So you’re at a party,… Took some guts to finally go, because normally you feel like the quiet guy. But you are there. You had a few nice chats one-on-one with some guys you kinda know. As you suddenly hear a burst of laughter, you look up and see a group bantering. So brewsky in hand, you walk up and see what is up.
There is a group of guys having fun, talking about D&D, haha, you love that. Maybe you can join the conversation.
But after a few minutes, you realize you still hover at the edge of the group. And it feels hella awkward, like always. You want to say something, join the banter,.. You know, be funny joke, around. But uhm,.. What do you say? No ideas and thoughts come up,.. not like with other people.
What if you say something weird? What will everyone think? You feel a pressure to say something fun or interesting. But why doesn't it come out?
Handling your anxiety
First of all, it is good to know, everybody is and will talk shit. 99% of conversations is just passing superficial crap back and forth. So don’t worry about coming off funny or intelligent, it is the group dynamic you will need to get a hang of.
Step one is making sure you become part of the group.
Not every group is open, if you try to force yourself in a buddy dynamic that exists for years it won’t be easy. But if people know each other more superficially, chances are you can be a nice addition to the group.
Wiggle your way in, as or before you make your opening remarks. Make sure you enter an open part of a circle. Remark on what is being said, or ask a question regarding the subject. Get a reply through questions, conversations, nods, smiles or other social cues? Yes, you are in!
Still hard huh,…
Think about two kinds of approaches. Either enter a group, using that good old 3-second rule, go before anxiety hits big time. So you can’t come up with 1000 anxiety fueled arguments why it won’t work.
Already working on your mental excuses list? Take a few deep breaths,…. 4 seconds in, hold 4 seconds out. It relieves a bit of the tension. Then still go in.
So you are there? Now what? So many words, faces, information! Gaaah!
A group can feel like a total ambiguous blob of people around you, too much information, so you shut down. Instead, see it as a set of individuals. Talk to one person at a time, look that person in the eyes. As you talk or they.
Shift your attention to the next person if someone else talks, you bring the group back to its components. Making it much easier to handle. Don’t talk to the overarching dynamic, if that is too hard. Talk one on one, in a group.
What to say
Fun fact: You can actually say a lot of things! Don’t sweat it too much, if you add to the conversation with a bit of confidence, almost anything can be accepted.
It doesn’t feel this way, but you have everyone’s permission.
But you can’t come up with anything on the spot, that is the problem.
Alright, how about this. If the conversation enters a lull, why not have something prepared to say. In advance think of subjects to talk about:
- A few cool anecdotes (I once ate three pizza’s in one go / the police arrested me for walking on the grass once, can you believe it?)
- Some interesting facts or latest news story (did you guys know that Sweden actually is a country / so Elon musk finally cracked under the pressure)
And while you are at it ask, what people think of it! Or the best option in social settings, but of sometimes dubious nature, so be careful:
- The latest gossip (so I heard Jessica and Morty got it on during the dance!)
You just have to know a bit to get yourself in the conversation.
How to talk
But maybe you feel you can’t convey a message that well.
Try to get a hang of HOW things are said, you may not catch on this intuitively, so pay attention. The way people use their voice, how they portray their body is all a big part of communicating.
As you talk, try to do it with some flair, some emotion, a layer of you. Use your voice confidently, don’t go in all like monotone robocop or a silent horse whisperer. But use a steady strong voice. Applying pitch, timber and tone.
Don’t know what or how? Practice! Record yourself telling a small story on your phone, listen back. -CRINGE!- Yup, that’s you. Except for the unfamiliarity with your voice, what can you learn? Are you very soft spoken? Monotone? Not enthusiastic? Can that change? Yes, it can!
Look at a few minutes of your favorite stand up comedian, storyteller or motivational speaker. How do they talk? How do they use their voice? How do they use their voice toolbox?
Then try to emulate that a few times, use your recorder again and hear the difference. Don’t worry it is just for you. Even if you emulate just 10%, it is different right? Better? Practice, watch and learn a bit. Pay attention to how you use your voice! And apply IRL of course :)!
Hopefully, this gives you some extra baggage to slowly, yet surely feel less like the quiet guy! It comes down to understanding a bit of group dynamic and practice.
Know you have permission to go and talk to people! You don’t have to be afraid people don ‘t like you, that is mostly in your head. If you can add a bit of interest and positivity you should be fine!