Whether you're headed to your office's Christmas party or attending your neighbour's BBQ -- both of which should be fun -- also come with all sorts of awkward moments and stressful situations attached. Here are 10 ways to work those parties like a champ.
10. Enter with Confidence
Everything starts that first moment you enter a room. Even if no one's watching you, expressing an air of confidence will make you feel more confident. Sometimes, confidence is a "fake it 'til you make it" kind of game. So dress your best, strike a power pose and walk into that room with the mentality that you're going to rock this party.
9. Have a Plan
No matter what kind of party or gathering you're attending, decide on a purpose when you head out -- even if that purpose is to "drink lots of beer and dance the night away". Or maybe you're at an office party and want to advance your career by meeting some people in other departments.
Maybe your purpose contains a bit of both. Whatever the case, if you know why you're going, you'll have a better time.
8. Pick Your Battles
Part of having a plan is knowing that not every party needs attending and you shouldn't feel bad about turning down the occasional invitation -- especially if you tend more toward the introverted side of things. If you're weary of socialising, it's going to be clear to others that you don't want to be there. So skip it!
Sure, there are events you should probably go to no matter what (like important networking opportunities or close family occasions), but don't take on more than you can handle. It won't benefit you or anyone else to do so.
7. Look for Pairs of People
Parties are full of people you don't know, and striking up random conversations isn't easy for most of us. But if you want to meet new people, you have to put yourself out there. Here's an easy trick: look for pairs of people. They're likely made up of two people who came together and are ready to mingle, or two people who just met and will be relieved to have another person join the conversation. It's easier than joining a large group and less intimidating than talking to someone else who's on their own.
6. Give a Good Handshake
It sounds silly, but a good handshake can go a long way. It shows you're friendly,interested and projects some more of that confidence we talked about earlier. So keep your drink in your left hand to keep your right hand free and dry, give good eye contact and master the art of a firm, winning handshake.
5. Remember People's Names
If your brain is anywhere near as useless as mine, this is the hardest part of meeting someone new: their name goes in one ear and out the other. Don't feel too bad -- there's a lot going on in your brain that causes this -- but there are a few things you can do to avoid it, too.
When they introduce themselves, say their name back to them: "Nice to meet you, Sarah". If their name is unusual, ask them to pronounce it, or spell it for you -- even if you think you got it right the first time, this will help you remember it later on. And try to use their name a few times in conversation to keep it in that noggin of yours.
4. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
People's first impressions of you form pretty quickly, which means every little bit matters. If you're nervous, or close off your body, you may come off as disinterested even when you're not. Try to adopt a more open stance (rather than, say, crossing your arms), give some eye contact and smile.
If you tend to get too much in your own head, try mirroring their body language, or just pretend like you're talking to a good friend. You'll immediately open up and seem more interested.
3. Turn Small Talk Into a Conversation
If there's one universally dreaded social interaction, it's the "small talk" that comes when you first meet with someone. One can only talk about the weather for so long. But with the right attitude, you can turn small talk into a real conversation: share small details and ask questions until something sticks, then expand on that common ground. Have a few topics to go ahead of time (the FORD technique is helpful here), and answer with specifics.
If someone asks what you do for fun, tell a story of something you did rather than just listing activities. Lastly, remember that small talk doesn't have to be overly substantial -- at its core, it's about making connections. You have to start somewhere!
Most people confuse being a good conversationalist with being good at talking. The true mark of a good conversationalist is listening to the other person and contributing to the conversation, rather than waiting for your turn to speak. This is one of the most common conversation mistakes you can avoid and once you do, you'll probably find that people get really excited to converse with you.
1. Be OK with a Little Awkwardness
Finally, remember that this is not a cure-all for social awkwardness. Meeting new people and being in new situations always comes with a little vulnerability, and it's ok to show that -- everyone else there is feeling it too (albeit different levels of it). Remember, there's no spotlight on you, and there are plenty of people more awkward than you are. Enjoy yourself and don't sweat the little stuff.