How to Be More Social

Group of smiling young people talking outdoors in the city

pixelfit / Getty Images

If you tend to be more reserved or quiet, socializing can often be challenging. If you find it difficult to converse with a stranger, participate in a discussion with co-workers, or attend a party where you know only a few people, then you aren't alone.

Many people report feeling shy or socially anxious. Unfortunately, this can contribute to social isolation and loneliness. One survey found that 30% of millennials reported feeling lonely, and 22% suggested that they have no friends.

Even if you tend to be introverted, it doesn't mean you have to stay on the conversational sidelines. With a few little tweaks to your style, you can become more outgoing, more relaxed in social situations, and more likely to have fun when you're in the company of others.

Press Play for Advice On Building Confidence

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, shares how to stop letting self-doubt hold you back. Click below to listen now.

Subscribe Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

Start With Small Steps

Start by taking small steps towards establishing contact with the people around you be they strangers, acquaintances, colleagues, or friends. Some good ways to start include:

  • Making eye contact: Eye contact and friendly gestures can go a long way.
  • Smiling at people: They say that smiles are contagious. If someone looks directly at you when you’re shopping at the grocery store, on the train on your way to work, or sitting in the break room at the office, smile at them. You will find that most people react positively and are likely to smile back. Use that returned smile as an instant confidence booster.
  • Greeting other people: After mastering the smile, graduate to saying hello, asking someone for advice, or giving a compliment. The more that you get used to establishing communication with strangers and acquaintances, the easier it becomes and more natural it feels to be outgoing.

You'll likely find that being friendly and nice to those around you feels good. This can help boost your mood, which can also help you feel more relaxed and comfortable.

You'll often receive positive feedback in return, which will help develop the self-confidence that is useful in virtually every social setting.

Use Your Mutual Connections

It's easy to hang with the people who make you feel comfortable and safe, but never branching out can be detrimental in both social and professional environments. Challenging yourself to meet new people is a great way to practice and strengthen your social skills.

One of the easiest ways to become more outgoing is to ask your friends, colleagues, or classmates to introduce you to their friends. For example, if you walk into a room and your friend is talking to someone else, make a point to say hello and introduce yourself. The next time you see that person, you can say hello. Since you have already been introduced, you have built a bridge to future communication.

Once you've made a connection, ask the person questions about themselves. One of the best ways to strike up a conversation and keep it going is to ask open-ended questions and actively listen as they take it from there. This is also a great trick if you find that you're unsure what to talk about or are uncomfortable with small talk.

Networking with colleagues can be a great way to build professional connections while practicing your social skills. Or consider trying friendship apps where you can connect with other people based on your shared interests.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Doing something that makes you feel a little uncomfortable is the easiest way to boost your confidence and help you become a more outgoing version of yourself. With each little victory, you'll gain the confidence to step further and further outside your comfort zone.

Check out your city's chamber of commerce, area universities, or local websites to learn more about clubs or events available in your community. Some examples of activities geared toward finding friends include hiking clubs, pottery classes, dance classes, cooking courses, and community yoga classes.

If you keep seeing signs for a club or class you're interested in, go to one meeting to test the waters. Even if you find that it's not right for you, there's no harm in trying. At the least, you'll gain some new experiences, meet some new people, and hone your social skills.

Participating in virtual activities can be a great way to ease yourself into hanging out with different people.

Focus on Other People

It is easy to get so caught up in your self-image that being quiet or reserved can feel like the safest choice. But being outgoing offers you the chance to try new things and meet new people.

Instead of concentrating on your feelings of anxiety or discomfort, it can be helpful to instead focus you attention on other people. As you converse with others, pay attention to what they have to say. Ask questions and try to remember details that will help you next time you talk with them.

Remember that everyone has their own insecurities. People are generally too occupied with other things to notice your anxieties or fears. In fact, research has found that people tend to overestimate how much other people notice them, a phenomenon known as the spotlight effect.

Create a Mindfulness Practice

Practicing mindfulness can be a helpful way to combat feelings of shyness and anxiety. Mindfulness involves becoming more aware of the present moment without worrying about the past or future.

Because anxieties are often rooted in worrying about past events that can't be changed or fretting about future events, mindfulness can be a way to live more in the moment.

Mindfulness practices that you might try include meditation, expressive writing, positive affirmations, or gratitude journaling.  Interventions that incorporate mindfulness have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of different anxiety disorders, so you may find that incorporating such tactics into your daily life may help you feel less anxious in many different areas of your life.

A Word From Verywell

No one will remember how nervous you sounded the first couple of times you met them. They will remember you as the person who made an effort to reach out, who wasn't afraid to ask a question in a group, and who had something nice to say at the end of a conversation.

Ultimately, the easiest way to make friends and feel more outgoing in social situations is to just be yourself. Taking small steps to practice your social skills, taking steps to meet new people, and practicing strategies to minimize feelings of anxiety are all tactics that can help you become more outgoing.

If you're struggling with symptoms of social anxiety disorder, which involves a more serious fear of social situations, you should talk to your healthcare provider. Effective treatments are available that can help you cope with feelings of social anxiety.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I make small talk?

    Making a list of good small talk topics can be helpful when you're struggling to break the ice or keep the conversation flowing. Some great things to talk about include the weather, sports, family, food, work, and hobbies. Avoid controversial or potentially offensive subjects like politics, religion, and gossip.

  • Am I an introvert or an extrovert?

    If social situations leave you feeling drained and in need of some time alone, then you are likely an introvert. If you tend to feel more energized after talking to others, then you are probably an extrovert. Introversion and extroversion represent a continuum, and many people tend to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

  • How can I make new friends as an adult?

    Being proactive and open to new people is the key to making friends as an adult. You need to seek out friendships and be willing to get to know new people and try new things. Joining clubs or organizations focused on finding friends can be a great strategy. There are also websites and apps that can help people find friends either online or in their local area. Being more outgoing and talking to people you meet in your day-to-day life can also be a great way to build new friendships.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ballard J. Millennials are the loneliest generation. YouGov.

  2. Gilovich T, Medvec VH, Savitsky K. The spotlight effect in social judgment: an egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000;78(2):211-22. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.78.2.211

  3. Hoge EA, Bui E, Marques L, et al. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: Effects on anxiety and stress reactivityJ Clin Psychiatry. 2013;74(8):786–792. doi:10.4088/JCP.12m08083

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."