I believe that everyone has the ability to improve their social skills and become more outgoing - you just have to tap into that outgoing part of yourself.
But as any introvert who’s tried to teach themselves how to be more outgoing can tell you - it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“Know thyself.” -Socrates
Socrates wasn’t playing around when he dropped this philosophical morsel on us.
He believed that the answer to all happiness and philosophical unrest was to look within where all knowledge already lives, waiting to be remembered.
I love this idea because it’s an equalizer.
We might have different starting points, but we can ALL improve and grow.
If you want to learn how to be more outgoing--you just need the mindsets and tactics to get there!
So let’s talk about how to be more outgoing as an introvert, step-by-step.
In this article you’ll learn:
Ready? Let’s dive in!
1. The Spotlight Effect - “I Bet You Think This Article Is About You”
“Don’t you, don’t yooouuuuuu?”
Sorry. I couldn’t resist.
But it’s true isn’t it? We’ve all been there.
You walk into a room and people are laughing and glancing your way.
Your throat starts to tighten and you flush.
You knew you shouldn’t have worn this shirt.
You wander towards the refreshments and resign yourself to another party leaning against the back wall.
“I bet people are wondering why I’m so $@#% quiet...”
But unlike the popular 1972 hit by Carly Simon suggests, I know that the tendency to assume people are talking about you isn’t vanity.
It’s human nature.
Specifically it’s a cognitive bias called the Spotlight Effect.
And even though the Spotlight Effect is a total jerk of a cognitive bias, it comes with good news.
People aren’t judging or noticing you.
And not only are they not judging you - they’re totally convinced that you are judging them!
How’s that for a plot twist?!
It’s almost as good as [SPOILER ALERT] Biff ruling the world with a sports almanac in Back to the Future II.
What Is The Spotlight Effect?
At its core, the Spotlight Effect makes us think we’re being observed more than we actually are.
It’s the feeling you get that the girls at the next table are talking about you, or that everyone is staring at you as you walk into a party.
Obviously, these things are possible, but they are so much less likely than you think.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the science.
In 2000, researcher Tom Gilovich and his colleagues performed a study on the spotlight effect.
They had college students wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt (the horror!) to a social event and then recorded the percentage of people who noticed it.
The Manilow-clad students estimated that 50% of people would notice their shirt. This sounds pretty reasonable.
But the reality? Only 25% of people noticed their super embarrassing tribute tee.
Now you may think, “Maybe it’s Barry’s fault.”
But the experiment was repeated with several controls of both flattering and potentially embarrassing t-shirts.
The results were all the same:
Very few people noticed what the subjects were wearing.
Because they were too worried about what they were wearing, who they knew at the party, if they had salsa breath, whether anyone noticed their new haircut, etc.
In short - they were too busy thinking about themselves to think about other people.
It all makes sense really - each of us is at the center of our own world.
Of course we’re the hero of our own story. We just have to remember that this is true for everyone we meet.
What Can We Learn From The Spotlight Effect?
Now if you’re being negative, you could see this as an indication of the selfishness and self-absorption of the human race.
But if you’re a positive thinker, you can see it for the incredible relief that it is.
No one is judging you, because they are too busy trying not to be judged!
That means when you experience a social slip up, it's not as big of a deal as your mind makes it out to be.
In a very real way you are hallucinating.
(Real talk: we ALL hallucinate from time to time. This is normal)
Knowing that everyone has at least a little bit of The Spotlight Effect is empowering.
It can help to normalize those "Oh crap, everyone is noticing me" feelings.
Action Step: Use The Spotlight Effect To Your Advantage
Now we come to the action item.
Remember - you have to do your homework to get gold stars.
Next time you walk into that backyard BBQ, and you feel like everyone is noticing the shirt you’re wearing, the weird haircut you thought was a good idea yesterday, how you walk, or literally anything else about you…
Remember that it’s the Spotlight Effect trying to distort your reality.
Just take a deep breath and say “Everyone feels like this. They’re worried about if I’ll notice their haircut.”
2. How To Be More Outgoing - Systematically
You know those people who seem completely naturally outgoing? I’m going to tell you a secret.
They are naturally outgoing.
I know, I know - but before you shoot me that “WTF?!?” look, let me tell you the rest.
You are naturally outgoing too.
Remember Socrates? All knowledge in the universe is within.
The only difference between you and those people is practice.
They just started perfecting their skills much earlier in life when you were focused on reading, coding, working, science projects, playing Fallout, or building to-scale models of baseball stadiums and turning them into playable strategy game
(No? Just me?)
The good news is, just like with any other skill, you can develop a system, and with patience and practice you will see results.
My favorite system for building in-the-moment blueprints for new behaviors is the If/When/Then system.
I explain more in this video:
What is If/When/Then?
If/When/Then will be familiar to those of you in the coding world.
It’s a logic model that can help a script determine what to do after it receives input. I first learned about it from the book Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini.
But that may be too general. Let’s get more specific:
Do you see how you could use this in almost any social situation?
You can rewrite your programming easily with the right code.
Using these If/When/Then systems help you do your thinking before the event, so you can be more outgoing during the event.
It’s a simple prep device that makes you feel much more prepared and in control.
And when you feel more in control you come off as confident, which is always appealing to other people.
Action Step: How To Use If/When/Then
Before your next social event, take 5 minutes and think of 1-2 If/When/Then systems you can prep so that you can be ready!
Write them down, practice in the mirror - whatever you’re comfortable with.
As you practice, the model will become just another social skills “muscle” you can flex - you’ll think about it less every time you utilize it until it’s a habit.
3. People Like Approachable People
Studies suggest that we have as little as 1/10th of a second before someone makes up their mind about us (gulp!).
It’s a leftover of evolution - survival instincts from a time when sizing someone up quickly could mean life or death.
After that, they punch their ticket to confirmation bias town, population: them.
Unfortunately, that imprint runs deep and it takes about seven meetings to change an initial impression.
That’s why it’s so important to work on those subtle and non-verbal cues that make you “approachable.”
When we're meeting someone for the first time, the other person is trying to “thin-slice" a lot of information about you in a short amount of time:
What we need to realize is that initial first impression can be “nudged.” If we want to appear more outgoing, we need to do a couple of things.
How To Be More Outgoing and Likable using Subconscious Signals
Your first impression starts before you open your mouth.
People take in your posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and the way you dress in milliseconds.
Luckily there are some ways to game the system.
Action Step: Adopt the “slight smile”
The slight smile is a faint curving of the lips upward with the mouth closed accompanied by an eye squint.
This signals to people that you are kind, safe, and approachable.
In fact, the slight smile has been shown to make you up to TEN TIMES more approachable.
Just from moving the corners of your mouth up! (Check out this video for more detailed info and visual examples of the slight smile.)
This makes conversations much easier to start and people much more open to you.
For more on the slight smile, check out this video where I used AI to create fake smiles:
Action Step: Avoid collapsed and closed off body language
Crossed arms, staring at your phone, hunching, resting sad face… your mother was right about all of it!
All of these signals tell other people you’re not interested in being social - which we know is not true if you’re still reading this article.
So open up!
It can feel weird and scary or like you’re calling attention to yourself but stand up straight, make eye contact, DON’T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE, and use the slight smile to seem more approachable.
And seriously. Get off your phone.
Would you talk to someone who was engrossed in the blue light, looking very important and bored with their surroundings?
No! That’s freaking intimidating!
You want to talk to that guy by the punch who’s smiling at you.
Be the guy by the punch!
4. Be a Curious George!
One of the best ways to be more outgoing is to be curious about others.
People LOVE talking about themselves - so let them!
(This is a great way to keep a conversation going, without draining your social battery too much.)
It can be tempting to fall into the comfort of talking about what you know, but think about the last time you got trapped talking to that guy who loves his new Peleton (sorry, guy).
You were bored silly and it’s because he didn’t once think to ask you about yourself.
This does two things for us:
Action Step: How To Be More Outgoing and Talkative - Without Talking
The best way to use the Curious George Principle is to set a goal.
Try to learn one new thing about one person every day.
You can write that new thing you learned down or trust in your memory.
But either way, try to work that into the conversation next time you talk to them.
Did you learn that Maria at work is obsessed with astrology?
Do 3 minutes of research and then ask her how she’s feeling with Venus in retrograde this month. (Just buckle up for that response.)
And as the conversation continues, pay attention and keep asking questions or making statements (more on statements in tip #6).
You’ll be amazed how far you get - and how friendly they’ll be the next time you’re in the elevator together!
5. Create a “Quick Summary” for Common Questions
If you’ve ever survived a family Thanksgiving with your distant aunts and uncles, you know all about small talk.
Usually, it takes place in the form of the same few questions.
At work gatherings and parties, the questions are slightly different but just as predictable.
No matter which social scenario you’re facing: Have. Something. Prepared.
Let’s run through some good/bad examples:
Q: What did you do this weekend?
Can you spot what makes these responses good/bad? I’ll give you a hint:
The good responses actually give the other person in the conversation something to grab on to.
The more “conversational hooks” we can give for people to grab on to, the more outgoing we’ll seem, and the better conversations we’ll have.
Action Step: Have A Few Good Stories Ready
We all know that one guy.
That guy who starts talking and you immediately blank out because you DO NOT CARE if this story took place in February of last year “...or was it 2017?
Hmmmm. Well it was the same year I got my dog so it had to be…”
God. It burns!!!
This is why we craft our stories beforehand - because we need them to not suck. Especially if you’re trying to build confidence in your storytelling and social abilities.
To make sure your story doesn’t suck, just get to the point. Leave out mundane details that make listeners wish they were actually asleep as opposed to existing in this waking nightmare.
How to Craft a Great Story That Doesn’t Suck:
Here’s one of my favorite stories to tell as an example:
My wife and I were on vacation in Iceland and we decided to drive and see a famous waterfall called "Gullfoss".
Before we left, I checked all the gauges in the car (big believer in safety, me) and I saw that the rental place left us with 3/4 of a tank of gas.
No big deal, I thought. Plenty to get us there and back.
During the drive, we were completely blown away - the landscape was incredible. It was like being in a movie. The emptiness was immense and awe-inspiring.
As we're driving, I look down and realize that the gas gauge goes from right to left - this makes sense as we are in a foreign country. Then the implications dawn on me - we have 1/4 of a tank, not 3/4.
We'd been driving for a while, and there aren’t exactly gas stations every few miles in the Icelandic wilderness.
We pull over and call the rental place in a panic. I’m frantically spelling Icelandic roads nearby to see if there’s a gas station anywhere close.
“Sure!” they tell us. “It’s only a half-hour away.” It is not on my map.
Our fuel light is already on and we’re miles away, driving through freaking Iceland on fumes.
After 30 minutes of white-knuckled, electric silence, we roll into the gas station, and the car stops.
We just made it.
Then, I stress-ate a gas station hot-dog. (Iceland is apparently famous for gas station hot dogs. 10/10 would recommend.)
Notice that any details I gave were only to paint a picture.
I didn’t tell you how many miles we drove, what type of car I was driving, or what color my wife’s shirt was (blue actually- she looked great).
Keep it to the point and relevant and for Loki’s sake keep it under five minutes.
People’s attention spans are short.
Think of 3 stories you could develop and keep in a "story vault".
Write out each story, as I did with my Iceland gas story.
Use this Google Doc template I created for you. Just go to File > Make a Copy to edit your own version!
Gauge the reactions you're getting from your stories.
When you have those polished stories, it makes it easy for the other person to process, listen and respond.
6. You Have to Dig a Little Deeper
I get a lot of questions from my readers asking: "Small talk is great, but how do I go deeper than small talk?"
That’s great! Seriously, I am so proud of you.
This is where real connections are made.
If you’re already making small talk (which is very important) and you want to go deeper, “Dig Questions” are a great way to do that.
What Are Dig Questions?
Remember when I told you waaaaay back in #4 to ask questions and get people talking about themselves?
Dig questions are responses to a person’s answers that you can use to dig deeper into who that person is.
Examples of Dig Questions:
Important note: It’s crucial to balance asking questions with statements because the last thing you want the other person to feel is, “Why the hell is this person interrogating me?!”
The QVC Framework
A good formula is: for every question you ask, make sure to validate and connect with them by using the QVC framework.
(Yes, just like the home shopping channel.) In other words:
You don’t always have to ask a question (I know, I know, but “Dig Questions” is catchier than “Dig Statements” okay?). Instead, you could jump straight to validate and connect.
Here’s an example of QVC in action:
Someone tells you about moving across the country to San Francisco after taking a new job offer.
Just make sure that you use either Question or Connect - there’s really no need to use both at the same time. (This will help you avoid the interrogation trap.)
On the other hand, use Validate as much as you want.
People love to feel heard. Seriously, it’s borderline impossible to overuse this one.
7. Jump off the “Overthinking Merry-Go-Round”
Many of my readers are on the Overthinking Merry-Go-Round. You know the one.
You arrive at a party, you “do a lap,” and you don’t really talk to anyone.
Note: When this happens, refer to Number 1 - No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about them.
“I can’t say that!” “I can’t think of anything to say!”
This leads to more hesitation and the vicious cycle starts again!
Practice being outgoing by being socially bold.
Before the next situation where you’d like to be outgoing, look at yourself in the mirror and say:
“Hi! I’m [insert name here], nice to meet you!”
Do it until you feel comfortable saying the words.
Then when you approach someone at a party with your introduction, they will invariably introduce themselves because it is the polite thing to do and they don’t want you to judge them.
Then you ask them a very easy small talk question like “What do you do?”
Keep the Conversation Going With a Tip From an FBI Hostage Negotiator
Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI has a method for keeping people talking that is so subtle, he didn't even realize it was being used on him during an employee review.
All you have to do is repeat 2-4 words the person said with an upward question-like intonation.
“Oh, you like to read?”
This subtly prompts the other person to expand on their original statement.
And all you did was mirror them! It’s an excellent tactic when you’re having a hard time.
8. Expect Good Things to Happen: Imagine the Best-Case Scenario!
Have you ever heard of Pronoia?
Most people haven’t - but it’s one of my favorite concepts to recommend to my private coaching clients who want to learn how to be more outgoing and likable.
To wrap it up in a nutshell, it’s the idea that the world is conspiring for your good.
Most people operate under what’s known as the “negativity bias” when it comes to social situations - the assumption that the worst possible outcomes will be what come to pass.
But when you’re meeting new people, you should absolutely assume the opposite - assume that you’re going to make a fantastic new friend today, that people will laugh at your jokes, that they’ll go home saying “Oh man, I have to tell you about this guy I met!”
It can sound a little hippy-dippy, but it’s been proven over and over, scientifically and anecdotally, that positive thinking changes your brain.
When you assume the best, you are confident, poised, can laugh off your mistakes - and people are so drawn to that.
Opportunities are offered to you without the people offering them even knowing why.
Action Step: Write, Think, Be Positive
To put this into practice, tell yourself what the best-case scenario looks like. Write it down, repeat it as a mantra, and as you go into your next social situation, really visualize that outcome.
You’ll be shocked at how much it helps calm and center you.
Keeping a gratitude journal is the perfect way to train your brain to see the positive instead of the negative.
9. You Choose Who You Want To Be
And if you don’t like something about yourself - freakin’ change it.
That doesn’t make you a phony. It makes you someone who is improving and growing.
I often hear from my clients, “But, Jeff...I don’t want to be fake!”
Excellent. I definitely don’t want that either!
Adapting to your social situation doesn’t make you a fake. Think about it this way:
Do you act differently with your family than you do your coworkers? Of course you do!
Do you speak differently in a presentation than you do in a bar? I certainly hope so!
Does that make any of those actions, words, or ways of being inauthentic?
You are always yourself. You’re just adapting to the environment around you and being considerate of other people’s needs and expectations.
When it comes to meeting new people, present whatever facet of yourself you want!
I would never tell you to hide something that you love or pretend to be something that you’re not.
I just want to give you the tools to express yourself as well as possible so other people can see how fantastic you are.
Action Step: Who Am I?
Write down a few situations where you recently met new people.
A first date, a new client meeting, going to a wedding, etc. Then answer these questions:
10. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Practice so that you can perform.
There is no magic substitute for hard work.
When you’re learning how to be more outgoing, the best way to achieve your goals is to practice.
Do your action steps.
No amount of reading will magically make you more outgoing.
Pushing to the edge of your comfort zone will help you grow and become more outgoing over time.
You may need to put being social on your calendar every week.
It’s important to put yourself in social situations regularly where you can practice and improve.
After practicing for a while, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come!
Summary: How to be more outgoing exercises:
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