These life hacks, backed by science and psychology, will make those awkward social situations a little less nerve-wracking.
As much as modern society would love to further withdraw into their homes while living entirely on the internet, you can’t avoid civilization entirely. Eventually you’re going to have to get out of bed and come to your friend’s engagement party or that networking event or that happy hour work function. But if you’re the type of person who gets nervous when meeting new people, there are plenty of life hacks you can use to help make the situation a little less awkward.
The key of conquering any social interaction is to get the person you’re speaking to to like you, and if you think getting strangers to care about your hobbies sounds hard, it’s really not. With just a few tips, backed by science, you can master any social situation.
Here are nine tips how:
Don’t try to calm yourself down.
For most people, attending a work function or networking event where you don’t know anyone is nerve-wracking. After all, you have to make the perfect first impression, try to schmooze with all the right people, and do it all while having mind-numbing conversations about the weather. If you’re feeling nervous or anxious, you might try to control your nerves by telling yourself to be calm, but that’s actually the wrong method to be using.
According to research by Allison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School, you should be getting pumped instead. According to her study, when people were told to get excited before doing a nerve-wracking task, they performed better than people who were told to calm themselves down.
Give yourself a “job” to do.
If you’re one of those people who hates small talk and finds it super hard to do, instead of awkwardly talking about the weather, try giving yourself a “job.” According to psychologist Anita Sanz, if you replace your fear with a purpose, you’re less likely to focus on any nerves or anxiety you might be feeling. So, for example, if you assign yourself the job of “making sure everyone has a good time at the party,” you can take the focus and attention off yourself and prioritize making others feel “comfortable.”
“I don’t focus on how others are perceiving me or evaluating me when I am trying to accomplish something important or meaningful,” she wrote for Forbes. “I have a purpose or a mission, so my anxiety becomes very secondary.”
Get someone to do you a favor.
It seems like bad advice at first. After all, shouldn’t you be the one doing the favor if you want to be well-liked? But surprisingly, people are more likely to trust and like you if they do a favor for you first. It’s called the Benjamin Franklin Effect, named after its inventor, and proposes that people who are asked to do a favor not only like the person who asked the favor more, but also are more willing to do them more favors. The reason is a cognitive dissonance where people rationalize that they must like a person if they’re willing to do favors for them. People are also more likely to like a person if they feel like they invested time and energy into them. Manipulative, huh?
Disarm rude people with kindness.
So you went to the party, conquered your nerves, made others feel comfortable, and even found an errand boy to do your bidding. But not everyone’s going to like you, and there’ll always be haters. If you ever encounter one who’s being rude to you, a good life hack tip is to respond with politeness instead of anger. Rudeness against rudeness creates a ricochet effect that can quickly snowball out of control.
“I rarely escalate conflicts with rude people,” Christopher Bergland wrote for Psychology Today. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s more effective to disarm rude people with politeness. Over the years, I’ve found that deflecting rudeness with genuine, Kevlar-coated kindness is the best defense.”
Cover your dark circles.
It might sound completely unrelated to meeting people, but dark circles can hinder your relationship with others, especially if you’re attending a mixer event in the hopes of meeting Mr. or Ms. Right. According to this slightly dubious infographic, dark circles reduce your attractiveness by 40 percent. However, a more reputable study has somewhat corroborated this statistic.
According to the study, people were more likely to be attracted to and like people who looked well-rested. On the flip side, they found sleep-deprived people look “sadder,” less attractive, and less healthy. Ouch. If you have genetic dark circles, you might need to reach for the concealer.
Strike an expansive pose.
If you fold your arms a lot or hunch your back, you might be accidentally sending the wrong message to people. According to a 2016 study, people who strike contractive positions, like hunching their shoulders or tucking their arms away, are considered less attractive to those who strike expansive poses, like putting their hands on their hips. The reason is that expansive poses make you feel more confident, which enhances your attraction and likability factor. Although there are other studies that say the power pose does nothing, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to keep an open body language when meeting people.
Mirror the person you’re speaking to.
It’s called “mirroring” or the “chameleon effect,” and it’s a strategy that supports the psychological theory that says people tend to subtly mimic the behavior and actions of people they like. According to a 1999 study, people subconsciously start liking a person when their actions are being copied. Of course, if you try this hack, don’t to be too obvious about it.
Crack a joke and observe the people who are laughing around you.
If you want to quickly read the room and find out who’s crushing on whom, try out this little trick. When you’re with a group of people, crack a joke and watch everyone when they laugh. People tend to look at the person they like the most when they’re laughing, according t0 a 2009 study. “By using humor, one can gauge the strength of a potential or existing relationship without revealing his or her ultimate motives, which may extend beyond the establishment of a relationship,” the study concludes. We’re totally trying this.
When in a conversation, keep silent.
Although society has conditioned us to believe silence in a conversation is bad and that we must talk continuously until our tongues fall out of our faces, you can easily use this fact for your own purposes. If you truly want to learn more about someone, try keeping silent. The other person will continue talking in an attempt to fill the silence, giving you a front row seat to insight you wouldn’t have known if you were busy flapping your own lips. “Silence is a greatly underestimated source of power,” Peter Bregman writes in the Harvard Business Review. “In silence, we can hear not only what is being said, but also what is not being said. In silence, it can be easier to reach the truth.”
And just like that you’ve gone from “awkward party attendee” to “social Jedi master.” You’re welcome.