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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

How to get back on the social scene comfortably!

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

I saw a fab meme on social media which read: "Until my life didn't change in the pandemic, I never realised how unsociable I was".

While Robin Dunbar suggests that we can manage around 150 acquaintances, of those 35 relatively close friends (of which many may comprise extended family and colleagues), we really only have 10 close friendships we actively maintain, and 5 absolute "ride or die" types who are very close...and it's not so much we "add", but over time we may "replace"!! As someone who can pretty much say I've maintained the numbers..., and the "new" friends I have, I guess have superseded those that were there before...I thought I would look at how we might make new friends...or at least feel more comfortable socialising (should we wish) as things get back to "normal" for about the billionth attempt so far...

1. Making new friends at work:

Some very basic tips here can include:

1. Offering to help out – eg with events or other places where you may meet people as part of the organising team, as well as enjoy the event. I was speaking to someone who regularly volunteers and she said that one of the things that keeps her helping out consistently is knowing the people who are going to be there.

2. Taking advantage of any events organised by work eg. Fitness classes, Art classes and even training - these are likely to help you meet people outside your department.

3. Trying to steer the conversation to more personal topics such as family or hobbies rather than what was on TV last night...but again, be aware of how personal you want to go (take tips from the passive and active responses in the next section)

4. Accepting invitations – even if you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy the event...because as an adult, you can always leave if you don't like it!

2. Improving your conversation skills:

It's ok if you'd rather not - you do not have to give more time to others than you choose. Try the following to politely continue:

- Active positive response: Oh that’s so interesting, why/what/how did you do that…?

...or close a conversation:

- Passive positive response: Oh that’s so interesting, thanks for sharing.

Try to avoid an active destructive response such as "That's a really stupid question, why did you ask that?" (unless you are calling someone out in which case "what did you mean by that?" can be a helpful non-confrontational approach that gets people a bit more self aware.) And a passive destructive one eg a shrug can also be damaging if your aim is to build rapport.


Learning to listen

There are 4 levels of listening, and these are often presented as a triangle as from the top down, it denotes just how much information gets through(!)

- Hearing (where we are thinking about something else - very little goes in);

-Listening (where we can probably repeat a few words by may not understand the true meaning of what was conveyed;

- Active listening (where we interact with the information - and thus can take in much more);

- Deep listening (almost like listening between the lines and we may get a very full sense of what is happening in doing so...this level is usually reserved for professionals such as coaches or teachers or the medical and legal don't worry too much if you're not using it casually.)

Also, there are 3 key mistakes we make when listening - try to avoid those:

i) Rehearsing what you are going to say rather than listening. In this case, try to listen and see if you can then springboard off where the other person stops rather than bringing it back round if you thought of your response early on in the story!!

ii) Evaluating - listening only to critique the speaker. This can include fault-finding which is listening in order to catch the speaker out. Ask yourself why you are needing to be critical and what that might be doing to the relationship. If you are only spending time with that person to wind them up, is it really the best use of your energies!?

iii) Derailing - making it about you - either by "topping" their experience with your own, or making a big deal about if YOU were in that situation, or a "what about me" approach. Again, this might need some soul searching to think about why you need that validation in someone else's experience, as well as why you are reluctant to let others have their moment

Instead try to practice ACTIVE LISTENING. This is where you interact with what is being said by asking open questions, writing things down, or paraphrasing back to the speaker what they said, just to make sure you have received the information accurately. If asking questions ask open questions to learn more - those which begin with "Who", "What", "Why", "Where", "When" or "How". These elicit more detail than close questions which often only need a one word answer eg:

OPEN: How are you?

CLOSED: Are you well?


3. Know the type of people you want to attract

Look carefully at your current relationships. Ask yourself:

- Which ones are reciprocal?

- Which ones bring me joy?

- Which ones encourage honesty?

- Which ones can I rely on?

and most importantly

- Which ones are with people I respect for their own values and actions? (Which ones does I actively want to choose?)

And also:

- Ask yourself - how do you envision a relationship that will make you happy? (Unfortunately, you will not be able to put a specific person there, because their choice is always their own - but you can have an idea of the type of person you seek.)

- Set out what values you want in that person, and what you are not willing to accept.

- Set out what values you want them to recognise in you.

THEN focus on living your values...and you will likely find, those that share them will be drawn to you.

Specialist support:

To talk about Mental Health issues in the local Northampton area:

Talk MH Training / SPACE are working in partnership with West Northants Libraries

Mental Health Awareness Info Roadshow

AM 10.00 to 12.00

PM 14.00 to 16.00

17 Jan 2022

Daventry Library AM

Brackley Library PM

18 Jan 2022

Wellingborough Library AM Hunsbury West Library PM

19 Jan 2022

Brixworth Library AM Towcester Library PM

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt


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