I’m dreading having to meet new people – what can I do?
Shyness can be crippling, and it can stop you from doing things that you really want to do. People don’t always realise that being shy isn’t the same as being introverted. An introvert will actively choose to miss a party and be in their own company. Someone shy will just feel that they have no choice but to miss the party.
If that sounds like you, and having to meet new people fills you with dread, then here are five tips to get past it.
Don’t get stuck in ‘all or nothing’ thinking. Don’t feel that you have to either be the life and soul of the party or stay at home. There’s a lot of ground between those two, and it’s fine for you to find your own level. You can make bargains with yourself as well – “If I’m not enjoying it by nine o’clock then I’ll leave”. The chances are that you’ll stay past nine o’clock, and if you don’t then not avoiding the party is a genuine achievement in its own right.
Don’t get there late. You might plan to get there late, when there’ll be more people to talk to. In reality, a crowded room can be intimidating, and it can be difficult to break into established conversations and groups. Get there early instead – you’ll have much more chance pf talking to people one-to-one.
Pick where you stand. Standing by the bar might seem a good idea – you’ll get to meet everyone won’t you? You will but they may well be getting drinks before going back to conversations. Plus, there’s a real risk that you’ll drink more than is wise, and that isn’t a good way to tackle shyness.
Prepare your small talk. The fear someone shy has about having to meet new people is most often based around having to make small talk. Sometimes this is because people feel they have to be funny and clever. The truth is they don’t – they just need to be engaging, and the easiest way to do that is to listen to the other person and ask questions that show you’re listening and interested.
For any awkward moments at the beginning make sure that you have some topics lined up – how they know the host or how long they have worked at your employers are two obvious starters. Look for areas of common ground if possible, as the conversation will be more natural.
Practice. Having to meet new people is an unavoidable part of a healthy social life. That doesn’t mean that finding it easy is something that you should be born with. Instead it’s a skill that becomes easier and more natural with practice. You can practice your small talk outside of parties – try really listening and questioning with a friend, or start up general topics with people on the train or in a lift. The more you do it the less scary it becomes.