How to Be Social at a Party when You Don't Know Anyone There

Three Methods:Assessing the PartyStarting ConversationsDealing With Large Parties

Going to parties when you don’t know anyone can be a challenge. Start by taking stock of the nature of the party. Start conversations one at a time, whether with an individual person or in a larger group. Remember that attentive listening to others is an important factor of social success.

Method 1
Assessing the Party

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    Calm your anxiety before going into the party. If you're nervous about entering a party when you don't know anyone there, it's a good idea to calm yourself before trying to meet anyone. Take a deep breath, breathing all the way down to your belly, and breathing out slowly through your nose. Repeat this slow, deep breathing several times. Make sure your feet are placed firmly against the floor, so that you’re well-grounded.[1]
    • Bring to mind a positive visualization. For example, imagine yourself looking sleek and sexy on the dance floor, or someone attractive laughing at your sense of humor.
    • Realize that no one’s paying attention to you, so there’s no need to feel self-conscious. After all, most people attending parties are also nervous.
    • Repeat this process anytime you start to feel nervous at the party.
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    Smile at other guests to appear more confident. You may be feeling terrified, but if you smile you’re more likely to look confident. Even if you don't know anyone else at the party, you can increase your social abilities through smiling. In addition, if you're feeling nervous, smiling can help to improve your mood, and reduce stress.[2]
    • People often respond to a smiling person with a smile of their own, which will make you feel even better.
    • Even a slight smile will be enough to help your facial muscles relax, and your appearance seem less threatening to other party guests.
    • When you look confident, you’ll start to feel confident.
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    Think about the purpose of the party. What kind of party is it? Social interactions will vary depending on the reason you’re gathered together. If you’re attending a frat party, you’ll need different social skills than you might at a Christmas carol party held by your mom’s church choir.[3]
    • Remember that other people may not know one another either.
    • Considering the nature of the party, try to gauge how likely it is that many people may be making their first introductions.
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    Learn your way around the party. It will help you feel at ease to figure out the physical layout of the party, if it’s unfamiliar to you. Figure out where the bathroom is, where the food is, where the drinks are, as a way to get comfortable at the party.
    • Making your way around the party will also help you take stock of how many people are there, and what kind of party it is.
    • There might be different activities going on in different parts of the space. If this is the case, you can start with the area in which you feel most at ease.
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    Look at the other party guests. Are people seated at tables in small groups? Or are there lots of people walking about? You can model your physical behavior on what others are doing. [4]
    • For example, if people are dancing, notice if they’re dancing alone or if they’re paired up.
    • Try to position yourself in a part of the room where you’re likely to be most comfortable.
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    Think about what you’re likely to have in common. If you focus on what you have in common, you’re likely to start to feel more confident. One of the reasons that strangers often talk about the weather is that it’s one thing we all have in common. This isn’t a bad place to start, but try to think of other options. For example, you might notice that someone’s wearing a tee-shirt of your favorite band, which makes for a good conversation starter.[5]
    • If you’re feeling self-conscious, finding similarities with others can help you calm down.
    • Even in a new city or a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll be able to find similarities if you’re focused on finding them.
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    Offer to help the host. This can be a good way to get adjusted to the party, especially if you have a social connection to the host. Asking what you can do to help with the food or drinks is often appreciated, and gives you a good way to circulate through the party as well.[6]
    • Even if the host doesn’t need your help, she may pick up on your unspoken apprehension and provide something for you to do, or someone to introduce you to.
    • If you’ve brought some food or a bottle of wine with you to the party, this provides an instant project for your arrival. Upon arrival, you can ask where would be the best place to put it, or where the host would like you to put it.
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    Find the buffet table. Food makes a great topic of conversation between people who don’t know each other. Find someone who looks friendly at the buffet table, and make a pleasant remark about the food. For example, you might say something about how much you like one of the items or how glad you are to see that they’ve included vegetarian options.[7]
    • Asking a question about the food is another good conversation starter. You might say, “Everything looks so good. Which kind do you think you’re going to pick?”
    • You can follow up by introducing yourself or making follow-up statements. If the other person doesn’t reciprocate, it’s quite easy to move along.

Method 2
Starting Conversations

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    Introduce yourself to other guests. Say your name, and if it’s an unusual name you might add spelling or a rhyme that the person can use to help remember your name.[8]
    • If appropriate, add a detail about the reason you’re at the party. For example, “I’m Pam’s daughter,” if the people at the party are friends of your mother, or “I’m an anthropology major,” if this is a college department party.
    • You can follow up by asking the other person to say his own name, but most of the time people respond by introducing themselves without being asked.
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    Pay a compliment to start a conversation. People always like to hear nice things said about themselves. To have a great conversation with someone you’ve just met, say something nice about something the person is wearing. At most parties, other guests will have taken care with their appearance and will appreciate the attention.[9]
    • You can also use a compliment to start a conversation by pairing it with a question. For example, you might say, “That’s a really cool scarf. Where did you get it?”
    • Avoid compliments about the person’s appearance, as this might make her uncomfortable.
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    Allow yourself to be vulnerable. If you don’t know anyone at the party, it’s okay to say so. This is easily done as you introduce yourself. For example, “Hi, I’m Mike. I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t know anyone here and you seemed nice.”[10]
    • If the person is an extrovert, they may be happy to chat with you and introduce you to others in the group.
    • Chances are, others may be in a similar situation. If you’re both newcomers to the group, you can laugh and talk about the challenges of being in this situation.
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    Avoid bringing up conversation killers. There are certain topics that are likely to be met with awkward silence. If you don’t already know the political orientation of the party-goers, for example, never bring up the topic of politics or you might find yourself unintentionally offending others.[11]
    • Don’t bring up overly personal details, whether of money, sex, illness or intimacy. Save these topics for people you know well.
    • Making judgmental comments isn’t likely to be appreciated. For example, “You’d think she would know better than to wear that color with her complexion,” may not be appreciated.
    • Never ask a woman if she’s pregnant. If she’s gained weight, she may feel embarrassed.
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    Make sure your body language is friendly. Make brief eye contact with other people. A slight smile will help others know that you’re open to conversation. [12]
    • When someone speaks to you, look at them attentively at least 70% of the time.
    • Angle the front of your body towards the person who’s talking, which will help the person know you’re listening.
    • You don’t want to maintain eye contact for too long, as this might seem aggressive or overly flirtatious. Instead, limit the eye contact for 4-5 seconds, before looking away, then looking again.
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    Tell a funny story to put others at ease. If you don’t know anyone at the party, no one will have heard you tell your favorite funny anecdotes. Think about sharing a funny thing that happened to you. This will make you seem more relatable and friendly.[13]
    • Be careful not to tell a story that may offend others. After all, humor is sometimes different across different groups of people.
    • If you have a good story, it can fill in a conversational lull. Or you can connect your story to someone else’s statement, saying, “That reminds me of something that happened to me one time…”
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    Be prepared to make small talk. Making small talk is a way of sharing general information with another person as a means to learn what you might have in common. For example, asking about favorite movies is often a good way to find mutual interests. Something as simple as asking about the recent blockbuster can lead into multiple conversational paths.
    • Making small talk might lead to deeper conversations, or it might not. Small talk is often less about the information shared than the good feelings that it provides.
    • You’ll want to stick to non-intimate, non-controversial topics to keep your conversation on a light note.
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    Talk about the party or setting. One of the things you’ll have in common with everyone else at the party is that you’re both there. Perhaps you all had to battle traffic to get to the party. Use this as a means to get to know other people, whether through questions, comments, or observations.[14]
    • Be unfailingly complimentary in your comments. This would be the wrong time to complain about the lack of your favorite drink, or how you’ve always hated evening gatherings.
    • You could ask other people how they know the hostess, or if this is their first time among the group also.
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    Be an active listener. When you're nervous about not knowing anyone at a party, it might be difficult to concentrate on the conversations that come up. It will help your focus to repeat parts of what another person has said to assure them you've heard what was said. Use nonverbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning towards the person, to let the other guest know that you're actively listening to what she has to say.[15]
    • Try to avoid talking over the other person while she’s talking, even if she’s talking about a topic you’re interested in.
    • Ask plenty of open-ended questions about topics the other guest has brought up in order to keep the conversation going.
    • Be sensitive to the emotions that the conversation is bringing up in the person. Generally, party conversations tend to be fun and light. If you find your conversation getting too intense or emotional, it's okay to back off a little.
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    End the conversation gracefully. Conversations at parties start and end rapidly, and if you’re talking with someone you’ve just met, it’s a good idea not to keep the conversation going on too long.[16]
    • Have an excuse prepared for needing to leave. This is a time when it’s okay not to tell the truth.
    • You can always say, “I have to get up early tomorrow,” or even just, “Please, excuse me. I need to find the ladies’.”
    • You can say, “It was nice to meet you,” or “Great talking to you!” Some people like to shake hands, but at some parties this might be too formal.
    • If you like, you can include an excuse for breaking off the conversation. For example, you can say, “I don’t want to dominate your evening,” or “I should probably let you talk to other people here.”

Method 3
Dealing With Large Parties

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    Realize that you need to be more assertive. You’ll need to speak with a louder voice if you want to be heard. You’ll need to let others know that you’d like to talk by physically moving closer to them than you might at a quieter party.[17]
    • Large parties are often more chaotic, with people interrupting one another, or talking quickly to make sure they get their point across.
    • One way to effectively join in a group conversation is to repeat the last phrase that another person said, and join it with your own thoughts. For example, if someone’s just shared a story about being in Paris in April, you might echo, “Yes, Paris in April is beautiful, and for my college graduation, I was able to go to Rome, which I thought was wonderfully diverse.”
    • Topics often change very quickly in a group conversation, so don’t worry too much about being exactly on topic. Being friendly is the main consideration.
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    Get into a party state of mind. If you’re the kind of person who’d rather be at home with a book, you might have a hard time adapting to being in a large group of people. Each person has her own way of getting energized for a party. You might listen to the music, and try to get into the rhythm of it. Or, you can think of party scenes from some of your favorite movies, and imagine yourself in the role of the heroine.[18]
    • Even if you’re not totally at ease about being at the party, trying act as if you’re comfortable can help speed the process. (This is sometimes called, “Fake it until you make it!”)
    • If you find yourself getting drained, make an excuse to get away for a short time. Taking a break by yourself can be a way for an introvert to recharge her batteries and return to the party refreshed.
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    Accept that you’re unlikely to have a quiet conversation. If you really appreciate the kind of focused conversation that can happen between two people who know each other well, you’ll have to adjust to the fact that this isn’t likely to happen at the large party. Rather than becoming grumpy about what’s not going to happen, it’s a better idea to rescale your expectations.[19]
    • Conversations in groups tend to be very broad, about a wide range of rapidly shifting topics. The goal of party conversations tends to be less on exchange of information and ideas, than on sharing a common good feeling.
    • Good conversational choices for talking in groups include: short funny anecdotes, joking around, wordplay.
    • Topics to avoid include: detailed analysis of a topic, anything that might unintentionally offend others, including political discussion, or discussions of religious faith and practice.
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    Start a side conversation. In a large group of people, you can sometimes find conversation easier by addressing one person, rather than the whole group. Little side conversations often break off of larger group conversations, either related to the topic the larger group is discussing or completely unrelated.[20]
    • It’s okay to talk while others are talking when you’re in a large group; it’s not rude to have a side conversation.
    • Sometimes the conversation might end abruptly if the group conversation shifts to something more interesting. It’s okay to move back and forth between the small side conversation and the larger group conversation.
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    Notice if you can help someone else. If you’re attentive, you may notice that there’s another person who can’t make his way into the conversational flow. See if you can signal your willingness to help him by making eye contact with him, nodding or smiling.[21]
    • Sometimes you can help support another person who’s trying to make a point. For example, by asking a clarifying question about the subject he’s brought up or restating what he’s said in a new way.
    • If you’re good at talking in groups, make sure that you’re not taking up too much of everyone’s attention. One way to do this is to use your skills to help others join in the discussion.

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Categories: Social Gatherings