Let's say you're okay with your social life, but it could be better.
You have some friends, people like you, and you can hold your own fairly well when it comes to making conversation. But with all that being said, you're not quite where you want to be socially. Maybe you want to be able to make new friends more easily. Or you're looking for your dream girl (or guy -- I'm writing to you too, ladies). Or maybe you just want to take command of your social life in general -- so you can be more confident, engaging, and on fire.
If you go out to the bars even just once a month, you'll benefit from this post. That's because I'm about to break down five common social blunders that people make at bars (and other places too). These blunders make them look boring, unapproachable, or just plain lame.
So without further ado, let's get to it.
1) Not being engaged with your group
One of the worst things you can do when entering a bar is look around like a lion in search of its prey. Guys are far worse than girls when it comes to this, but both genders are guilty. If you're rolling up with friends, be engaged with your friends! Be lively in your conversation, laugh, joke, high-five one another, have fun.
Think about it. If you and your group were a product, the way you interact and mingle with your friends is the advertisement. How are you selling your product? Are you excited and upbeat? If so, you're probably a fun person to hang around. Are you scanning the bar with a straight face -- or worse, do you look bored or serious? Then you're probably not someone people are lining up to meet.
Have you ever seen a commercial for Heineken or Coors Light? Ignore your preference of beer for a second and focus on the people in those commercials. What are they doing? They're having a damn good time, that's what. The people in those commercials are playfully punching each other in the shoulder and cracking each other up after telling a hilarious joke. They're on the edge of their seats as someone is telling a suspenseful story. They're raising their glasses as someone makes a toast to a night to remember.
Be the kind of person you see in beer commercials.
Having fun is infectious. When other people look towards your group and see that you're having a blast, they're going to want to know what they're missing out on. This kind of intrigue makes meeting people amazingly easy -- and they'll often come to you first.
2) Isolating yourself
I've always been baffled by this one. I've gone out with groups of friends that, as soon as they get to the bar and order their drinks, find a cozy, isolated corner and keep to themselves.
If you're the type to go to a bar solely to have a drink and unwind, I'm not talking about you. I'm referring specifically to people who want to go to bars to meet people, only to isolate in one corner of the bar waiting for people to come to them.
Hint: Unless you're a beautiful woman, it won't happen. (Hell, even if you are a beautiful woman it probably won't happen.)
The reason is simple, people are not attracted to you if you're boring and they're certainly not going to make the effort to get to know you unless you prove you're worth getting to know. Isolating with your friends is not a smart tactic; it's a stupid one.
Believe me, I know. When I first started going to bars in college I was incredibly reluctant to approach people. "I'll just stand here and act aloof," I thought to myself, thinking that would somehow encourage people to come up to me first. Of course it didn't. Not one single person approached me. It wasn't until I realized that it was up to me to convey my social value that I started enjoying fun, stimulating conversations.
At this point you may be wondering what the difference is between the first group I talked about and this one. The answer: body language. Specifically, bad body language. If you appear closed off, whether it's because you've got your arms folded across your chest or because you and your friends have positioned yourselves so that no one would conceivably want to come up and talk to you, then you can't expect to meet people. On the other hand, if you're having a good time and have demonstrated social proof, that's alluring and it makes people curious to know more about you.
This brings me to my next point.
3) Not inviting others to your conversations
I don't know whom exactly, but someone really, really smart once said, "Act like you own the place."
I have no idea what context in which this advice was given, but it's perfectly applicable here.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they're simply too exclusive in their conversations with the group they're in. If you're having trouble imagining what involving others in your conversations might look like, allow me to give you some directions:
Step 1: Turn to the person next to you.
Step 2: Smile and ask, "How are you doing tonight?"
That's it. Pretty simple, right?
Forget the warnings you've heard about being boring or cliché when you approach people. Any approach is better than no approach.
If being shy or nervous is a sticking point of yours, remember, "Act like you own the place." Visualize yourself as the owner of the venue you're at. You're rich, you're successful, and there are hundreds of people at your establishment. How does that affect the way you walk? The way you talk to others? Take that level of confidence and run with it.
4) Staying on your phone the whole night
This is all too common. Sadly, it's pretty easy to spot at least three groups of people "hanging out" at a bar together where they're really making more eye contact with Facebook mobile than they are with each other.
I've spoken with enough shy people to know that using texts/Facebook/Instagram or whatever else while out at a bar is sometimes a defense mechanism. People are nervous and they don't want to look awkward, so they resort to using their phones to save them from the terrifying task of actually getting to know someone. But realize that staying on your phone while out in public is completely counterintuitive to being in public in the first place. People go out to have fun. Meeting people is fun. Stop using your phone as a crutch and introduce yourself to the person next to you.
5) Not following through with social interactions (exchange information, dummy!)
Admittedly, I've been accused of being a shameless Facebook whore. As of this writing, I have 2,578 friends on my personal Facebook page. (But in my defense, I maintain that I could tell you exactly how I know 99% of them!)
But I want to talk about something so many people overlook: exchanging information with people you meet.
In any other time period before this past decade, you had to make an extensive effort to keep in touch with someone. Phone calls, hand-written letters, all that antiquated stuff.
What's even crazier to think about is this: if you go far back enough in history, it was possible to make an incredible connection with someone and then part ways knowing you'd never see each other again. You'd just look up at the night sky wondering if somewhere on some other part of the earth that person was doing the same.
But we're not living in the ancient past. It's 2014, where all you have to do is exchange Facebook info or phone numbers and you're practically guaranteed to stay in touch with each other forever. Some people find this scary, but I find it incredibly inspiring.
Hitting it off with people is rare. Even when you're doing all the right things, forming an incredible connection with someone is a two-way street. That's why when you experience a pleasant interaction with another person; it benefits the both of you by staying in touch. Because you never really know just how much help that person can be to you, or vice versa.
Besides, even if you exchange information with someone and nothing comes out of it, what have you lost?
The Bottom Line
- Stay engaged with your group. Having fun is attractive.
- Don't isolate in the corner.
- Introduce yourself. Make conversation with others! (If you need help in this area, read this post on making small talk)
- Don't stay glued to your phone. Engage the other people around you.
Follow through with a great connection by exchanging information. Staying in touch builds a valuable bridge that might prove useful in the future.
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