As someone who is very introvert and at times quite socially anxious, being social does not come easily to me. I need to work for it. But in times of most of my communication happening online, I really notice how important “real” social contacts are. Loneliness is not a species-appropriate state for humans! Luckily, there are a few exercises to be more social. Let’s look at 10 of those!
Disclaimer: I only share tips I believe in and that my research has shown to be helpful for wanting to be more social. However, I am no therapist or giving professional advice here. If you suffer from clinical social anxiety, please contact a trained professional to help you with this. Always take care of yourself!
Exercises to be more social: Climb up the ladder
If you are looking for ways to be more social, there is a chance that you suffer from at least mild social anxiety. This doesn’t mean at all that you can’t learn to be more social. But it might mean that you have to be compassionate with yourself.
No one expects an athlete to start out with the hardest training possible. Athletes increase the difficulty as their skills improve.
The same will work for this scenario. It doesn’t matter if social scenarios are super scary to you or just slightly uncomfortable. There will be social situations that are easier for you to deal with. And then some you just cannot imagine putting yourself into.
Create your training plan
So your first step is to create a “training plan” for yourself.
Write down at least 10 social situations that are stressful or uncomfortable for you. (They should be situations you want to be able to deal with though. No awful social situations that no one should have to deal with!)
Then give them a rating from 1 to 10. 1 means it’s a little stressful, but doable. 10 means, the situation is super scary to you and right now you cannot imagine being in it.
Then sort the situation from easiest to hardest. Et voila: this is your training plan!
Download the fear ladder worksheet or pin it for later!
Now you can start training! Put yourself in the easiest situation repeatedly. Do this until it no longer feels scary or uncomfortable.
Then, you can go on to the next step and start “training” with the next difficult situation. Keep doing this, until you learn to deal with all situations.
This approach is also called “creating a fear ladder”. You know, because you climb up the ladder, from easy to hard.
If you are interested, here are a few examples of fear ladders for various phobias.
Exercises to be more social: Outward focus
Have you been wondering how to be less shy in social situations? I have. For me being shy usually comes from worrying too much. Worrying about what other people might think. Or that I might say something stupid. Or that they might notice how socially awkward I really am.
Something that can help with that is the outward focus exercise.
When you are in social situations, make it a rule to notice a few things about your environment. Notice the colors of peoples’ sweaters. Or how many plants are in the room. You could also count how many people are talking and how many are silent.
Why outward focus helps to be more social
This exercise helps to ground you, as you pull your attention away from your anxiety. You also automatically change focus from being turned inwards to an outward focus.
Before you might have been thinking “I am so awkward, I feel so uncomfortable, what should I do next?” Now you will be busy noticing. Or counting.
You’ll be less anxious and automatically more social – because you focus on your surroundings instead of your inner feelings. To be social you need to become aware of the people you want to be social with.
Exercises to be more social: Retrain your brain
When you imagine social situations, you probably tense up and start feeling anxious. This is an automatic response.
Your brain has learned that social situations are dangerous. All it does is try to protect you!
The good news: You can retrain your brain. You can teach it that you are not in any real danger when getting social.
Find something that really relaxes you.
A bubble bath? A massage? Listening to inaugural beats? Sitting on the balcony at night with a hot cup of tea? Whatever it is for you, do it.
And while you’re at it, imagine being in a social situation. While you relax completely.
This way your brain can start connecting your super relaxed physical state to the idea of being social.
Ideally, you do this as often as possible. It took a while for your brain to learn the anxious pattern. Give it a real chance to learn the new one, will you?
Exercises to be more social: Create eye contact
One of the simplest ways to feel more connected is to simply create eye contact with people. It is simple, but not necessarily easy, mind you.
Watch yourself for a day and notice how you usually avoid eye contact.
Do you look at your phone when waiting for a train? Do you look at the floor when paying for your groceries? Most of us avoid looking at other people on the street.
Luckily, eye contact is something that we can train.
Start looking into peoples’ eyes whenever you can. On the street, at work, while shopping…
This might feel pretty uncomfortable at first. So you need a good trick to help you get over that.
Give yourself a task. Make sure to find out everyone’s eye color! No matter if you pass them on the street or if you directly interact with them.
After practicing this for a while, you will start noticing a difference. There will be a difference in the way you feel about the people around you. You will feel more connected, more “social”. You will change your perspective on other people. They won’t be just objects in space anymore. But other beings with who you can connect.
Exercises to be more social: Find the common factor
Once creating eye contact is part of your social skill set, it’s time to move on to the next level.
If you are not sure how to interact with people, this exercise will help you loads.
The next time you are in a social setting, find something that you have in common with another person. Something that you can relate to. (Ideally, this is something positive. No accidental insults, please.) And then say it out loud!
Depending on if you are “only” an introvert or if you are additionally battling social anxiety, this might be not that easy for you. But don’t let that intimidate you! You can do it. And it will have very nice effects!
First of all, you have to focus on the other person to be able to do this. (Remember what we said about outward focus?) This way you move into a compassionate state rather than a socially awkward or anxious one.
The second step, saying it out loud, expresses your compassion to the other people in the room. You are giving them an opportunity to get to know you as a caring, compassionate person. And this is a very important part of being social.
Exercises to be more social: Find your tribe
This one is a no-brainer. To be social, you have to put yourself in social situations. Naturally, you want to socialize with people who you can relate to.
If you already have a hobby that you do in a group, perfect. Work on deepening those relationships. Maybe go for a coffee with a few people from there. Do something outside of the usual “hobby stuff” with them.
Online hobbies do not count here, sorry! This is about making real-life connections.
If you happen to not have any “offline hobbies” so far, don’t worry.
You can easily find a group of people with similar interest to you on meetup.com.
Got no interests, because you feel like social anxiety has left you depressed and without a drive? You can still find people in similar situations there. Go to a meetup for introverts or socially anxious people!
Exercises to be more social: Compliment yourself
Complimenting yourself is always a good idea. But did you know it could also be an exercise to be more social?
This is because remembering the good stuff about ourselves helps us to combat feelings of insecurity and anxiety.
So whenever you feel insecure about where you stand in a social situation, take a moment to think. Think of three things you like about yourself or that you have to offer a potential friend.
This will boost your confidence and interrupt and possible negative thought-patterns you might have.
Exercises to be more social: Exercise
Exercise. Yeah, really. This exercise to be more social is to exercise.
In case you are wondering: Yes, exercise really is a heal-all. No list is complete without it.
But how can it help you be more social?
Well, first of all, physical activity balances your hormones. Hormones have a crazy impact on how we feel and think. In fact, hormonal imbalances can even be a root cause of anxiety disorders.
Related: How to balance hormones naturally
So through physical exercise, you balance out your stress hormones with your happy hormones. This means you will generally feel more confident. Being more confident will help you relax even in uncomfortable social situations.
Another reason exercise can help you become more social is obvious. Joining an exercise group or gym will automatically put you in the vicinity of people. Opportunities to make eye contact and find commonalities galore!
Exercises to be more social: Become an interviewer
One of my favorites among these exercises to be more social is “becoming an interviewer”.
Your task is basically to find out something new about people. Simply by asking them questions. (Not yes or no questions! Open ones!)
Make sure to keep it light though. No one likes interrogations. But then again, who knows that better than a socially anxious person, right?
This exercise does several things. First of all, focusing on what you are curious about changes your own perspective. No more being anxious about what might happen.
Instead, you will be discovering new things! I love learning, and I am a naturally curious person. So finding out new interesting things sounds great to me!
Second of all, you will build the very important social skill of listening. Everyone loves to be listened to! Clearly a win-win situation!
Exercises to be more social: Train every day
Okay, admittedly this last one is not a specific exercise. More like a challenge.
Make it a habit, to have at least one social interaction every day.
Smile at the clerk in the supermarket, open the door for someone, ask someone the time…
It doesn’t have to be a huge one. You definitely don’t want to overwhelm yourself and go to a party every evening. If you are at the beginning of your fear ladder, it can just be eye contact.
But as with any successful training, you need to be consistent.
Especially if you work from home or are otherwise slightly isolated.
What are your exercises to be more social?
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you found a few ideas for yourself to improve your social skills. What are your experiences with this?
Did socializing always come difficult for you? Or has something changed?
And in which ways do you overcome social awkwardness?
Let me know in the comments!