How Not To Feel Awkward At Social Gatherings: 10 Sure-Fire Strategies To Help You Survive And Thrive

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It’s December and your calendar probably includes several social engagements. Many people love these kinds of events, whether it’s work-related or involve friends or family. But many of us dread these events…instead of mixing it up at a sparkly cocktail party we’d rather be watching Christmas specials in our jammies at home.

But fear not! As an introvert myself, I’ve actually learned how to feel comfortable (mostly) and actually enjoy (most of the time) social gatherings (as long as they don’t last too long of course!). Here are a few tactics that have helped me feel as normal as possible in social situations…

  1. Set a little goal for yourself before you walk into a party. For example…commit to meeting five new people, making at least two introductions for other people, and saying one funny thing. (Secretly…setting a little intention about doing these things will actually help your mindset.)

  2. If you’re walking into a party alone it can feel pretty awkward and sometimes it feels like all eyes are on you (even though they likely are not!). One thing you can do is go straight to the bar-area and get yourself a drink (doesn’t have to be alcohol…I’m not suggesting you get liquored up! I actually socialize more easily when I’m totally sober…I like to order something festive-looking: soda water with lime and a splash of cran). You’ll have an immediate task to do that will buy some time as you get your bearings/get a feel for the room/crowd/vibe. And you’ll have a prop that will give you something to do with your hands. A beverage will also help you feel like (and look like) you’re participating. Also, you might find someone at the bar doing the same thing…strike up a conversation with them. Exchanging a few words straight off (even if it’s just with the bartender) can act as a little warm-up and make you feel more capable.

    Pro tip: Hold your drink in your left hand so your right hand is free (and dry) for easily shaking hands without an awkward juggling act.

  3. If you find yourself without someone to talk with, scan the room. Look for someone else who’s standing solo and go over and introduce yourself. I bet they’ll be thankful for your company and will happily chat with you!

  4. Can’t find anyone standing by themselves? Here’s a trick I learned at a how-to-network seminar…pay attention to body language. If people are chatting in pairs or groups and their bodies are facing outward (like when two people are chatting standing side-by-side) that means they’re open and willing to have others join them in conversation, they’re actually looking for other people to talk with. But if two people are standing face-to-face (or several people are standing with their bodies turned toward one another) they are locked into a conversation, don’t barge in.

  5. Great, so what do you say when you approach a small group of people you don’t know? You don’t have to tell an awesome joke, start with something simple…just smile and say “hi, I’m (insert name)!” Really. Depending on the circumstances you could ask the people in the group if they work together, how they know each other, how they know the host, have they been here before. Or say “I love this venue, it’s so (open, has a great view of the city, cozy, whatever)”. People respond well to friendly and cheerful, they’ll want to talk with you.

  6. Having a hard time getting a conversation going? Ask people questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves! And will almost always eagerly answer your questions in detail. The standard questions like, what do you do for work? do you have kids? or where are you from? are okay (better than nothing) but those questions don’t really encourage a conversation. Once the question is answered the conversation dies. Ask thoughtful questions that encourage more than a one word answer and that are positive in nature! Ask about upcoming vacation plans this year, what they like best about their job, if they’re setting a New Year’s resolution, or what was the highlight of the past year. Listen to their answers to come up with follow-up questions or share anything you might have in common.

  7. Be curious! Really listen to what the other person is saying and get curious about whatever it is they’re talking about….the conversation will just happen naturally because 1. you’re interested and 2. they will sense that you’re genuine. If you’re actually not curious about what the person is saying, casually (and politely) complete the conversation and circulate on.

  8. Generously (and genuinely) give compliments. If you’re with work people, compliment someone on a recent project, award, or presentation. Say one thing you appreciate about them as a coworker (sense of humor, willingness to help, expertise, etc.).

  9. Interact with the host. This is kind of common sense…it’s just good manners. But don’t forget to go over and chat with the host, thank them for throwing the party, compliment them about something specific that you enjoyed (the centerpieces, the music, a certain appetizer)…it shows genuine enthusiasm and lets them know you’ve noticed their efforts. You can even ask the host if there’s anyone at the party you should meet. People love making connections and introductions…likely, the host will actually think of someone that has something in common with you and will happily introduce you.

  10. If something awkward happens, don’t freak out! If you trip or stumble, if you spill your drink, if you get tongue-tied, or call someone by the wrong name these things can feel mortifying but guess what? who hasn’t done all of these things a dozen times?! Harness your sense of humor…laugh it off, make a joke about it, you’re human! I promise, if you’re able to laugh at yourself, the people around you will laugh with you! Give yourself a break. 💛

Breathe deep, smile, and actually try to enjoy the festive occasion!

Do you have any convo-starter suggestions or party tactics that have worked for you? Share with the community! Pop ‘em in the comments…

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