Glass shards fly everywhere. The crowd cheers.
My wife signed up for a local kickball team, and they were having a meet-and-greet at a local dive bar.
People are throwing (and missing) bottles into a trash can 25 feet away from them. It’s some kind of contest. Apparently they do this every Thursday.
There were all these people that seemed to know each other, they were laughing and joking around.
I was sitting there, and my shirt felt uncomfortable. Why did I wear these shoes? I wanted to leave.
“What the hell was wrong with me?” I thought.
At one point or another, we’ve all felt like this.
We want to connect with groups of people, make new friends, or meet new people, but sometimes we get in our own way.
Here are the most effective ways to effortlessly join any group and start making new friends. Here’s what I should have done:
Start tiny, low stakes conversations throughout your day.
Remember the last time you felt comfortable in a conversation.
Were you thinking about:
- Your internal state?
- What the other person thought of you?
- How many people were watching you?
There’s a concept called a “Flow state” where people are engrossed in what they’re doing to the point of being oblivious to their surroundings and internal monologue.
From Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman:
“In a state of flow, maintaining focused attention on these absorbing activities requires no exertion of self-control, thereby freeing resources to be directed to the task at hand.”
The best way to get into a flow state? Have tiny conversations throughout your day.
Enter conversational muscle memory.
Having those small conversations throughout your day will help you enter that flow state, and also help you level up your starting conversation skills.
Two birds, one stone. I love it.
Step 1: Leave your house. This one is obvious, you have to be around people for this to work.
Step 2: Start tiny (1–3 minute) conversations throughout your day.
The more tiny conversations you have, the easier starting more of those conversations will be.
“But who do I talk to?!”
Everyone you typically come in contact with. The barista at the coffee shop, your doorman, the mail carrier, the waitress at lunch, Rob from accounting.
Have an exit strategy. No one wants to feel stuck in a conversation, an easy script to politely end the conversation is: “I’ve got to run, it was nice meeting you [Name].”
Bonus: Having an exit plan will make you feel more comfortable jumping into those conversations.
Newton’s first law: An object in motion stays in motion. You’re building momentum so that you can start even more conversations throughout your day. It’s a virtuous cycle.
How To Smoothly Join The Group Without Feeling Awkward.
Set a time limit: From the moment you see a group that you want to talk to, start a 10 second timer in your head.
This is important, because the longer you wait to speak to them, the less likely you are to do it.
An object in motion stays in motion.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. (OODA): Originally developed by military strategist John Boyd as a way to quickly make decisions in the field, OODA will help you make small logistical decisions while approaching a group:
- “What side of the group should I approach from?” The front. No one wants a surprise from behind.
- “How loud should my voice be?” Loud enough to not warrant repeating yourself.
- “What should I do with my hands?” Settle down Ricky Bobby, gesturing is fine, but generally keep them out of your pockets and around your belt level. No fidgeting.
Imagine good things happening: This one is a little different. Most of us have PhDs in negative visualization. It’s essentially how we survived as a species. It saved your great (x 1000) grandfather from that sabertooth tiger.
It’s called the negativity bias, and it’s a jerk.
But when you’re approaching a group, this approach isn’t so helpful.
Imagining the best possible outcome is a powerful method to hack your way to in-the-moment confidence. It’s also an excellent way to eject from a vicious cycle and make it more likely for a virtuous cycle to occur.
The +10% Rule: How To Always Be Accepted Into A Group And Never Accidentally Kill The Vibe
Have you ever been in a group and a new person joins and they immediately lay this gem that sucks all the group’s energy out of the room:
“So I had to put my dog to sleep yesterday…”
Everyone starts scooting away slowly while murmuring “Oh, I’m sorry…”
Even worse, no one will be able to switch topics because they don’t want to come off as insensitive.
Boom. Just like that, you have a downer black hole. Nothing escapes, not even light.
Group conversations are typically full of light banter.
No one ever thought to themselves, “Oh, I wish someone would bring us down a little…we’re having too much fun.”
The secret to never getting that awkward vibe from a group is simple:
Match the group’s energy, then add 10%.
How to increase your energy level: Be enthused. I have a friend named Tim. Tim has the ability to get excited about almost anything.
If you tell him about some new thing you’re doing or trying, he’ll get excited along with you.
He rides that wave with you. It’s infectious. Even if you don’t know much about that particular topic, if you show enthusiasm, people will love you. (Side note: in part two of this guide, we’ll cover how to be interested in any topic using something I call the spokes method.)
As a general rule, here are some topics to avoid:
What to SAY as you join a group: (Word for Word Scripts)
Now we’re down to the good stuff, hopefully you didn’t just scroll down to this section to get a quick fix.
Word for word scripts are insanely helpful when it comes to starting a conversation.
But here’s the dirty little secret: Scripts alone will never work. So if you’re just looking for a quick fix, please do us both a favor and close this article immediately.
Still here? Good.
I’m going to give you some examples of tested word for scripts to start group conversations, but I’m also going to show you how to create your own so that you can always have the perfect script for any situation.
(Notice how none of these are particularly fancy)
Script #1: “Hey guys, do you mind if I hang out for a couple of minutes?”
Why this works: You’re asking for permission to join their group, coupled with a time constraint.
Asking for permission is a very subtle form of persuasion. It takes the other person’s feelings into consideration.
A time constraint is crucial because it answers a main objection in people’s minds: “Will this person overstay their welcome?”
Script #2: “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear, are you guys talking about XYZ? Because [reason]”
Obviously, this one is a little tricky. If what you overhear seems super serious, maybe don’t use this one. But if someone’s talking about the new superhero movie trailer, rock on.
Why this works: A dash of permission, and a good segue into the current topic. Note the word “because”. A famous study on influence uncovered that strategically using the word “because” increases compliance.
Create your own (Mix and match):
Here are the minimum effective building blocks of a good script:
- Permission. Taking the group’s feelings into consideration by obtaining verbal or nonverbal permission to continue. Key phrase: “Would you mind…”
- Time Constraint. Answers the main objection in people’s minds: “Will this new person hang around too long?!” (If you’re cool, no one cares how long you stick around) Key phrase: “I can only hang out for a couple of minutes…”
- Environment. What kind of environment are you in? It’s their something interesting you can comment on?
Use these steps and start making new friends today.
If you want a little extra help, I made a free guide to help you get out of your own head and effortlessly join group conversations. Check it out here.
Originally published at medium.com