Do you ever feel uncomfortable in social situations, especially around people you’ve never met? Are you envious of that person who is always the life of the party, appearing so confident and having fun — even in new situations?

If you’ve given up hope that you will ever be less than awkward in a social setting, or believe you’re forever destined to stick to the back of the room, hanging like a picture against the wall, don’t lose hope. There are some things you can do to learn to be more outgoing.

I think most of us face some degree of social anxiety. There are many different levels ranging from severe (being afraid to leave your house) to very mild (aren’t a huge fan of making small talk). But I imagine most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Here are a few ways you can be more outgoing.

1. Realize that fears are normal.

It’s natural to worry about whether people will like you or not. The truth is, some people will like you, and some people won’t. You can’t control either. Plus, many of the people in the room feel the exact same way you do. Socializing is a perfect opportunity for rejection — and no one wants to be rejected! If you start talking to someone, there’s a real possibility they may find you boring. You can’t be fascinating to everybody! But at the same time, there will be some people who think you are interesting and fun to be with, and if you never take a chance, you will never know. So push through your fears.

2. Don’t take things too seriously.

This includes yourself! It’s not the end of the world when something embarrassing happens to you, and many times being able to laugh at yourself, or finding something funny in the situation, is not only good for your own sanity, but also funny to other people and lightens the mood.

3. Start the conversation.

When you begin a conversation with someone, you take the pressure off of him or her. Chances are they are feeling as awkward as you are. Opening a conversation takes some practice, and you might need to force yourself to do it at first. But it does get easier and more natural the more you do it. Do your best to be calm and relaxed. This will encourage others to relax with you. Try these conversation starters:

4. Know what’s going on.

The more you know about what’s going on in the world of news, entertainment, and pop culture, the better your chances of finding something to talk about. In the course of your conversation, be prepared to talk about something you find interesting. “I saw the funniest thing on YouTube yesterday — did you happen to see it?” Sometimes people might even think you’re funny, simply because you revealed your own humorous way of looking at things.

5. It’s not about you.

Ultimately, this is the most important thing. You don’t want to be someone who comes across as a person who is just trying to get attention, or that person who can’t stop talking about themselves. So, be attentive to the other person. People are flattered when someone is genuinely interested in them. Keep the conversation flowing by asking lots of questions. Zoom in on the things they bring up, and ask follow-up questions to get more information.

6. Learn to read body language.

You don’t want to be that person who traps someone in a conversation they can’t escape or to be the last one at the party who hasn’t picked up on the fact that it is time to go. Look for non-verbal clues. If you notice the other person folding their arms or stepping back, you may be standing too close for their comfort level. If they are staring over your shoulder, searching the room for someone else, you may need to end the conversation and let them go. If they start picking up the dishes or yawning a lot, that’s also a clue that you should leave.

7. Take a friend.

Entering into a new social situation is always easier if you go with a friend. It helps to know someone is cheering you on as you begin reaching out to new people. This is great practice for when you have to be in a social setting alone. However, avoid spending all of your time with your friend, or appearing like you are having a private conversation. People will think you’re not in the mood to socialize. Remember, your fears are very normal. Just relax.

The people who appear to have an easy time socializing are the ones who have had a lot of practice. The more you work on some of these points, the more your fears will decrease. Soon, you’ll look forward to the new adventures and interesting people you will meet, as you act with courage and confidence.

If you struggle with social anxiety, we have free, confidential mentors who would love to talk with you and support you. Just click “Connect” below.

This article was originally published on TheHopeLine®.

This article was written by: Dawson McAllister

Photo Credit: Jens Johnsson