Do you have an important party or work event looming on your social horizon?
Is the networking opportunity of the year fast approaching? If you’re a little shy, these occasions always make you wish you were simply more outgoing. While it’s never essential to be the life of the party and keep everyone entertained single-handedly, wouldn’t it be great to feel sure that you can hold your own and come across as charming and confident? It CAN be done, and here’s how:
Make a plan
First of all, have it clear in your mind what you hope to achieve during the course of the evening: are you going to try and keep the whole dinner party spellbound with a complicated, witty story that demands that you change voices and pull faces to do it justice?
Or are you going to take it upon yourself to lead off the dancing when everyone is standing around awkwardly waiting for someone else to make the first flamboyant move onto the dance floor? If you’re a bit on the shy side, it’s more advisable to leave such grand gestures to the real extroverts. Set your sights a little lower, and be satisfied with creating a confident persona, rather than being the star attraction.
Map out some parameters well beforehand so that you are sure about what you want to do with the evening. If it’s a party, why not try and meet three new people? If you’ve been invited to that golden networking opportunity, set yourself a personal goal of being introduced to two highly influential people, and, say, three less intimidating guests you find more approachable.
It’s also a wise idea to set yourself a limit on how much you’re going to drink: let’s face it, anyone can pretend to be an extrovert with four Cosmopolitans under their belt, but slurred speech and crooked lipstick is never a good look. Sure, if it’ll help, allow yourself one cocktail before you start to mingle, but then force yourself to move off the starting blocks and out into the social race.
What to wear
What do extroverts wear? If you’re trying to come across as more confident than you really are, look around you at the real extroverts. You’ll find that 99% of the time, they use color with more panache than more introverted personalities do. Put your extrovert outfit together in advance, adding as much color as you feel you can comfortably carry off. You might find that a new suit in a vivid color makes you feel energetic and outgoing.
Or something as small as trying a brighter silk tie might do the trick, and liven up the top-to-toe monochromatic tones of a conservative business suit. There are many ways to add color to your look without becoming overwhelmed. Experiment with contrasting scarves, colored earrings, and even new, brighter hair color. Colorful people attract more attention and are far more likely to be perceived as extroverts.
What to say
How do extroverts speak? Take the time to study the social behavior of the extroverts you work with. You’re likely to see that they maintain eye contact when they are engaging someone in conversation, they smile and laugh a lot, and are not afraid to offer their opinion. You can start to emulate this behavior little by little – try increasing the amount of eye contact you make with your colleagues, and consciously begin to incorporate the act of smiling into your daily social intercourse. People will respond in kind, and start to see you as more open and approachable.
There’s no shame in having some conversation starters prepared for plugging those social gaps. Have half a dozen lines rehearsed and ready to go for the next time you’re faced with making conversation with a stranger. And make sure that these lines take the form of open-ended questions, so that the conversation will flow rather than stop abruptly.
For example, if you get to work Monday morning and say to a colleague, “How was your weekend?”, they’re pretty likely to say “Fine, thanks” and walk away. But try “So, what did you get up to on the weekend?” and they’re more likely to start a conversation about the details of their activities, offering you many more opportunities to ask questions and engage them in the details of their life. This approach is also foolproof for parties and work functions.
How to act
Extroverts are dynamic. They don’t wait to be told the latest news; they ask. They don’t wait politely to be introduced to someone who can help their career; they introduce themselves. The result is that they create a strong, confident impression and are often rewarded by getting just what they want.
It’s not as difficult as it looks to start behaving this confidently. The secret is to take the first tiny step and to keep moving forward. Wear a red jacket to work for the first time. Introduce yourself to someone who’s not so scary to start with, and then congratulate yourself for having the confidence to take the social initiative. With regular progress of this nature, you may well find that in only a couple of weeks you’re feeling more in control of your life and presenting a much more confident face to the world.
By the time the next daunting cocktail party or networking opportunity arrives, you will have learned the behavioral patterns of the outgoing and confident people you have always secretly admired. You will be able to fake being an extrovert any time you need to!