Everyone feels awkward in social situations, sometimes — even the people who seem totally at-ease around other people.
Socializing comes more naturally to some people, but almost everyone has to work to maintain their social skills.
Maybe, for you, socializing is extra stressful. Is it social anxiety? Social avoidance? Social awkwardness?
It doesn’t really matter how we define the inability to just naturally feel comfortable in social settings. What matters is what we do to alleviate it.
When we struggle with social skills, we may avoid social situations and that can affect how we build relationships.
Fear of public speaking is also a prominent concern among adults who wrestle with social anxiety and this can negatively impact a career trajectory.
Fortunately, even the most introverted introvert can find a way to get themselves out there and learn to be more comfortable in social situations over time.
Here are 13 activities you can do to improve your social skills.
These activities involve communication and interaction. Engaging in social skills activities can help improve the quality of life of people with anxiety, fear of public speaking, and similar issues.
These social activities can work for any gender, any age beyond elementary school, within any budget, or tied to any schedule.
In addition to adding to your social calendar, I recommend deciding in advance what specific goals you have, such as giving someone space and not interrupting, trying to minimize chit-chat in inappropriate circumstances, or engaging others about their interests.
1. Dining out
Everyone enjoys dining with friends, especially when trying new or interesting foods. As everyone needs to eat, this can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Invite your friends or people you want to get to know better to lunch or dinner and make an effort to try new restaurants regularly to keep things fresh.
2. Adult education classes
Learn something new and practice making conversation and finding people with mutual interests. You’ve heard the saying, “two heads are better than one,” right? Since you need to study the same content as others in your class, why not combine this time with your friends (or soon-to-be-friends)?
Research shows us that we can retain more information when working with others, plus, you can inspire each other to study even when you would rather not. Classes offer an excellent way to turn strangers into friends.
3. Meeting for coffee
This is an easier ask because the time and money commitments are less than having a full meal. Most people can find half an hour and it can be great if you’re meeting up with someone new or trying to get to know someone better.
4. Board games
Consider hosting an inexpensive evening by inviting friends to a board game night while you practice your self-regulation skills. As a host, you now have a job and a reason to reach out, make plans, and ask people questions. Playing games also gives you something to do so when small talk lags you can have the game to help you connect. If it takes off, try to rotate who hosts each month and ask each person to bring a snack or drink.
5. Movie nights
Another easy and inexpensive evening is to invite friends, neighbors, and even your regular sports team members to come over and watch movies at home. Not only is it cheaper, but it allows you to talk, unwind and ask people questions. Practice being a “social spy” to find out what genres they like and why. Work on your chit-chat skills to make conversation around the movie to build common ground. It’s easier to find common ground when you don’t have to talk the whole time.
6. Pick-up sports and group fitness classes
Almost every city or town has a local park where you can just show up and play. If you go at the same time each week, you may keep playing with the same people, which can help you build friendships. Consider signing up for a yoga or dance class. Even though you won’t be talking much during the class, there’s time to catch up before and after.
Help make the world a better place while also practicing small talk, working as a team, and hopefully making connections and friends. Better yet, consider creating a beach clean-up day or a charity walk/run — having a role gives us a legitimate reason to reach out to others.
8. Video games
Although playing video games isn’t exactly ‘active’ it can actually be an effective way to connect with others, especially if you live far apart and have access to reliable and fast internet.
9. Hiking and walking groups
Meetups at local, state and national parks are a great way to meet new people with similar interests and activity levels. Join an event and be sure to practice making small talk. Walking is a low-intensity activity where you can socialize and get exercise at the same time. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes.
10. Double dates
Opposites attract! Maybe you are in a relationship with someone who is more outgoing than you, or may also want to work on social skills.
This way, you can strengthen your relationship with your partner while initiating new friendships.
11. Book clubs
Even if reading is something you do regularly, joining a book club can help you not only read more but socialize with friends. Most book clubs include social time in addition to discussing the book.
12. Group tours
Traveling with a group can be safer, less expensive, and more fun than traveling alone. It is also a great way to socialize with new friends while exploring somewhere new.
13. Dog parks, kids’ playgrounds
Connecting while talking about a mutual interest like kids and dogs is an easy way to strike up a conversation.
We all need socialization!
Even if spending time with people drains you and you don’t feel like putting in the effort to attend an event, it’s important to find social skills activities that help recharge your energy and make you feel connected.
Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC founded and facilitates a comprehensive SEL training methodology on how to develop critical social, emotional, and behavioral skills. For more information, visit her website.