I used to be 300 pounds, heavily bearded, and had few friends that weren't represented by a digital avatar. Social situations made me really nervous, meaning I'd either stay in, or get out quickly, and generally assumed anyone I met would barely remember me. After a while, I grew sick of each of these things and purposefully set out to get each to a level I found acceptable. I've exceed those levels by now, but I continue to continuously refine and improve the ones that didn't require a quick shave and getting off my ass once and a while.
So here are my three biggest social hacks that have drastically changed my social life and deepen the connections I make with people, both back home and on the road:
1. Show up.
Just fucking do it. Sure, you might be tired, have to be up early tomorrow, or any other host of excuses you can come up with any day/night of the week -- just make the time and show up. And when you get there, be open to what happens. Ultimately, say yes to opportunities when they present themselves, otherwise they'll stop presenting themselves, or you'll just never encounter the best ones. All of this within reason of course, saying yes heroin or hookers is not advised.
But I also mean just showing up and taking advantage of social opportunities as they present themselves. I do this during my world travels by trying to engage with as many fellow travelers as possible. When someone walks into my room, or is waiting for the same thing, or asks a question to a friend that you know they can't answer, I fucking jump in and say something. Doesn't matter what, a first impression lasts until you make a second. People are often wanting to say something to you anyway, so take that anxiety away from them.
Lastly, show up emotionally and honestly. Show people who you actually are, even if you think it's a side of you that is particularly embarrassing or judge-worthy. If you show it without apology, then people will accept it, and maybe even share their true selves and you'll get past your bullshit facades and actually meet each other. If they don't accept it, fuck 'em, there's 7 billion other people on this rock of ours.
2. Follow through.
Resist the urge to end the interaction, keep it going, let them decide when it ends. I now almost always let the people around me tell me when the conversation or evening is ending. I used to always be the one that went home first, or cut things short. Now I will block out everything else happening in my life and just focus on that singular interaction or evening until the other(s) throw in the towel. Sure this might kill your sleep sometimes, but sticking around can lead to ridiculous stories, great bonding experiences, and shows the other person you enjoy being around them. I still fail this sometimes, but everytime I stick through, I never regret it.
And remember, aftering showing up, focusing purely on them is critical -- nobody likes playing second fiddle to a phone. If you decided to show up, then have the decency to actually be there. The presence of your meat sack makes no difference if your head isn't in the game and actively participating, you're just wasting everyone's time.
3. Follow up.
This is probably my favourite and possibly the most impactful, and one I only really discovered in the last few months. After you have a great evening, or even conversation with someone, follow it up later by telling them how much you enjoyed it, and why. People like to hear and know that they're appreciated. We're all the same in feeling lonely, and needing the validation that we actually matter to others. So show them that they really do matter to you, and you'll matter more to them.
And every once and while, follow up again with a quick "what's up?"" Or a story, photo, or anecdote they might appreciate. Just let them know that you're thinking of them and that you're wondering what they're up to. People only have so much head space, so if you don't jam yourself in there every once and while, you'll find that one day you'll stop appearing there spontaneously. This can often lead to invites to events, and most importantly, better friendships in general.
My Challenge to You
These are my biggest 3 social hacks that have severely helped me over the last few years. I learned each one over time through what felt like personal torture, but has made a huge impact on my everyday well-being. I hope you take them to heart and try to keep them in mind during your interactions with other fine specimens of the human race.
This article comes with homework though... My challenge to each of you, as soon as you finishing reading this, is to send a follow-up message to at least one person who you recently enjoyed meeting, hanging out with, or talking with. Thank them for it, and let them know it mattered to you. I promise you it'll make a difference, and they will only cherish you more for it. Let me know how it goes, I'd love to hear.