenth person you meet qualifies for social phobia.
- Every sixth person you meet qualifies for some kind of anxiety disorder.
- Every third person you meet feels uncomfortable in social situations.
- Nine out of ten experience approach anxiety, discomfort when talking to a complete stranger.
In summary, people are more insecure than we think they are. If you presume that others are confident and you’re not, you’re putting them on a pedestal. Knowing that people, in general, feel quite insecure will help you meet them on the same level that you’re on.
- Ask yourself how you presume that people you meet on a general basis actually feel inside. If you assume that they are confident in general, re-evaluating the confidence level of others in itself will help you become more confident.
- Here’s a good way to recalibrate: Whenever you see people pass you by when you’re out walking, think back on the statistics and picture people for who they really are. Try to feel their insecurities. This is basically an exercise in empathy.
- After you’ve performed this exercise for 7 days, you will notice how your brain starts to rewire – this general assumption of others will change, and that takes them down from their pedestal.
Public speakers use the old trick of imagining the audience to be naked.
When they do, standing on the stage feels less scary. As soon as we picture people we meet as uncomfortable, something happens in our brains. We take the role of being the confident person.
You will also start to explain the world in a different way.
If you meet someone who’s reserved and assume that the person is self confident, you might assume that he or she doesn’t like you. If you meet someone’s who’s reserved and you assume that the person is nervous, which is statistically true, you might assume that the reserved attitude has to do with the other person being nervous.
7. See approaching people as helping them out by approaching them
No you know that a lot of people feel quite uncomfortable in social situations.
You can use this knowledge to both feel more confident yourself and help others out. When you’re at a social gathering, look for people who are standing on their own or who look uncomfortable. Their biggest wish is to have someone talking to them just like “everyone else” is talking. Approach them by using the conversation techniques from the previous chapter.
Like I said before, it will be easier to approach people who look less confident. You can be more certain that they, in fact, would appreciate being spoken to.
Start a conversation by using the conversation starter sentences in the previous chapter. You’ve made the person you approach feel a whole lot better, and perhaps you’ll have something in common that you can talk about.
Look for people who…
- Are standing on their own.
- Are crossing their arms or are looking uncomfortable.
- Are in a group but don’t seem to be included in the conversation.
Approach them by…
- Walking up to them with a friendly smile.
- Initiating a conversation with them and looking for similarities using the method from the previous chapter.
- If you find any mutual interests or similarities, delve into that.
You can now choose if you want to continue to hang out with the person or if you want to talk to someone else.
8. Ending a conversation without the awkwardness
The best way to end a conversation, in a nice way, is to refer to a future point in time. Referring to a future point in time means ending in a positive mode. Here are some examples on what to say:
If you aren’t that interested in meeting again:
I need to say hi to [NAME] over there, but it was nice to meet you. We both know [A PERSON] so perhaps we’ll run into each other in the future!
If you are interested in meeting up again:
If you’re interested in meeting up again, you should propose doing so through an activity related to a mutual interest. This is why it’s so important to look for mutual interests.
Say that it turns out you’re both into running. You can say:
It was nice meeting you. Are you planning on doing some running next week? It would be fun to run together.
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