Be the Most Popular Guy at the Party

I am the first to admit that I am not naturally great at parties. Even before Covid hit and our collective social interaction muscles atrophied, I have been an introvert who feels most comfortable walking into an intimate dinner of friends. Put me in a social gathering where I’ll know less than half of the attendees, and some social anxiety can occur.

But! I’ve learned that mastering the art of being a great party guest isn’t just for extroverts. It’s also not about inauthentic small talk, or even battling your shyness into submission. Instead, improving your social skills is all about leaning into genuine engagement and acting with empathy.

If you could benefit from a tweak to your social settings before your next party, keep reading.

Below, your 4-step roadmap for how to be more social, helping you become a party’s unforgettable MVP:

can't hardly wait party scene, how to be more socialcan't hardly wait party scene, how to be more social
Can’t Hardly Wait, 1998 c/o Columbia Pictures

1. Nail the Arrival

Dress to impress… yourself. Feeling comfortable and stylish in your own skin is the ultimate confidence booster.

Whether that means jeans and a cool coat, or a blazer and tie. As long as you’re following the dress code (if there is one), you’ll look your best when you feel your best.

Bring a thoughtful conversation starter. A bottle of wine you’ve had before, an easy-to-learn card game, or even just a story about a funny exchange with the parking attendant down the block can spark engaging interactions right when you walk in the door.

2. Be the Connector

Introduce people to one another! This is a social superpower not enough people put into action. Connect two people by saying, “Oh, you both are from the Midwest!” or “You two work in education; have you met yet?”

And if you see someone you don’t know but is standing alone? Invite them into your conversation circle and fill them in on what the last person was just saying.

Actively listen. Pay attention in conversations and show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Interested people are interesting people!

It never feels good to talk to someone and they’re looking over your shoulder the whole time. Sure, maybe they’re nervous and simply looking for a friend they know, but it feels like they’re plotting an escape route. Be the person locked in on the conversation you’re actually having, not scanning the room for your next one.

Be the “Yes, and…” guy. In conversations, build on what others say, adding your own thoughts and experiences without hijacking the spotlight.

Something I think about before responding to someone is, Is what I’m about to add about me, or about them? and if it’s the former, I make a conscious choice to pivot to the latter.

For example: If they say, “I just went to a dude ranch in Montana,” don’t say, “I took riding lessons as a kid!” Instead, ask a follow-up. “Oh wow, that’s amazing. Have you ridden horses before?” You’ll get to your experience organically, I promise. Just don’t shoehorn it in too early.

If that makes you feel frustrated, like you have to thought police your own mind, well, welcome to being a self-aware, socially adept person in 2024.

3. Master the Art of Social Judo

Become the “hype man” for those you’re talking to. Celebrate their achievements, share their jokes (attributing them, of course), and genuinely be that person’s biggest fan in the room. They’ll leave the interaction — and the evening — thinking, Man, I loved that guy.

Be the “interruption slayer.” In a group, when someone is mid-sentence and gets interrupted, politely interject with a “You were saying?” and turn the focus back to the original speaker. It also helps to physically turn towards the original speaker to help redirect attention back to them.

It’s so appreciated, especially for introverts who can be steamrolled in conversation by louder, less self-aware members of a group. They’ll be forever grateful, and you’ll look like a hero to those around you who didn’t think to be the “You were saying?” guy first.

Diffuse awkward moments with humor. Whoops, did someone start talking immigration policy? In an election year? With your friend’s co-worker whose political affiliation is unclear? A light-hearted joke (“Well, I doubt we’ll solve the issue tonight! Can I get anyone a drink?”) can break the tension and get everyone back to enjoying the conversation.

4. Remember that it’s not about you

Bottom line? The goal isn’t to be the center of attention, but to create a space where those around you feel comfortable and included. Be present, be kind, and be the guy who makes everyone around him feel like they’re interesting, fun, and funny.

Bonus tip if you’re single and ready to mingle: Ditch the pick-up lines. There are a lot of dating coaches out there who make this part more complicated than it needs to be. Try, “Hi, I’m ____. What’s your name?” works almost 100% of the time.

From there, get the ball rolling with genuine conversation by asking them who they know at the party, and how long they’ve been friends. Your good listening skills and sparking personality will help you far more than a cheesy one-liner.

The tl;dr? Being fun at parties is about genuine connection, thoughtful interactions, and making the night memorable for everyone, not just yourself.

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