It can be easy to enter a house party or a networking event full of strangers and get overwhelmingly shy. Meeting new people is hard, and a knee-jerk reaction could be to hunch your shoulders and slink off into a corner. But you can act like the most confident person in the room, even if on the inside you're counting backwards from 10 and warding off a panic attack. Never have the words "fake it 'til you make it" been so relevant.
Have you ever looked at a truly suave and confident character at a party and just thought "how?" Believe it or not, most of us aren't naturally born with a fistful of charm and bottomless confidence — a person has to train themselves to reach that level of cool. So while it can be tempting to take the usual comfy spot at the wall, with a few clever tips you can be moving across the room with that same level of confidence and assured-ness. And the best part is that the tips aren't even radical — they take little to no effort. So are you ready to wow your next social shindig? Below are 11 tips on how to be the most confident person in the room.
1. Research The Guests Ahead Of Time
If you're going to a networking event, there's always a roster available of RSVPs. If you're going to a house party, do some light Facebook snooping or ask the friend that's hosting a couple of questions about the guests beforehand. And what's the purpose of these Nancy Drew-like habits? This will help you avoid that moment where you awkwardly hover in the corner, unsure who to talk to.
Lifestyle writer John Corcoran from Lifehack explained, "If it is a social event, you could do research ahead of time to find out if there's anyone who will be there who you want to meet." If you already have a vague idea who you want to chat with and about what, you can beeline straight towards them, with all confidence.
2. Devise Goals In Your Head
When you go somewhere with purpose, you zero in on making that goal, nerves getting displaced by determination. So instead of showing up at a dinner party with a tense smile and no target, give yourself a small mission to complete. Business writer Deborah L. Jacobs at Forbes suggested, "Set a couple of targets like: speak to three new people; or try to learn at least two new pieces of information or gossip." Having something to concentrate on will help you move across the room with more confidence and less jitters.
3. Use The People You Know
While clinging to someone's elbow is the opposite of a confident first impression, you can still be crafty and ask those that you know to introduce you around. Jacobs recommended, "If you know the event organizer and he or she is around during the event, ask for an introduction to key people who you ought to meet there." Introductions will be less awkward and you won't have to slink into a corner when shyness takes over.
4. Listen More Than You Speak
When you're nervous, you might have a tendency to ramble to avoid any awkward silences. Because of that, to show true confidence you need to listen more than you speak. Career writer Jeff Haden explained to career development site The Muse, "Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more, and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more." Ask open-ended or prompting questions that get your buddy to open up and tell stories — your attentive listening will speak volumes about you.
5. Act Like You're The Host
When you're the host of a party, you don't have time to be nervous or awkward because you're trying to make sure others are having a good time. So take on that roll and watch your wallflower tendencies melt away. Corcoran agreed, "act as if you are a host of the event yourself, greeting others warmly." By not worrying about making an impression but focusing on the enjoyment of others, you'll automatically take on a more open, warmer persona.
6. Focus On Where Your Hands Are
Body language is a sure-tell sign if someone's feeling confident or not, so even if you're a ball of nerves force your hands and arms into positions that show you've got this. Lifestyle writer Natalie Matthews from Elle suggested, "Since there's a biological impulse to clench your fists or close your hands when you're nervous, doing the opposite works in your favor." Another great idea is to uncross your arms, put your arms behind your back, or leave them opened or at your sides when sitting on a couch or chair.
7. Try To Avoid Body Touching
While twirling your hair might seem flirty, little body touches actually convey tension. Matthews explained, "Playing with your hair, picking at the thread on your jeans, rubbing your arm as you laugh: These are the little cues that say, 'I'm a little anxious.'" It's the equivalent of fidgeting, so try to stop yourself from reaching up and patting your hair or touching your neck.
8. Pump Up Other People
Rather than bringing attention to your accomplishments, take the floor to shine the spotlight on other people. If you're at a networking event, talk about how amazing your team is. Or if you're at a dinner party, point out one of your acquaintances and sing her praises or share one of her cooler accomplishments. Haden advised, "So stand back and celebrate your accomplishments through others...When you do, other people won’t think you’re shy or lacking in confidence. They’ll think you’re a lot more confident than you are, simply because you don’t need the praise." Handing out praise like candy shows you're secure in yourself and aren't afraid of losing center stage.
9. Zero In On Chatty People
If you want to avoid sitting on the couch alone, there's a science to zeroing in on those who are willing to talk. For one, always approach people that are already hovering alone. Jacobs offered, "These would be individuals standing alone who are waiting for someone to talk to, or groups of twos and threes that are open to new participants." Rather than going for the big groups, look for lone riders or small clusters — if you follow that rule of thumb you'll almost always be engaged and talking.
10. Force Yourself To Gesticulate
People that use their hands and motion around in an excited, lively manner always seem to be more confident than those that stand with their hands in their pockets. The reason for that is that hunched shoulders or tucked arms stand for "nerves" in body language. Corcoran pointed out, "people tend to be anxious when entering a room full of new people, and when that happens, we tend to shrink." So whether you're cool as a cucumber on the inside or are freaking out with jitters, force yourself to use hand gestures when you talk, ramping up the energy around you.
11. Don't Use Qualifiers
It can be tempting to use words like "maybe," "in my opinion," and "well, I don't know but" when speaking. It helps you save face in case you're wrong, but it also signals that you don't have confidence in your own opinions or knowledge. So cut those words out and use sure, declarative statements, instead. And if you're wrong? Haden pointed out, "if it turns out you were wrong, that’s great — because that gives you the chance to show you’re secure enough in yourself to admit when you don’t have all the answers." No one's infallible — it's not that big of a deal that you learned something new!
Keep these tips in your back pocket and you'll own the next room you walk into. Remember — socializing doesn't have to be stressful. You can learn to see it as fun!