inclusion, social skills

How to Argue With Your Family About Politics

Families with wide-ranging political views are expecting a tense Thanksgiving dinner this year. The divisive rhetoric and high level of emotion could spill over into holiday conversation, threatening to ruin the meal for some. It doesn’t have to, though. Political arguments at Thanksgiving can actually be an opportunity to learn some things about your family that you never knew before.tgiving

I’ll skip the most obvious tips, like limiting the amount of alcohol served or actively avoiding all political subjects until after dessert. That’s not bad advice, but it’s advice that depends on others’ cooperation, and it just won’t be well-received in some families. People won’t want to change family traditions all that much for the sake of keeping peace at the dinner table. Instead, these are things that you can do yourself, that don’t require the cooperation of others. We’ve all heard that oft-repeated phrase that change begins with you. If your family is like mine, you can assume that those with strong opinions before the election will have even stronger opinions now, and that you are not going to change anyone’s mind over Thanksgiving dinner. Relax and have fun. Realizing that this election hasn’t changed people fundamentally can be both a comfort and a frustration; these hints are meant to help you tip the scales in favor of comfort.

One caveat: If someone’s getting drunk or abusive, don’t use these techniques. Instead, do whatever it takes to protect yourself emotionally, and remove yourself as soon as you can. Otherwise, try the following:

Get curious. Motivational interviewing is a technique used by mental health clinicians to move people in the direction of positive self-change, but it can be used informally also, as a way to deepen your understanding of other people and their views. Asking questions, and then listening to the answers, is a sure way to prevent an emotionally-charged situation from escalating into an ugly fight. One type of question used in motivational interviewing, known as “values clarification”, can be really useful in getting your family to articulate the motivations behind some of the choices they’ve made, not only politically, but personally also. How does their candidate reflect their values? Have them talk about their valued principles, and about the values they’re hoping to see expressed over the next four years. Behind much of the talk about immigrants bringing crime and jobs going overseas, for instance, is a desire for security, safety, and rewarding, meaningful work. Bringing a broad, big-picture perspective to the conversation will get your family talking about their cherished ideals. That’s never a bad thing, and the conversation just might go to some unexpected places.

You can also have them paint a picture of “a day in the life”. What kind of life are they imagining for themselves, and for you, under the new administration? How will it be better? Talking about the details of the future will give you a good idea of what your family is hoping for, and will again shed light on what they value.

Retrace the steps that led your family to this moment. Think, as you listen, about what led this person to the beliefs that he or she has. You’re in a unique position, as someone who knows this person’s history better than any politician ever will, to understand what drives this other person’s beliefs and values. Look for, and ask about, the experiences that led this person to value the things he or she does. Were they treated unkindly by foreigners? Was there a high school brawl with a black or Latino student? Remember that your story is intertwined with your family’s; their story is your story. Some of you may have shared the same experiences, but come to different conclusions. Share those with them.

Stay away from facts and data. This is a hard one for most of us, I know. But the cold truth is that elections are won and lost based on emotions and imagery, and people make decisions the same way. No one wants to be that guy at a cocktail party who offers a constant stream of information, no matter how interesting the subject. The family dinner table is no different. National pride, greatness, compassion, greed, protection, self-preservation – all play upon the emotions and are expressed in images and symbols. Think about things that fire you up and get you excited – it’s rarely the information itself, but rather the meaning you give to that information, that inspires the most engagement.

Remember again that you are not going to change anyone’s mind, especially with information. You’re there to enjoy the company of your family and to get them to articulate what they value. You can express your opinions strongly and passionately, talk about what you value, and highlight all the ways in which your candidate embodies those values, but be sure to keep an emotional connection, both to your family and to your topic.

Involve the kids. Very young children who aren’t old enough to understand the topics can still be at the table. You can bounce your one-year-old on your knee while talking about Trump’s foreign policy or Clinton’s proposed health programs. Interact with them physically as you engage with your family intellectually. Doing so will have two effects: it will make the kids feel part of a grown-up conversation even if they don’t fully understand it, and it will keep a certain amount of civility in the discourse. If emotions get too hot or the language too strong, you can remind people that there are kids in the room. Remember that young children are always learning from adults’ behavior, even when they don’t understand conversation. If you express your ideals with sincerity and passion, they’ll grow up to do the same.

Older kids can be part of the conversation in the same ways that adults are. You can simplify some topics without talking down to them, bringing it back again to values and cherished ideals.

Let older people have the last word. You don’t have to agree with them. But remember that older people, particularly those who have led especially colorful or diverse lives, have many decades of experience that inform their opinions, and that should be given respect. Even when their facts are wrong. Even when they’ve drawn the wrong conclusions from their experiences. Don’t contradict them, verbally or nonverbally. All the things said above about people not changing their minds are even more true for people of advanced age. Older people have a truly amazing story to tell, and their gifts, in this society, are often profoundly underappreciated. Try to place their opinions in the context of a long and full life, and listen to them carefully, because if a word is missed or a story ignored, it may be gone forever.

Thanksgiving can be a tense time for families on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Holding your own with grace and confidence while still remaining curious about others can be one of the most difficult things to do, but it yields valuable rewards. Using these techniques will help you not only survive the Thanksgiving meal, but actually enjoy it, and you just might learn something about your family in the process

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dating, shyness, social skills

Dating Over 40: Five Ways to Dump Despair And Reclaim Your Love Life

For lots of reasons, guys sometimes find themselves alone in their 40’s and 50’s. Whether it’s because they immersed themselves in their careers during their prime years and never paid attention to their intimacy needs, because they’re divorced or widowed after a long marriage, or for some other reason, they’re looking for ways to connect after being out of the dating game for a long time. They have the free time now, and feel ready. But they don’t know where to begin. They’re not used to talking to strangers, or they don’t know how to relate to women. What’s worse, they’re often unfamiliar with all the different ways people stay in touch with each other these days. They don’t use texting and they’re rarely online.

It’s easy to get discouraged. But it is never, ever too late to find love, for men in their 40’s and 50’s, or even in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond. The digital revolution means people have changed their modes of communication somewhat, but people themselves haven’t changed. If you start slowly and gradually add more dating activities to your life, you’ll discover that dating isn’t really all that different from the way it was when you were in your 20’s. If you never had that opportunity, for whatever reason, that’s even better. You now have the opportunity to experience women as you never have before.

The good news is that there are very few rules anymore about who you can date. Women of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds are available now in a way that they weren’t 30 years ago. As long as you show respect, curiosity and genuine interest in a woman as a person, doors will open wide for you. Here are five key ways older men can find more of what they want when they start dating:

1. Get over your divorce first. Resolving pain and attachments from previous relationships is key before you even begin. If you’re still in love with your ex-wife; if you’re enmeshed in a power struggle with her over house and kids; if you’re still mourning your dead spouse, or have any lingering anger towards her; or worse, if your pain is finding expression in cynicism or bitterness, stop. You owe it to yourself, and to the women you meet, to resolve whatever it is that’s keeping you in pain. Getting a piece of arm candy to “show off” to your ex, sleeping with a bunch of women in revenge for her cheating; or dating someone because she reminds you of your dearly departed, are all setups for failure. They may feel good in the moment, but they will set you back if the issues fueling them are not dealt with, and the sooner the better.

2. Know what you want. I meet a lot of older men who crave a full love life. The kids have grown up and left the house, the wife is gone—maybe for quite some time now—and they’re finally able to create whatever kind of relationship they want. The problem is that, in the absence of family, they’re not sure what they want—sex, intimacy, or relationships. There is nothing wrong with not knowing what you want, but be honest with yourself, and make it your mission to find out what it is you want. Working with a coach or support group can help you answer this question if you’re not sure. Aside from the main benefit of helping you go after what you want with clarity, knowing what you want will also make you inherently more attractive as a man.

3. Own your age and be proud of it. As an inhabitant of this planet for four, five, or six decades or more, you’ve seen and done things that many other men haven’t. This means several things for you. On one level, it means keeping expectations realistic. I’ve seen men succeed at intimacy goals that initially seemed pretty far-fetched, so I’m confident in saying that, whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them. But you will be doing so as a man who isn’t 20-something anymore. This insight should inform everything about you, from the way you dress, to where you spend your time, to who you’re spending it with. If you feel as though your time on this earth has been wasted, talk with someone about it. An inventory of things you’ve accomplished will bring your age, experience, and value into sharp focus. Play to those strengths.

4. Develop your social circle. As single men age, it’s increasingly important to develop social networks, independent of any romantic involvements. You might find the love of your life within your extended social network, but your social life should stand alone, not be something you dial up or down depending on whether there’s a woman in your life. Midlife, unfortunately, is the time when many single men are prone to do the exact opposite: hibernate at home, lay on the couch in front of the TV, not participate in the world. Resist that impulse. It’s not enough to nurture your existing social network. You need to develop new relationships that parallel your changing interests.

5. Get into the best physical shape you can. Like #2, this has two effects: it simultaneously makes you more confident and more attractive, to say nothing of reaping important health benefits. After age 40, most men lose about a pound of muscle mass every year. Regular exercise slows that process down. Incorporate yoga or Pilates into your strength-training routine. Your body needs a combination of strength and flexibility. Feeling good about your body brings with it a glow and an authentic confidence almost impossible to overstate. A fit body also sends the message to everyone around you that you’re a man who understands his body’s needs, abilities and limitations.

These five steps are only a start to build the kinds of relationships you want. By beginning with where you are and taking small steps toward your goal, you’ll eventually create what you’re looking for. Let go of past attachments, know your value, develop your social circle, get into shape and take small, consistent, regular actions. You’ll feel good about yourself, and the women in your life will feel good too.

Originally appeared on The Good Men Project at http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/dating-40-five-ways-dump-despair-reclaim-love-life-h2l/#sthash.16OKqpL2.dpuf

dating, social skills

Dealing With Rejection Part 3: How to Reject Someone Skillfully

A man who is actively dating will inevitably meet many different types of women during the course of his week. Especially in any urban environment, a man who is focusing on his social life will come into contact with dozens of women every month. But many of these women will not be a match for him, for many reasons, and he will inevitably need to say so to some of them.

rejection3

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to break up with someone gracefully and honorably. My own personal value system when it comes to breakups comes from the principles of non-violent communication, which can be found here. What I’m speaking about in this piece is what we need to do when we first meet someone who clearly isn’t who or what we were looking for. You’ve gone on one, two, or three dates with this person, and you need to let her know that you don’t want to see her again.

My own personal value system again requires that I stay positive and send the woman back out into the dating pool having had a good experience and a generally positive outlook towards men. Understand that to risk going into awkward social situations, to say nothing of the physical risks that come with blind dates or internet matches is, for a woman, incredibly courageous.  At the same time, its not my responsibility to educate her or take care of her feelings. Some women will take rejection badly no matter what you do. My goal is to create a clean break with no regrets, and to leave the woman feeling good about the prospect of meeting someone else, whenever possible.

When is rejection necessary?

It’s not always possible, or even desirable, to actually tell someone that you don’t want to see her again. You don’t need to reject someone you’ve just met if:

  • She consistently fails to respond to your texts or messages
  • She was dishonest at her first interaction with you (ie, lying significantly about her age, her looks, or her marital status)
  • She was cool to you at the initial meeting, and expressed no desire to see you again
  • She was obviously filled with excessive drama at the first meetup or talked too much about subjects inappropriate for a first or second date (i.e. family court issues or obsession with an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband)

Needless to say, excessively rude behavior on a first date leaves absolutely no obligation on your part. Show zero tolerance for lengthy cell phone conversations over dinner, extreme criticism of everything you do, or nasty behavior towards waitstaff. Feel free, in those situations, to go to the bathroom and not come back, or just walk out mid-meal.

You do want to reject someone clearly and compassionately if:

  • she’s someone who wants a different type of relationship than you do
  • someone unsuitable contacts you again
  • she’s someone you’ve slept with at any time

The goal is to leave no doubt that you don’t want to see her again while at the same time giving her just the right amount of information for this purpose.

Five things:

  1. It’s not your job to educate her or give her insight on why you’re rejecting her. Once, when I was seeing someone filled with a lot of drama, my dating coach said to me, “Don’t spend a lot of time on damaged women. It’s not your job to fix them.” Cold, but true. A man with healthy boundaries and self-esteem is not going to spend lot of time with women who drain his energy after just one, two, three dates.  This includes correcting her false impressions about you.  There will be times when you should let her be free to misunderstand you or your intentions.
  2. “Honesty” is overrated.  Too many men give themselves permission to behave cruelly towards a woman, under the notion that the honesty is a good thing.  I’ve been mortified by statements that have been repeated back to me by women friends who were rejected brutally after one or two dates.  These men thought they were being honest, but they were really just being insensitive cads.  Don’t tell her you’re looking for someone younger.  Don’t tell her she gives lousy head.  And for God’s sake, don’t tell her you find her overweight or unattractive.  She’ll figure it out, or not.  Again, it’s not your job to teach her.
  3. It’s OK to soften the blow with a compliment.  The “you’re am amazing woman” prelude is overused, but for good reason:  it works when you mean it.  It’s not only a signal to a woman about what’s coming next, it’s a reminder to her of her good qualities.  Be sure to be specific about what’s amazing about her — in one or two words.
  4. Always start with a phone call, not a text message or an email.  I am kind of old-fashioned this way.  If she’s worth a formal rejection, she’s worth a phone call.  Sometimes she might not answer; it’s OK to leave a voicemail or send a text with what you want to say, especially if she’s someone you’ve met only once.
  5. It’s also OK to write out what you have to say in advance.  There’s no shame in doing this, especially if these kinds of communications are new for you.  If you’re seeing her face-to-face you should memorize it; otherwise, you can just read it out loud in a call or text it to her.  Keep it short and sweet, and remember the above points.

Rejection is inevitable.  But rejecting a woman gracefully brings good karma.  Remaining positive and creating a clean break will leave her with a positive impression of men, and leave you feeling good about getting back out there.

career, dating, social skills

Dealing With Rejection, Part 2

Whether the context is dating, career, or your social life in general, getting turned down for a date, passed over for a promotion, having a call or text go unreturned, or being refused a second interview stings.  If we’re told directly, “this isn’t a good match”, it can leave us with a lot of doubt and uncertainty about what we did wrong.  But if a call is unreturned, or if commitments are made and not kept, it might leave us wondering why we weren’t worthy of a response, or whether the person received our follow-up communications or not.

rejection2

“Don’t take it personally”

You might hear this advice from friends, family, or even from the person or persons who rejected you.  In my experience, these words mean one of two things:

1.  I don’t want to see your disappointment.  There are people who can’t handle seeing disappointment in others or who don’t want to see someone get angry, upset, or show negative emotion of any kind.  These people may use those three words in an attempt to blunt any displays of sadness or anger.  They’re usually not necessary, unless you’re an explosive person who has trouble controlling your reactions.  More often, it means #2, below.

2.  Factors that had nothing to do with you influenced this decision.  Usually, this is what people really mean.  If you hear it from the person who rejected you, it’s almost certainly true, especially if it was a job interview.  I remember, early in my career as a social worker, going for a round of at least two or three interviews.  I met the clinical supervisor, the clinical director, the executive director, and the CEO.  It came down to me and one other person–and the other person got the job.  Though I was considered a strong candidate from the beginning, the other person was considered a better fit.

In a dating context, the timing could be all wrong.  She might have just met someone, recently gone through a breakup and needs time alone, or gotten buried in responsibility at work.  You just don’t know, unless she tells you.

Moving Forward:  Dos and Don’ts

Don’t express anger.  Notice I didn’t say “Don’t be angry.”  You might have feelings about being rejected. Those feelings are OK.  But it’s not OK to burden another with those feelings, especially when it’s a job interview or a romantic interest you’ve only met once or twice.

Don’t chase them.  Don’t guilt-trip them.  Don’t pester them.  Don’t keep asking them whether they received your voicemail or email.  If they wanted to reach you, they’d find a way to do that.  Pursuing them after you’ve already been rejected shows neediness and desperation, especially if you were a strong job candidate.  Express your disappointment to trusted friends, a therapist, or a coach instead.

Do remember that a clear rejection is always better than an empty promise.  If you’ve been clearly told they’re not interested, it’s a gift.  You can move on and pursue other leads or love interests with no doubts.

Look at what you might have done differently.  A social samurai acts as if everything depends on him, all the while knowing that none of it is in his control, ultimately.  We put our best selves forward, and another makes the final decision.  It’s best not to overanalyze any one situation.  But if rejection is becoming a pattern, it’s a good idea to find out what factors you can change.  The perspective of a trusted friend or support group can be tremendously helpful in this situation.  Listen to your friends’ take on things, knowing that you have the final decision on changes you make.  It may be changing your look, editing your resume, going after a different demographic, or some other factor.

Informed practice is the most important thing.  You need to put yourself out there, over and over, but also try to learn something from each new encounter.  The two activities of practice and learning, in combination, will help you reach your goals. Practice is something you need to do yourself.  Learning takes place with yourself and others.  Practice without learning keeps you stuck in reinforcing bad habits and practicing your mistakes; learning without practice becomes theoretical.  Do both, and you’ll get closer to achieving your goals.

Dealing with rejection also means dealing with the task of rejecting another.  How we reject others says a lot about who we are as people.  Next week I’ll look at how we can do that skillfully.

confidence, social skills

Confidence: Myths and Realities

In the world of dating advice, probably no other concept or word has been misunderstood more than “confidence”.  Guys looking to improve their social lives often speak of it as though it were a secret ingredient in a recipe:  they say “I need more confidence”, as if they need it to complete their mole sauce or their barbequed chicken.  Most haven’t stopped to consider the meaning of the term at all; or if they have, they’re only thinking ahead to what “having more confidence” will get them.

The truth is that, while confidence is important, it’s usually not  important in the way most people think it is.confidence-level

“Confidence” is defined in the dictionary as “a feeling of trust in a person or thing”.  Self-confidence (which is what most people mean when they use the term in a dating context) is the word that’s used when that feeling of trust applies to oneself.  The term covers a wide range of feeling states; some of these are useful to have in a dating context; others not so much.  I’d like to distinguish two very different states covered by this one term and explain why I believe one to be useful, and the other not.

INAUTHENTIC CONFIDENCE

In general, inauthentic confidence is what happens when an insecure man tries to overcompensate for his insecurities.  The classic cliche of this type is the guy who drives a fancy, expensive sports car in order to compensate for a small penis.  But it can be any behavior not grounded in a man’s knowledge of his own abilities and limitations.

What it looks like.  Walk into any singles bar early enough on a Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll find plenty of examples of inauthentic confidence.  The guy who displays inauthentic confidence is trying too hard to impress others.  He’s the guy whose voice is just a little too loud for the room.  He’s the guy weaving information about his net worth awkwardly into the conversation.  Or he’s the guy who talks too much about himself, never stopping to ask his listener about her.  The worst is the guy who thinks that putting down others will make a good impression.  He quickly finds out that cracking jokes at other people’s expense actually makes others think less of him.  If he does it too much, eventually it will be impossible for him to find anyone willing to tolerate him at all.

What it feels like.  The feelings that come with displays of inauthentic confidence, like most behaviors, are different for everyone.  The one quality, though, that all forms of inauthentic confidence have in common is a preoccupation with outcome.  Sometimes the person really believes that his behavior will get him what he wants.  Other times he’s clearly engaged in acts of desperation that he knows will fail.  Either way, he’s missing the moment, missing his experience with the other person, and thinking about crossing off another item on his agenda.  Whether his agenda is to get a woman into bed, to get her number, or simply to get into a conversation, he’s focused on a specific goal.  It goes without saying that most women, if they pick up on it, find this conversational quality tiresome.  They will quickly look for a reason to exit a conversation if they’re feeling like a bit player in a scripted TV series.

On the other hand, women will sometimes overlook this behavior, if a man has other things going for him.  But it’s important to understand that when a man succeeds with a woman after showing up like this, it’s in spite of this inauthentic form of confidence, not because of it.

GENUINE CONFIDENCE

Like inauthentic confidence, genuine confidence describes a lot of different feeling states.  In general, though, confident behavior has the following three qualities:

1)  It is grounded in a man’s self-knowledge of his own abilities and limitations.

2)  It is nonreactive.

3)  It is not dependent on outcome.

What it looks like.  The confident man has certain physical attributes no matter where in the world you find him.  In most cultures, usually he’s displaying an open front and making strong eye-contact.  His speech is also slower than you’d expect, and lower in pitch.  Even his movements are generally slow and purposeful.  If someone accidentally spills a drink on him or intentionally insults him, he’s not quick to react, but he also doesn’t ignore it.  He’ll consider his options, then slowly and purposefully get the attention of whoever is involved.

What it feels like.  You’re in a state of genuine confidence if you’re in a state of what I call alert relaxation.  You’re aware of your surroundings and responding appropriately to whatever is going on in your environment, but you’re also relaxed and nonreactive.  You’re having fun wherever you may be.  It doesn’t feel like you’re making effort to socialize or to impress anyone.  You have nothing to prove.  If you feel safe physically, know in your heart that nothing bad can happen to you here, and are focused on offering value to others you might be interacting with, you are genuinely confident.

How to experience genuine confidence in social situations.  There are a lot of things you can do to add value to any social situation.  The best and most honest is to create an awesome life for yourself that others will want to be a part of.  After you’ve done that, here are two techniques that may add value to your interactions:

1)  Remember to breathe.  The value of this practice is so useful, it can hardly be overstated.  Your belly should be expanding on the inhale; on the exhale, it should be moving inward, towards your spine.  Just doing this enough for it to become a habit will help you relax and become more confident in social situations.

2)  Relate in some way to everyone in the room.  Remembering that you belong also means making room for others who also belong.  Don’t neglect anyone.  Introducing yourself to everyone in the room may not be possible or desirable, but acknowledging the presence of everyone else in the room and displaying a healthy curiosity towards everyone will help you be seen also.  It will orient you and ground you.  If it’s more than you can handle to take on the whole room, start with a 5-foot radius.  Then expand your awareness to 15 feet, 20 feet, and so on.

My point is that confidence is found not in behaviors but in feeling-states, although the outward behaviors are what most people notice.  Being grounded, non-reactive, inclusive, and remembering to breathe will help you navigate even the most challenging of social situations.

Contact me to let me know if these methods worked for you, if you have something else that’s worked for you, or if you’d like me to help.

social skills

Take the “temperature” of the room for better social interactions

Have you ever come back from an event, happy that it went well and looking forward to the next one…only to have the next one go badly? It may have been at a different venue, or slightly larger or smaller than the last one, or with or without alcohol or food the second time. But it didn’t move your social life forward the way the first one did, and it’s hard to say why.

party1-300x224It’s often impossible to isolate what’s different between a night that goes well and an “off night”. Often there is no explanation. Sometimes our attitude or the way we approach others may be subtly but proundly different. Or there may be factors in the immediate environment which make it harder to socialize. But I think the most common reason shy people fail to connect at social events is a failure to distinguish between what I call hot, cold, and warm rooms. What “worked” at an earlier event may not produce the same result the second time. The effect can be frustrating and confusing.

Shy people encounter endless variations as they move through their social lives and push their social edge. Every social situation is a little different, which is why it pays to go to many different types of events. Still, as you select events and gradually raise your comfort level, it might be useful to keep these distinctions in mind. These are not sharply-defined categories but ways of thinking about various types of events.

A hot room is usually loud, informal, and crowded. There are almost always multiple conversations going on at once. Examples of hot rooms can include:

  • a large wedding, charitable event, or frat party
  • bachelor(ette) parties
  • a bar or nightclub late on a weekend night
  • any smaller event where people are drinking heavily

Cold rooms are usually more subdued, formal, and can be less crowded. If they’re very small — say, fewer than twelve people — there’s usually only one conversation going on at once. Examples of cold rooms can include:

  • a dinner party or potluck with everyone seated around a table
  • a neighborhood bar early in the evening
  • a small gallery opening or reception

Warm rooms are usually a mix of both the above qualities. You’ll find groups of both hot and cold attendees at these events. Warm rooms are often medium-sized social events and can include:

  • singles or speed-dating events
  • specialty events such as foreign-language practice happy hours or industry networking meetups
  • small product launches or trade shows

Keep in mind that these categories are guidelines only. A room with a small number of people can be hot if it’s a celebration with many energetic people. On the other hand, a funeral or viewing will always be a cold room, no matter how many people are there. And rooms of any temperature can be made “hotter” with the addition of large amounts of alcohol.

The defining factor here is the level of expressed emotion and spontaneity among the participants. Hot rooms are usually (though not always) loud.  Participants often need to shout above music.  Alcohol is flowing freely, and barriers between what occurs in people’s minds and what they actually say are low.  In general in hot rooms, you should:

  • Speak the language of emotions, rather than facts
  • Avoid “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” questions
  • Interruptions may be inevitable. Prepare for multiple conversations and keep stories short.
  • If it’s crowded, use social touch sparingly, except with close friends

Cold rooms can be somewhat easier for shy people to navigate. Conversation is subdued; there is usually one conversation, or multiple conversations happening quietly in separate corners of the room, and participants don’t usually have to shout above loud music. Keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • It’s OK to structure the flow of conversation around information.
  • “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” are usually OK.
  • Interruptions and intrusions are much rarer.

Warm rooms present special challenges for many shy people, because participants need to adjust to the temperature, not of the room, but of each particular group of people within the room. In this as in all things social, the most important thing is to just have fun and not worry too much about adapting to every single situation. However, you may find yourself having more fun if you take the following steps:

  1. Gauge your own temperature.  Are you in a hot or cold mood?  What kind of energy are you looking to contribute to a conversation?  Avoid looking for a group to “raise your spirits” or “calm you down” — remember, you’re seeking to offer value to others, not to take it.
  2. Look for groups in a mood similar to yours.  If you’re in a hot mood, that means people who are loud, telling stories, and who are being spontaneous.  If you’re in a cold mood, look for more subdued conversation.
  3. Once you choose a group, be prepared to match its energy.
  4. Don’t be afraid to discover the temperature of the group after you’re already in it.  If it’s not a match, find a reason to exit the group, and politely excuse yourself.

Social events can be difficult to navigate when you don’t know anyone or when there are many things going on at once.  Often the amount of sensory input can be overwhelming, especially at a hot event.  But adjusting to the temperature of each room will gradually, with practice, become second nature, and you’ll be able to move between rooms of different temperatures with ease.