How to Be Social at a Party: 6 Secrets of Sociable Men
I’ve noticed as I’ve reviewed our discussion boards that lots of our posters are much more comfortable with meeting girls during the daytime, and find bars, nightclubs, and parties somewhat alien environments (although to be fair, there are also plenty of guys who are far more nighttime-oriented there as well).
When I stopped and thought about this, one of the things I realized was that when I first started hitting nightclubs, they were a pretty intimidating environment to experience:
- The loud, pounding, deafening music
- The big, imposing bouncers and other club patrons
- The flashy, intimidating-looking women
- The specter of approaching a girl only to meet her boyfriend’s fist
- The feeling that everyone else there belonged a lot more than you did
- The self-consciousness of knowing all these party people would
see you get rejected if things didn’t go perfectly with a girl you went
Especially when you’re rolling solo, like I was most of the time early on, you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb, and make for an easy target for anyone looking for a fight and look like someone to be avoided for anyone trying to have a good time.
Everyone there who’s having fun – the people you want to be around... well, they don’t need you. You don’t even know how to break into the same category as them.
So this article’s going to serve as companion piece to my article on picking up girls in bars and clubs and your primer on how to be social: the 6 secrets every social man figures out sooner or later about how to work a venue, how to get comfortable in an intimidating environment like this, and how to set yourself up for more social (and sexual) success than you can shake a billy club at.
For ease of absorption, I’m splitting our 6 rules into two parts:
- The 3 rules of barroom socializing, and
- The 3 steps to working the room
The rules are going to give you your foundation and your
understanding of exactly how to be social in a party, club, bar,
networking, or other similar environment, and the steps will build on
that foundation and give you exact tactics you can implement today.
Rule #1: You Must Be Having the Most Fun
People, almost universally, tend to be in search of one big thing: better emotions.
The man able to give these to them is king.
If you’ve read these articles on the subject, you already know this well:
... and if not, or if it’s been a while since you read them, then this is your refresher.
Everyone wants to be with someone who brings more powerful, positive emotions to the table than what’s already available. That means if you join a group with somewhat higher energy levels than anyone else in it, you’re a net positive for that group.
The reverse, you might expect, is also true: join a group when you’re at a lower energy level than the people in that group are, and you’re a downer.
One of the biggest things men who are socially inexperienced get wrong starting out is that they wade into socializing without consciously adjusting their energy levels.
So, you go to a party or a bar or a club alone or with a friend, and you’re feeling calm or maybe even a little intimidated, and then you go try to socialize with some strangers in party mode without making any adjustments to your own vibe and behavior.
Reception: crummy, needless to say.
Those other people want you gone.
They treat you like a weirdo, or maybe are nice and polite, but cut you out of the conversation quickly. It’s easy to start thinking that you just don’t belong in these sorts of environments, or people must not like you because they saw you by yourself earlier.
Actually, all you need to do is:
- Slap on a smile
- Open your eyes a little wider
- Be upbeat, chipper, and cheerful
- Be having a good time and enjoying yourself
... and then adjust your energy levels just slightly above that of the group of people you’re joining and coming in to talk with.
Rule #2: You Must Not Be TOO High Energy
Here’s another common beginner mistake: going too far to the other extreme and being bounce-off-the-walls energetic and crazy. Once guys figure out Rule #1, they often end up over here.
Why? Because it seems to make sense... after all, if what everyone wants is to have fun and enjoy a good time and get an infusion of energy, then what could be better than BARRELS of fun and DUMPTRUCKS of energy?
There are several reasons why upping your energy to zany, Bozo the Clown levels is a bad thing for your socializing, though:
People cannot relate to people who are too far from them emotionally. Just like how you don’t really want to talk to a depressed person when you’re feeling great, and you don’t want to talk to a happy-go-lucky person when you’re feeling down in the dumps, people who are having some light fun don’t want to talk to someone who’s having so much fun that he’s practically back-flipping his way through the room. They just can’t relate to that emotional state, and it wrecks their calm and takes too much mental energy for them to try. So they shut him out as some crazy creepy guy who doesn’t get it.
When people can’t relate to you, they “other” you. That is, if you’re similar to them, but slightly more energetic than them, then you are “just like them”, only you make them feel better. If you’re too different though, you’re clearly not like them... and people really, at their cores, only want to interact with other people they judge to be similar to themselves, because everyone else is a clueless outsider with an agenda that’s going to take them farther from their own goals, rather than closer to them.
High energy is high effort. And as we discussed in “The Law of Least Effort” and “Sprezzatura, Effort, and Investing”, making yourself appear too high effort takes away from your social power and attractiveness. There’s also a threshold to how far you can go to match a girl’s energy levels and still seem attractive – if she’s dancing wildly on the dance floor and throwing her limbs about, and you go up and match that and go a little bit above it, she’s going to get a thrill ride out of that while dancing with you, but the moment she steps off the dance floor you’d better be masterful at toning it down to just the right levels, or else she’s going to think she should’ve left you on the dance floor quite quickly (the other risk there is if she was just being funny and not sincere, and you go sincere with those high energy levels... girls do a lot of ‘playing’ at parties, and inexperienced men tend not to be the best at telling the difference).
Too high energy = too much fun. As good as it is to be fun... it’s very possible to be too much fun. And as soon as someone feels like you’ve filled their fun quota to the brim, they lose all interest in you.
So, stick to the rule of going a little above the energy level of the person or people you’re socializing with... but don’t go TOO high energy.
And if they’re going absolutely NUTS with energy, it’s usually better to wait to interact with them until they calm down... because if you try and go in super high energy yourself, it’s easy to get left behind when the group mellows out and you’re stuck playing catch up.
Rule #3: You Must Show You Aren’t a Social Burden
Ever out somewhere hanging with your friends, and some random person drops in and starts talking to you... and then just won’t leave? It gets to the point where you start wondering if you’re ever going to get away from the guy.
That’s what being a social burden is, and when you first step up and say ‘hello’, unless you are someone they feel strong instant attraction to as a potential partner or friend, in the back of everyone’s minds is the fear of, “Oh no – I hope this guy isn’t another social burden!”
The way you get around this is:
Part fundamentals – the tighter your fundamentals are, the less this question even occurs to people, and the less severe the apprehension you’ll be a burden is when it does occur
Part energy level – come in at the right energy level, and this question is muted; come in at the wrong one, and it’s a screaming police siren
Part leaving and coming back – when you’re working a room, you will typically go and talk to people for a few minutes, then leave, and circulate back around later. This does much to defuse fears of you being a social burden, because you aren’t sticking to them – and if you’re especially socially savvy, you only reengage when they’re in a lull socially and you can tell they’d welcome a little new stimulation
The last one is the most important one here, because it’s the one that’s most easily controlled; if you don’t want to be a social burden, leave after a few minutes of conversation, unless it’s clear they really want you there and you really want to stay there.
Then, don’t circulate back into conversation with those folks you talked to earlier again until you can tell their conversation’s wound down a bit and isn’t quite as engaging, and your return will be welcome... rather than being seen as an interruption, as it may be if they’re too highly engaged on something and you end up being the interloper who disrupts the topic.
Now that we’ve covered the first half of the 6 secrets of sociability in any kind of crowded party or networking environment, let’s cover the second half – our three (3) tactical steps that will show you how to be social in a way that’s smooth, airy, and effective.
Step #1: You Must Be Ready to Move If Things Don’t Click
When your goal is “be social” or “work the venue”, you typically won’t be spending a huge amount of time with any one person in particular. That’s because:
You’re mostly just focusing on making small talk and bantering with everyone you meet, not getting into deep conversations (hard to be very social when you’re deep into conversation with any particular individual), and
You’re avoiding any momentum-killing events... like getting stalled in a long conversation with one person
You want to keep it light, keep things moving, and continue socializing with everyone in the venue.
Your objective here is similar to what it is with shotgun opening: prime the crowd early so you can work it better later. With enough socializing with various people early into a party or night out or event, you’ll find you have several bases of new friends to come back to throughout the night, which makes socializing later on a lot easier and more fun – if you just suffered a big rejection from that cute girl over by the bar, for instance, pretty easy to lick your wounds and get back into a good state of mind if those cool people you were hanging out with earlier will be glad to clink glasses with you and joke around a bit before you get back out there meeting and greeting.
However... one of the keys to setting yourself up to have these people to interact with later is that you move onto the next person the moment you detect a whiff of “not clicking.”
While there is a time and a place for sticking it out even when it just isn’t working (sometimes it’s worth building up your tolerance for social pressure and challenging yourself to find ways to turn around flagging interactions), when you’re trying to work the crowd this isn’t the time for it. The goal is learning how to be social, not learning how to turn around dying conversations... so if it isn’t going anywhere, excuse yourself with an, “I’m going to go scout out the rest of the venue,” and you’ll often be able to come back later.
If you wear out your welcome too early, don’t expect to have one later; so if it isn’t clicking, leave, and you can always swing back around later.
You want a warm crowd in the venue, not a cool one. So focus on making good impressions and staying only as long as people feel like you’re bringing value to them.
Step #2: Don’t Be Afraid to Stick Around If You Meet Someone AWESOME
Sometimes while socializing, you will inadvertently meet someone awesome – a really cool guy who’d be fun to be friends with; a really pretty girl you just unexpectedly hit it off with; a neat group of people with a really great dynamic where you feel right at home.
If it’s clear they want you to stay, and it’s clear to you that YOU want to stay, then... it’s worthwhile being flexible enough that you can chuck a previous agenda (like “let me be social & work the room”) and take up a new one (like “let me get to know this really awesome person or these awesome people who want to get to know me too”).
This is where a little awareness of your tendency to social butterfly becomes helpful; lots of guys will tend toward butterflying once they’re working crowds, simply because it’s easier / less intimidating to keep moving than it is to switch tempos and plant your feet with any one person or group of people.
If you miss out on an awesome connection though, that’s a big mistake! The entire reason you’re out socializing, after all, is to make good connections with interesting people... not to engage in loads of small talk with a bunch of people you’ll never see again.
So, while working the room, do keep your eye out for diamonds in the rough whom you connect well with, and put down some roots and get to know them and trade phone numbers at the very least before you continue on socializing (do grab men’s phone numbers too; sometimes the best going out buddies you’ll meet will be cool guys who are already out at the places you like going out to).
Step #3: Screen, Screen, Screen
What’s the difference between an awkward guy who rolls up to your group and feels like he’s just “there”, hanging around the periphery, and a guy who rolls up to your group and all of a sudden he’s just in it, knows you better than half the people there, and he’s won over everyone else around too?
You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) go into full-blown deep diving while you work a
room... but you SHOULD be testing and probing and feeling out people as
you go. Think of it as deep diving lite... your aim is to show that you
are legitimately trying to get a read on the people you chat with, because you’re looking for something.
If your fundamentals are in order and you seem like a high-value guy, and you’re otherwise not coming across tryhard in how you engage people and present yourself, they’re going to tend to be generally curious who this new, confident, laid back person is who’s just shown up but now is feeling them out.
It’s a very different feeling from what the guy who’s just keeping everything surface-level and fun gives, which is one of, “This guy’s kinda cool, but... why is he here?”
What you communicate with some screening and probing and cold reading early on is this: “I’m here because I’m seeing if you meet my standards for cool people to hang out with.”
And so long as your social value appears equal to or greater than that of the person you’re feeling out, this just makes you all the more attractive, powerful, and desirable to win over as a potential friend and ally.
How to Be Social at a Party: The Recap
While working the room, the three (3) ground rules to bear in mind are:
- You must be having the most fun of the people you interact with
- You must nevertheless not be TOO high energy
- You must show you aren’t a social burden
The three steps to working the room tactically are:
- You must move on as soon as things seem not to be clicking
- You must hang around when things click very well
- You must screen, screen, screen the people that you meet
Just remember: the overall goal is to have a good time, meet lots of people, and see if those people are the kinds of people you’d be interested in spending more time around in the future.
When you take this approach, it makes getting comfortable in all kinds of environments vastly easier.
I’d further recommend socializing with staff, especially at slower parts of the event or night; e.g., at a bar / nightclub / networking event, this is early at night, before all the patrons show up; at a networking event, it can be later, too, once everyone clears out, though at a bar or club closing time is the craziest time of the night, so you won’t want to be trying to socialize with the doorman then lest you be seen a nuisance; however, if you find yourself at an after party with staff, that’ll be another excellent time to get to know them more. Getting to know the staff is extremely valuable for becoming more comfortable in a venue; the more you know the staff, the more a place starts to feel like “your” place.
Being social isn’t an ultimate end goal, in the way that, say, “Flirt with cute girls and invite them home and see what happens,” is at a party or club, or, “Talk with interesting and connected people and let them know my skills and credentials and what I’m looking for,” is at a networking event, but if going out is still intimidating for you, you’re rusty, or you need a kick in the tail to get you out the door, this one’s one of the best.
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