Tis the season of holiday parties.
Whether it's a casual neighborhood gathering or a formal office party, making polite conversation when faced with a roomful of people you don't know well can be difficult if you are shy or have a bit of social anxiety.
Here are 10 ways to put the social butterflies to rest, according to Ryerson University psychology professor Naomi Koerner:
1. Be open to conversation.
For many people, this can be hard to do, especially if there are a lot of unfamiliar people at the party. Start by smiling and making eye contact. Try saying "hello" to a few people you don't know.
2. Don't spend too much time on your smartphone.
While you are gazing down at your smartphone, you may miss out on cues that someone would like to chat with you. People may assume that you are not interested in conversation and may be less likely to approach you if you are not looking up and making eye contact.
3. Join an ongoing group conversation at the social event.
At get-togethers, people often walk around, moving in and out of different conversations. See if you can join a group that is discussing a topic that interests you.
4. Ask questions.
This is an opportunity for you to catch up with coworkers, friends or family members on what they have been engaged with this past year. But be careful not to turn this into an interview or Q&A session. Share some experiences and stories of your own to balance out the conversation.
5. Step out of your comfort zone.
Once you start a conversation with someone at a social gathering, you may want to stick with that person for a while because you feel comfortable. Instead, take a risk. Try to strike up a conversation with someone else, especially with a person you have not met before. You may learn something new about a person you already know, or you may discover that you and a party guest you have just met have things in common.
6. Stay out of the kitchen.
Don't avoid the social gathering by keeping yourself busy loading the dishwasher and serving the food and beverages.
7. Don't assume that your anxious thoughts and predictions are necessarily true.
Ask yourself questions to challenge your anxious thoughts such as: "What is the likelihood that others will notice my anxiety?" and "What is the worst that could happen if people notice that I am nervous?"
8. Avoiding feared social situations will only worsen your anxiety.
If you're shy, talking to others will be difficult at first. If things don't go perfectly, that's okay. It will become easier over time if you keep practicing.
9. You may be tempted to drink alcohol to calm your nerves before you head to the social gathering.
Wait until after you've arrived and have had a chance to settle into the party. You'll likely find that your anxiety has gone down on its own, without alcohol.
10. Trying to control or hide your anxiety at a party may make it worse.
Accept those uncomfortable feelings and sensations and try some of the other tips to calm those butterflies so you'll enjoy yourself.
--From the Editors at Netscape