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Some people prefer hanging out in a group, others find it easier socializing with just one friend at a time. It's quite OK to have a preference for one over the other.
Maybe you're wondering why you can talk one on one but not in groups.
If you want to know how to engage in group conversations and be more social in groups, rest assured that there are plenty of great tips for you below. First though, let's take a look at the advantages of hanging out in a group. Even if you're a very strong introvert and prefer one-on-one interactions, trust me, you'll feel a lot better just knowing ahead of time that there are advantages to hanging out in a group and reminding yourself what those advantages are.
The advantages of socializing in a group, even if you're an introvert
- Socializing in a group of friends is a very easy option if you're an introvert because you have to come up with less of the conversation compared with hanging out with one person. In a group of 5 people, you would normally be contributing about 20% of the talk, whereas with just one person you would have to come up with a heftier 50% of it (of course, it’s not like these are mandatory quotas or anything… but you get the idea).
- Also, hanging out in a group of friends offers more unique combinations of remarks and allows for a bit more humor and fun which can relax everyone. Don't worry if you're shy and therefore not the one contributing the humor and fun... that's totally OK! You're allowed to just still enjoy it.
- An added bonus of hanging out in a group is it’s generally easier to leave or stop talking after a shorter time if you want to without it seeming too obvious, such as at a social or a party.
Why you might be more comfortable talking one on one
Hanging out with just one friend at a time is also an easy option in other ways.
- Issues like a clique-y group or hearing highly controversial topics that can arise in groups are usually not an issue when hanging out one on one.
- Also, it’s a bit less embarrassing if you put your foot in your mouth when there’s only one other person there to notice!
- Socializing with a friend one on one means that you get to know them a lot better than you could in a group setting. You will be able to discuss any problems you’re each having, get advice from each other, and talk about deep and meaningful things that don’t often get discussed in group conversations.
How to be more social in groups
First of all, don't stress! Everyone is more worried about themselves in a group than they are about you. This is a positive thing, because no-one is going to be staring at you wondering why you're being so quiet. They're typically more focused on themselves than on you, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Also, engaging in group conversations and socializing in a large group does not mean that you're going to spend less time one on one with close friends. Your game plan here is to increase the amount of time you're spending in group conversations without decreasing the amount of time you get together one on one with close friends.
What you're going to be doing is both types of socializing (on different occasions): in groups, and just with one friend. Why? Because in a group setting you won’t get to know any of the people in any great depth. Conversely, if you only hang out with one friend at a time, you’ll get to know these people really well – but you’ll miss out on all the fun times you could have had with that friend in a group setting. A mix of both types of socializing with your friends is therefore ideal.
Let's move on to some practical hands-on tips to implement whenever you're actually in a group situation.
How to stop being so shy in group situations
If you're feeling like you're quiet in groups, here are some easy fixes:
- Smile when everyone else is smiling. This sounds super-simple, but even if you feel happy but don't look it, you might come across as overly serious or quiet when you're in a group. They therefore might not interact with you in the group much. Try to come across as a happy person externally, even if you already are internally.
- Use non-verbal body language when appropriate such as nodding, shaking your head, or changing your expression as appropriate depending on conversational topics. Not constantly (that would be weird), but at least several times in a conversation. It gives people cues about how you're reacting to the conversation, and it actually does others a favor to receive those cues, even if it appears that no-one has noticed. Here's an example: say someone in the group says something about how his pet hamster died, and there's a chorus of "oh no", "you must be so sad", "how did it happen?" etc. You're welcome to say something in there too, but also, show sympathy with body language or facial expression. This does not mean you do anything "big" like go up to the person and pat them on the shoulder, but instead just stay where you are and tilt your head sympathetically with a regretful expression. Do not overdo this! Less is more! Don't be too obviously "fake" or "acting" otherwise they'll think you're being sarcastic with your body language. Just give off a hint of the expression, don't do a big expression and don't worry if no-one sees it. The good result of that is even if the person doesn't hear your verbal comment, he may notice your body language without even being aware of it himself (a lot of this is subliminal) and you will then come across as relatable. If on the other hand you had given a verbal comment with no body language and no change of expression, you'll come across as more robotic. Of course, in some situations robotic is good - for example in a very macho group of guys you might not want to give off a bunch of non-verbal emotions or body language. But in a mixed group, non-verbal cues and responses are perfect.
- Leave when everything is still going well. Obviously, you don't want to leave too early, like 5 minutes into your group get-together! But it's OK to be the first to leave if you have to or want to. Just keep it simple like "well, it was good catching up, gotta go" and then head off. People might think you have something better to go to! Also they now associate you with the good times of the group, instead of later on in the get-together when things might feel like they're dragging on. Whatever you do, don't keep hanging on until the bitter end!
- On a related note, don't have a fear of missing out. It's easier said than done, I know. But if it appears to the others in the group that you're hanging out just out of FOMO instead of because you really enjoy the company of the others, trust me, it will subtly come across and it's going to make you look very negative to the group. It kind of gives off bad or desperate vibes. If you suspect this might be you, it's OK. Don't crawl into a ball and decide to become a hermit! Instead, do what I said in the previous tip - join everyone to hang out, but leave early on while things are still going well. You can't possibly come off looking FOMO-ish if you leave on the earlier end of things, after all.
- Be genuinely interested in others. This does not mean in a group saying "Hey, Peter, what's your greatest regret in life, can you share with everyone?" Instead, being genuinely interested in others means being less aware of your self-consciousness in the group and focusing more on what is actually being said, verbally and non-verbally. The result of that is over time, you'll become more likely to jump into the conversation easily because you'll be more interested in what's being said than in wondering what people are going to think of you. All of that comes with practice (yes, even being genuinely interested in others).
Use group conversations as occasions to practice all of this. Rome wasn't built in a day - don't panic if you forget to do some of these tips. Just try adding them in each time and it'll become second nature, you won't have to think about it after awhile. Soon enough, you'll find yourself commenting and laughing smoothly and naturally. You'll become the person that everyone always wants to include. It'll make your life a lot easier.
The good news about talking in a group of friends
You might be relieved to notice that none of these tips require you to be humorous, daredevil, full of witty quips, or life-of-the-party (let someone else do that, the group probably already has someone fulfilling that niche). When you use the tips mentioned above, you can be the person everyone wants to have around in the group - without you needing to be 100% front-and-center.
We have more tips for making your social life easier! Here is the guide for how to agree to disagree while gaining and keeping the other person's respect. Are you a perfectionist? If so, you'll want to take a look at our tips for dealing with non-perfectionists while keeping both sides happy.