Being sociable is a critical skill in building relationships in every setting. Making new friends, networking at a business event, blending in at a party – all require a degree of sociability. And frankly, we’ve all been to a social occasion and envied the person who blends effortlessly, becoming the life of the party and walking away with a lasting impression.

To some people it comes naturally; for the more introverted, it can be really difficult sometimes. But in the end, it’s a skill you can cultivate and develop. It’s a balance of standing out and blending in. It’s basically about becoming approachable and not ruining that impression.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Smile. People want to be around happy people. Laugh at people’s jokes, keep a smile on and act like you’re excited about being there. It may seem “cool” to be reserved and uninvested, but it makes people hesitant to approach you.
  • Initiate conversations. Most people want conversations, but they don’t want to start them. Start with something casual, then gauge how they respond. If you get an unenthusiastic answer, then close it and move along. If they seem ready to talk, keep it up.
  • When you’re unfamiliar with the group you’re talking in, ask questions instead of volunteering information.  Most people love to talk about themselves and their ideas. If you have a fair knowledge of current events, you can probe some sample topics until you find one they really respond to.  As a matter of fact, asking questions is the best way to get a conversation going with anyone.
  • Introduce people. Make the connections for them and they’ll both appreciate it.
  • Give a smile and a nod! When you catch someone’s eye, give them a smile and a nod, even if you don’t follow up on it. When someone walks up to the group you’re talking to, do the same even if you don’t stop talking. When you acknowledge these random encounters, people get the impression that you’re approachable and likable.
  • Listen. People like talking about themselves. Don’t interrupt them with “Yes, and I…” interjections. Listen until they’re finished talking and then add your two cents. If you interrupt them, they’re less likely to want to finish the story – and if you hold your comments, you’ve already got your next statement ready to fill the silence. Most importantly, listen and learn a little more about them.
  • Ask good questions. People like to elaborate from their strengths. If you don’t know what someone’s talking about, ask them. Encourage them to elaborate. If they have a great time telling you about themselves, they’ll remember you as a fascinating person!
  • Don’t be a wallflower. Keep your body language open. Don’t retreat to a corner, cross your arms or sit with your back to the room. If someone walks up to the group, make room for them. You invite more people into the mix and give the impression of friendliness.
  • Don’t try to be the life of the party by being outrageous or an entertainer. You may get some attention, but people don’t enjoy one person stealing all the thunder. Go ahead and be funny or fascinating, but give other people the chance to do so as well. And whatever you do, don’t try to “out-host” the actual host.
  • Don’t criticize. It’s fine to say you don’t like things, but do it gently. While you may think it’s cool to criticize the lame music or bad food, it’s probably going to offend someone slightly – the guy who thought the food was OK or the girl who likes the trendy music now thinks that you’re criticizing them.
  • Don’t judge people by their looks or company. The nerdy looking guy or girl might be absolutely engaging. And even if they aren’t, you never know when a positive impression will help you. They just might be the brother/sister of someone you really want to know.
  • Don’t stay in a little huddle of people. Get around the room and meet new people. And if people approach your group, make room for them.
  • Be committed to the gathering. That means stay off your phone, take off your coat, put down your bag, etc. Give the impression that you’re here to enjoy the event and you’re interested in what’s going on here and now. In some situations you do have to hold on to your stuff, but when it’s appropriate, “sit down and stay a spell”.
  • If it’s at all appropriate, thank the host before you leave. Thank people you spent a lot of time with for the conversation or whatever’s appropriate. That way you leave with a positive impression.

These are just some general tips, but they’ll take you quite a ways toward being someone that everybody wants to know.