5 Tips to Be a More Confident Social Butterfly in English

Interacting with others in a social context is challenging enough, but imagine being required to communicate in your second language in a high-stakes business or educational context.  The challenges may seem even greater.  In this blog, we will be sharing 5 tips for how to socialize with confidence in English.  Not a natural social butterfly in even your first language?  You’ll want to keep reading!

  1. Listen up!

It starts with listening.  One must actively listen to respond appropriately.  Rather than planning what you’re going to say, what vocabulary you’ll need, or maybe the language resources you realize you’re lacking, concentrate on what is being said by the other person.  It is impossible to multitask, so you can’t expect yourself to be able to rehearse your response and listen at the same time.  Further, it’s important to listen without judging the content shared by the other. Only after they express their statement should you respond, in agreement or disagreement. 

  1. Open-ended questions over Yes/No questions

Secondly, it’s important to not just respond with your thoughts afterward.  Instead, try asking open-ended questions–these are those questions that ask who/how/when/what/where/why.  Maybe you genuinely want to know the answers to these questions.  You may also just want to “buy yourself time” while you consider a response.  In either case, open-ended questions keep the social interaction going.

  1. Show that you care!

The third key to socializing with confidence is to demonstrate interest.  Maybe you have to fake it a little at first, but after convincing yourself that the interaction is interesting, you will find it easier and easier to socialize.  It becomes easier to ask follow-up questions, and they might even notice your interest and become interested in what you have to say as well.  It’s not uncommon to become lost in a conversation or be unclear about what you heard.  Ask for clarifications or restate their points and ask if you’ve understood well.

  1. Put the spotlight on yourself

Next, the conversation doesn’t have to be all about the other person.  It wouldn’t be a fair conversation if this was the case.  Share something about yourself because, after all, this is where you have expertise!  Adding personal details will naturally lead to the conversation feeling more natural and judgment-free.

  1. Study up!

One final tip.  We often think of social contexts as an impromptu speaking context.  While there are some things we talk about in nearly every new interaction (our name, where we’re from, what we do), much of the content is dependent on those we’ll be speaking with, the context, and many other factors.  However, socializing doesn’t have to be something that you show up to unprepared for.

Do some research beforehand on the people you’ll be interacting with.  This may be looking over their LinkedIn pages or possibly asking a more senior colleague some questions about the other people.  This way, you have an idea of who the people are and what kinds of expertise they have.  From there, you can come prepared with pre-determined questions rather than coming up with them on the spot.  Additionally, you can prepare what you’re going to say about yourself.  There might be a certain story that could be applicable, but without preparation, re-telling it in the past tense can be a challenge.  Writing down a “draft” or practicing it in the mirror beforehand can bring you greater confidence.

Remember that socializing with confidence is a skill to be practiced, regardless of the language being used.  To communicate in English in any social context globally, you don’t have to have the highest proficiency or be the most natural social butterfly.  If you put the 5 tips we’ve shared into practice, you’ll be on the road to socializing more confidently in English in no time.

Curious to hear more?  Check out this TedTalk by Celeste Headlee who shares “10 ways to have a better conversation”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1vskiVDwl4

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