You’ve just been invited to a party.
You think you will have a great time if you go, but you have some hesitations about accepting the invitation: you don’t really know anyone there.
Have you ever had this feeling?
Until recently, when I received an invitation to any party or social event, I would cringe at the thought of going and kindly decline the invitation. I am a social introvert. I prefer a quite Friday night to the robust evening going out. I prefer to stay home and read my books than to find my way to the dance floor.
In the past, I felt my friends would invite me to parties mostly out of courtesy. Still the invitation was hanging over my head.
I knew that if I accepted I would feel about of place. I would end up in the same place I seemed to always go: near the door, with a cup in hand, and waiting for an excuse to leave.
I rarely accepted invitations to parties where I didn’t know anyone, and when I did; I thought to myself, “this time will be different.”
It never was. I was still standing alone, pretending to finish my drink, and staring at my watch until I found a reason to slip out.
Today, I no longer feel that social anxiety of being alone in a big group. In fact, now I can’t wait to meet new peoples and have meaningful conversations with them. Through trial and error I found three ways to overcome the feeling of being alone.
The reason why I felt alone in these big settings was because I did not know how to approach people in large settings. I believed that either you were born with the natural gifts of making friends in big settings or, like me, you weren’t.
The answer to my problem was to have a reliable way of approaching new people that actually worked. Overtime, I found these three techniques to be useful.
Ask for a third-party introduction
The best and easiest way to meet someone is to have a mutual friend introduce you. This works best because you remove the “I don’t know you” barrier. The saying, “a friend of (third-party) is a friend of mine” rings true.
To put this into action. You simply find the person who invited you (usually the host) and have them introduce you to someone they think you should meet.
A good host will introduce you to someone you might connect or have something in common. A great host will not only introduce the two of you, but also establish a way for you to connect.
“Hey James I want you to introduce you to my friend Davis. Davis is a junior at Yale and teaches communication skill workshops.”
“Davis, James works at Google and used to be a debater in college.”
From this initial introduction you’ll already know a bit about the person. Build on what your host has told you about the person. In almost all cases, the initial introduction will spark conversations between the two of you in forms questions and “me too” statements.
The third-party introduction method works very effectively, but in the event that the host/inviter might be busy, you can rely on the following two tips.
Approach other loners
In a big party, there are always people who come alone. Walking up to the person, turning to them, and using a simple, “Hi, I am (your name). What brings you here to (name of host)?” will begin the conversation.
Approach a small group
If approaching other people 1-on-1 without a host isn’t your thing, you can find a small group (2-4 people) and walk up and introduce yourself.
Is it rude? There is a polite way to do it and if you go to enough events you’ll notice it. One or two people will be around another small group of people and politely overhear a conversation, “I am looking for a (X)”, the person who is almost eavesdropping will come in and say “Oh, you’re looking for a (X) I actually know someone who does (X).”
At first it will seem weird to be eavesdropping, but you’ll notice that some groups are well-established (they’ve known each other for a long time) and will have conversations where they talk about specific memories, mutual events, or personal matter. Other times you’ll notice small talk between a small group, who like you probably came to the party to have a good time and didn’t know anyone prior. If you do it tactfully, they’ll more than welcome you into their conversation.
Knowing these techniques will help you feel more comfortable in social settings, but you will still need to take the time to implement them. I recommend starting small. Pick one tip until you feel comfortable; in time you will be using these three tips without much of a thought.
Have you ever felt alone in a large group? How did you manage to meet new people and make friends?