4 Ways To Open Up In A Difficult Social Situation…

4 Ways To Open Up In A Difficult Social Situation


When it comes to social situations, I believe that people largely fall into two categories: social butterflies or social caterpillars. Butterflies (aka extroverts) are seemingly at ease in almost every social situation. Whereas caterpillars (aka introverts) have a far tougher time navigating their social lives and seem to be faced with an endless array of awkward situations. Uncomfortable silences, stilted conversations and just plain difficult-to-talk-to people.  For those that struggle with social anxiety (me included), mastering the fine art of conversation can oftentimes seem insurmountable.

Yet it’s so important to remember that initiating an engaging conversation with a stranger is simply a skill. The more you practice, the easier it gets. The trick is in learning to take the pressure off. Upon meeting any new person for the first time, there can be an unspoken need to impress that person. Yet it is this self-inflicted pressure that can lead to social suicide. People waste so much time trying to think of astute observations or interesting topics that they miss out on what the whole social scene is really about. Connection. On first impression, what you say tends to have far less impact than how you say it. People respond to each other through the tiniest social cues such as your energy or body language.

That being said, it’s also important to embrace the scout motto and be prepared in these types of situations, especially if they trigger any lingering shyness or anxiety. The following know-hows can help immensely in opening up and making the most out of the trickiest social situations.

SEE ALSO: 5 Mantras That Will Change Your Life

1) Know Who To Talk To

Here’s the most important thing to know when it comes to socializing. Not everyone wants to talk to you. Whether you are attending a party, networking event or weekend retreat, some people simply have their own agenda. Some only want to talk to their friends; some only want to meet a certain person; and some attend because of an obligation. Whatever the agenda, avoid these people. You’ll only struggle to get them to engage in conversation, and from first-hand experience, one of the social side-effects of chatting to a reluctant conversationalist is a sudden, plummeting loss of confidence. So, who to talk to? Look around the room. See who appears to be open and engaging. Those who are clustered into a tight clique or checking their phones should be left alone. Instead, approach those who have open body language. They’ll be the most receptive to initiating a conversation, which will in turn booster your confidence.

2) Know What To Talk About

Awkward silence is the silent killer of conversation. Your mind goes blank, you start to panic, maybe even contemplate running away. Yet these awkward moments can easily be avoided by doing some prep work beforehand. It’s important to think of some open-ended conversation starters rather than asking a series of yes or no questions, which ends up feeling like an interrogation. If you attend an event which has a spiritual element to it, such as meditation, instead of asking whether they’ve attended before, ask if they meditate regularly. If so, how has that experience been for them, what have they learned? In asking a few simple open-ended questions you leave space for the conversation to take its course and lead you both onto common ground.

3) Know That Every Experience Is A Lesson

It is an unfortunate fact of life that we won’t click with everyone we meet. If you get off to a roaring start with someone and feel like you’ve known them forever, great. Embrace it and hopefully a lasting friendship will emanate. Then there are times when you quickly realize that you have nothing in common with someone. Or, they are simply unfriendly or argumentative. Whatever the situation, it is of paramount importance to remember that their reaction or behavior it is not about you. A difficult person’s point of view is something that is personal to them. Not you. If a conversation starts to take a turn in the wrong direction take control of the situation by extricating yourself. Whatever the experience, instead of taking it personally, reframe it as a lesson. What did you learn from it? Every experience, positive or negative, teaches us something about ourselves.

4) Know When To Make Your Exit

Whatever the social situation, being aware of two things can help immensely. Firstly, there is usually a time limit to how long you should talk to someone you’ve just met. Secondly, there is no obligation whatsoever to keep talking to them for the remainder of the night. Awkward moments tend to arise when you tire of talking to the same person, the conversation starts to lose steam or you’ve realized you are skating on thin common ground. There is nothing wrong with ending a conversation once you start to get a sense of any of these situations arising.

In general, talking to a complete stranger will naturally get strained after a while. Instead of waiting for the awkward silence to sneak its way in and kill the conversation, take control and use an exit strategy. Simply excusing yourself by telling them it was nice to meet them but you’ve got to [get another drink] [use the bathroom] or [insert excuse] is an excellent way to end the conversation on a high note instead of an awkward note.


Ultimately putting ourselves out there socially is an act of vulnerability. There will be times when we regret the things we say or regret not saying the things we wanted to. Above all, the most important thing is to be kind to ourselves and to recognize that it is far harder to put yourself out there than it is to never have even tried.

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Victoria Cox

Victoria Cox currently resides in NYC. She has written for Amanda de Cadenet's "The Conversation", Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal, LifeHack,…

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