By Lauren Polly
Let’s be real, socializing can be awkward. Meeting new people, working your way around an event, dating, inter-office mingling – you name the situation it can be weird and uncomfortable.
We are expected to be able to connect with anyone despite his or her background, perspective or willingness to engage. This can be difficult as we are never really taught how to socialize; besides the basic niceties of being polite and don’t talk with your mouth full. The presupposed outcome of connection and poor education on how to form it has us feeling inept when the conversation falls flat, the relationship doesn’t take off or we don’t deliver or create what we know is possible.
Enter in the social butterflies. They are the ones who know how to work a room, make a connection and leave every person they interact with in a lighter state then they found them in. Social butterflies are easy to be around, to speak to and create with. They possess and showcase an enjoyment with interacting, are inclusive, make you feel valued and, most importantly, they create a sense of ease with the communication exchange.
Some people have a natural gift for this graceful interaction style and ease with connection. Some do not. Most think that you are either born with ‘the gift of the gab’ or you aren’t but I have found, through my many years of teaching communication, that these skills can be acquired. It just takes practice and a willingness to stretch out of your comfort zone.
Below are some tips for developing your own wings as a social butterfly:
- Be yourself. Self-editing, inauthentic expressions, and people-pleasing are destructive socializing patterns that sneak in more frequently than you may realize. If you judge yourself as a bad socializer you may try to fix it by copying or emulating someone you see as better. What develops is a forced, inauthentic and scripted way of interacting that is not productive and not fun. It’s important to remember is that each butterfly looks and flies differently. You copying someone or leaving what makes you out of the communication leads to rote and stale interactions. If you are leaving conversations feeling depleted or dissatisfied, then you probably aren’t being yourself. Start to become aware of this behavior and why you think you have to be someone you aren’t in order for others to like you or to connect in some way. Is it worth it? Then ask yourself, ‘If I were being me here how would I choose to interact?’ This question creates more ease with showing up as you and expressing that to the world.
- Be interested not interesting. Many people push in social situations. They are trying hard to be seen in a certain way – successful, smart, and funny – and by doing so fill up the conversation with stories and factoids about themselves. What results are an energy of force and a one-way dialogue. There isn’t an interaction point where communication, with an even back and forth, is possible. If you notice yourself doing this, stop and ask your communication partner a question. People love to be heard and seen and will remember you for caring enough to take an interest in them. If you are in conversation with someone who is doing this push, try acknowledging them for what they want you to see them as. If they are pushing hard to be seen as funny, laugh at their jokes. If they want to be seen as successful, then compliment their many successes. From there introduce a new topic and see if they take the bait. Once acknowledged they may relax and allow the conversation to turn into a more natural flow. If not, then begin to look for an exit strategy. There is no need to stay in a conversation that doesn’t include you in it.
- Be aware of your communication partner. I tell my clients all the time; communication is a two-way street. If there is a communication breakdown or difficulty with connection, ask yourself where the other person is functioning from. So often we blame ourselves for these mishaps and don’t take time to recognize that our communication partner is bored, not open to connecting or self-involved. Don’t blame yourself. Freedom is found when you are aware of the other person and don’t make yourself solely responsible for the outcome of the exchange.
Keep in mind there is an advantage to be had, both personally and professionally, by developing and harnessing your skills as a social butterfly. Have fun with these tips, stretch yourself and see what you can create when you spread your wings and fly.