I love teaching people how to have better social interactions. I treat most of my social interactions like my personal lab. Sometimes it goes really well. Other times it goes really poorly. Often I get a lukewarm response, which is fine because a weak tie can always develop beyond the first interaction as long as I don't scare the person off from ever wanting to see me again (which has only happened a handful of times... hey, I'm not perfect!)
However, I'm noticing an odd trend among those that want to get better at socializing...
They're not actually going out to socialize.
We can theorize about how to have conversation, read body language, and how to improve our interactions all we want, but honestly it won't make a difference if we're not actually out having interactions in the first place.
Yes, we can feel more confident about our interactions. Yes, we can observe the people around us. Yes, we can think up some really witty things to say to grab people's attention.
But if we're doing all of this and not putting ourselves out there-- we're just stroking our social skills ego with no real substantial experimental improvement.
So before we even dive into proper conversational etiquette, I want to encourage you to do two things:
1. Find an event you want to go to. Places to look for bigger events are: Facebook Local, Eventbrite, or even just chatting up your friends to see if you can tag along with something. Commit to doing something that actually takes up time on your calendar to be present for where you might not necessarily know everyone.
2. Go out of your way and talk to someone you haven't met yet.You don't need to think too hard about this one. Just simply a "I haven't met you before, I'm (name). What brought you here?" goes a long, long way.
And then what?
Then you improvise. Bring up something you'd like to talk about. Ask a question based on what brought them there. Get out of the conversation if you changed your mind about wanting to talk to them and say "I just wanted to come say hi so I wasn't a stranger." But try something.
It will feel awkward when you do this at first. That's okay. The first time doing something like this always is. The most important thing though is to get through your trial and error period first, and do it with the best of intentions. Doing this with a friendly intention has the possibility of going much better than you may be making it out to go in your head.