Have you ever gone to a party knowing that you would not know any other person there except the person who invited you? After you arrived, did you wind up in a corner with no one to talk to for most of the night wondering why you even bothered to show up? Well, I have, and these kinds of instances in my life have altered my thinking when it comes to befriending new people.
These days, I put a little more intention behind who I choose to befriend in a social or group situation.
No, I do not seek out the beautiful people or the ones who seem really popular and outgoing. I have no beef with them, and they can be as gorgeous and engaging as they want.
What I look for is the person who seems shy, out of place, or who could use at least a friendly acknowledgement. Imagine if you will a low-key soiree at a friend’s house. There are about 30 people milling about and carrying on some mild chit-chat. There are small groups of three to five people separately congregated at different points around a large living room. Invariably, there might be one or two people just looking around or staring at their cell phone.
What I like to do in this scenario is to seek out those people on the outskirts who haven’t connected with anyone yet, and at least, say hello to them. Usually, I would walk up and say hi and then ask if he/she needed a drink. This harmless question helps me figure out if she/he would rather just be by themselves. That’s okay too, but if not, I go in for at least a quick conversation.
Here are some questions I ask if they seem willing to engage:
- So how do you know so-and-so? (Insert name of person who is hosting the party)
- Where did you get those ________? I really like them. (Insert any object of clothing or accessory that you genuinely like. Compliments can tear down the biggest walls. Go for the hair if it looks great. That disarms just about anything.)
- Do you happen to know who sings this song? I really like it. (Assuming of course that music is playing at the party, which is usually the case.)
- Do you happen to know where the bathroom is? (Use this if nothing else is an option. It gives you a small window of time to chit chat before you actually should go to the bathroom. Definitely go to the loo at some point even if you don’t have to. It would seem creepy if you didn’t.)
Be friendly and smile. The goal is not necessarily to make the most amazing friendship for life, though I am never opposed to that. It is to acknowledge a fellow human being who might be feeling alone or dejected. I can remember times in my life when other people have made me feel welcomed and supported. It is a warm, fuzzy, and supremely life-affirming experience.
Befriending someone on the outskirts can happen anywhere. Look for the last kid picked to be on a team in P.E. class. At your job, make a point to say hello and introduce yourself to a new co-worker or someone who is often sitting alone in the break room. At a business meeting, find the person no one else is talking to. Whomever you find in any of these scenarios might be someone who is worth knowing and deserving of some warmth and kindness.