How To Enjoy Socializing (For People Who’d Rather Be Home)

“Over the years I reduced most of my anxiety and I have pretty good social skills but I still don’t enjoy socializing. I mean, there are tiny bits of conversations that I can enjoy but for the most part, basic socializing is boring to me and at times it can be draining and almost painful.”

“I just wish I felt more of a drive to seek social outlets – I want good friends to talk with, but I don’t put a lot of energy into these friendships because it feels like a ‘duty’, not something I enjoy.”

Although lots of people find socializing fun,[1] it can be difficult and draining for many of us. Rather than forcing yourself to socialize despite your discomfort, I want to help you actively enjoy socializing.

Some people struggle to feel motivated to attend social events. If this is you, know that you’ll probably enjoy it when you arrive. It can be frustrating that this isn’t enough to override the sense that you don’t want to attend.

Other people find that they just don’t enjoy socializing, or even actively dislike it. I have experienced both of these at different periods of my life, and I’d like to share the strategies I developed to help.

I can’t promise that the ideas below will mean that you enjoy every social event from now on. I do hope that they will help you to enjoy the majority of your social interactions.

While this guide provides tips for how to enjoy socializing, also see our main guide on how to be more social.

“I’m there, but I don’t feel really present.”

Feeling isolated or left out can make any social event miserable. Research shows that socializing is more enjoyable when you feel included and actively engage with others.[2]

If you’re attending social events but not enjoying them, trying some of the steps below might help.

1. Change how you see small talk

When you think of socializing, you’re probably thinking of large groups of people having casual conversations. This type of contact can feel unsatisfying and frustrating, much like being offered popcorn when you want a full meal.

Not all socializing has to involve lots of small talk. Socially savvy people are able to move quickly from small talk to finding out about someone’s passions, interests and expertise. We have a great post here full of ideas to help you have deeper and more rewarding conversations.

Here’s our guide on how to get past small talk and make interesting conversation.

Disliking small talk is very common, so there’s a good chance that the person you’re talking to will be keen to move to a more substantive topic as well.

2. Figure out exactly what worries you

Although I’ve said that you can learn to enjoy socializing, there will probably be some social situations that you will never enjoy. If you don’t drink then long evenings in a bar are not likely to appeal to you.

It may be that there is something around the social situations that you are planning that makes the idea of socializing feel more stressful to you. Try to understand that problem and see if you can deal with it directly. This may reduce your discomfort around socializing more generally.

As an example, you might feel stressed at the idea that you have to stay at a social event until your lift is ready to leave. Making sure that you are in control of your transport arrangements could allow you to feel more comfortable. Try driving yourself or ordering rideshare, to see whether you feel less stressed. Finding and adapting to what you find stressful can make socializing more manageable.

3. Practice being curious about new people

Feeling curious about other people can make even surface-level social interactions more interesting. It can also encourage deeper connections. Thinking about how other people view the world can be enjoyable. Studies show that considering someone else’s worldview uses parts of the brain that are associated with pleasure and reward.[3]

Try to understand what makes the person you are speaking with ‘tick’. Ask them questions about their life, why they hold certain beliefs or how they feel about a topic. This will often make you more fun to talk to as well.

4. Tell people if you don’t want to do something

Sometimes other people’s behavior is what makes us uncomfortable in social situations. This is often the case with family gatherings. They may ask intrusive questions or expect hugs.

Set boundaries about what you are and are not willing to share in a particular social setting and practice sticking to them. It can be difficult to tell someone that you don’t want to discuss a certain topic with them, so have a response ready. Try saying “Work is going well, but it’s stressing me a bit, so I’d rather talk about something else.”

It might take a while to understand where your boundaries are for each social situation. After a social event, think about anything that made you feel uncomfortable. This can help you to decide where you should place your boundaries. Remember that these are your boundaries and you can set them wherever you like. You can also have different boundaries for different people.

5. Set up a specific goal with the interaction

Having your own personal goals when socializing can give you a sense of accomplishment. A practical goal might be to talk to three new people over the course of an event. A more whimsical goal would be to mention the word “rabbit” in as many conversations as you can. Your sense of achievement is more important than the goal itself.

If you achieve your goals, try giving yourself a reward after the event. Combining socializing with a reward makes your brain respond more positively to social situations.[4]

6. Create a routine to socialize

If you rarely want to attend social events, try to create a routine that includes socializing. This can be particularly helpful if you meet the same people at the same time each week.

Once meeting up with friends becomes a habit, you may find that you feel less stress before you go out. This is because it has become an ordinary part of your life, rather than a specific event that you have to psych yourself up for.

7. Change the way you talk to yourself

The things we tell ourselves inside our own minds is called our internal monologue. The language we use in our internal monologue about our socializing can have a huge impact on how we feel about the event itself. When we use words like “should” and “ought” to convince ourselves to do something, we can unintentionally make ourselves more reluctant to do it.

Just trying to remove these words from your internal monologue can feel inauthentic. Instead, try to find positive aspects of socializing. Focus on ones that feel important to you. Try telling yourself “I can go and see how Susan is feeling after her operation” or “Tom might have some pictures of his new kittens I can see”. This may be more motivating than saying “I should”.

8. Find time to recharge

If social events leave you exhausted, you may be more introverted than extroverted. This exhaustion can be physical, mental or emotional. Introverts are energized by time alone and time spent socializing costs energy

Knowing that you will be exhausted can make it harder to convince yourself to go to large events.

Rather than trying to fight through your exhaustion, make plans to have a quiet, restful day after a major social event. It won’t reduce your tiredness, but knowing that you will have the time to recharge can reduce your worry about how tired socializing makes you.

Here’s our main article on how to be more social as an introvert.

9. See socializing as an investment in yourself

Conversations that are mostly focused around small talk can feel shallow. It’s not surprising that you quickly become bored and frustrated. This is particularly true if your conversations don’t result in meaningful relationships.

See socializing as a way to strengthen your social skills and remind yourself that every time you socialize, you’re becoming more experienced. You can also try to select activities or events that have a goal or a sense of purpose, such as volunteering or developing a skill. Or, go to places where people share your interests. Here’s our guide on how to find like-minded.

If this isn’t possible, try to move the conversation away from small talk and onto more engaging topics. Here’s a guide on how to make interesting conversation.

Underlying reasons for not liking to socialize

Not enjoying socializing can make you feel more isolated. You might be surprised to find out that up to half of the population would describe themselves as introverts.[5] Many of those don’t enjoy most social interactions.

It might help you to understand why you don’t enjoy socializing, or why you lack the drive to engage with social interactions.

Health issues can make socializing difficult

Both physical and mental health problems can increase the difficulty of social interactions. Problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome can increase the energy ‘cost’ of socializing beyond what you can handle. Hearing or speech impairments can also make it hard to communicate and lead to you feeling uncomfortable

Mental health problems often directly impact your enjoyment of social situations. 50-78% of young people with major depression show reduced pleasure in social interactions.[6] Anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety, can also dramatically reduce your desire to socialize. This can make the social interactions you do have less rewarding.

If health issues are making it hard to enjoy social interactions, it’s important to treat the underlying problem if you can. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.

There may be little your social circle can do to ease your health issues, but it may still be worth discussing them with a trusted friend. It may be possible to change social events to make them easier for you. For example, they could turn off background music if you have problems with your hearing.

Having past negative or traumatic experiences

Many people who grew up shy or awkward find that they expect negative experiences from social events. This is especially true if you have been bullied or had toxic friends or relationships

This form of anxiety may be due to an underlying lack of trust. You might not trust the people around you to be kind or you may not trust your social skills to carry you through the event without making a social blunder.

Trust is built slowly, whether it is learning to trust others or to trust yourself. Socializing in smaller groups to begin with can help, as it limits the number of people that you have to trust. We often overestimate how much others notice or remember our social mistakes. This is known as the Spotlight Effect.[7] Understanding this might allow you to take some of the pressure off of yourself.

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Natalie Watkins writes about socializing for SocialPro. She holds a B.A. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford, an M.S.c. in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience from the University of London, and is currently in her final year of an MSc in Integrative Counselling at the University of Northampton.

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Comments

  1. Hello Natalie, I would like to thank you for the energy you put in to help me further my own conception of this critical subject. Yours was the 1st result of a search for “what should I do if I don’t like socializing?”. Now in my late 40s, financially independent (for a long time), with a scientific method background, a degree in engineering and science from a very well known university in Canada, married with nearly adult children, I used to like socializing. Now I try very hard to avoid it for a reason I do not find listed in your article above. That being: “I’ve developed a disdain for almost every human I interact with because of their propensity to demonstrate hypocrisy that they’re aware of but have chosen to bury subconsciously (illogical action stemming from the desire for emotions to override what is better, only because it is seemingly easier for oneself)”.

    I now limit my social interaction to an absolute minimum; the necessity (“cordial” if I should describe it) to converse up to the point when I can see a reliable path to conducting my business of delivering overtly un-levered value to others. Overt and un-levered are critical descriptive criteria here. When I realized in my early 40s that “we’re ALL hypocrites, it is ONLY a question of degree” waking up from the stupor of the inconsistency of my beliefs with my actions, I set out to become even more disciplined. Most everyone who knows me back then thought I was too disciplined to begin with, but in my eyes, that wasn’t enough. Before I realized it, I presented myself and was presented with some equivalent of the statement: “We all need to “emotionally recharge””; a euphemism for something that is a clearly describable form, albeit qualitatively, of biological laziness (putting aside sleep, which is a necessity for long term knowledge transfer, with oneself and with humans, across generations; our “superpower”…). So this deviation from what is “logical” made qualitative sense, especially to satisfy a biological need one is still learning to build immunity from over time… Of course, until it doesn’t make sense anymore if there was serious intent to practice building such immunity.

    Yet, this overly qualitative excuse of “emotional recharging” is what every human I’ve ever known uses to demonstrate a lack of discipline, over-consume and create instruments of leverage over others while avoiding any mental effort expenditure. This seemingly biological evolutionary trait of minimizing energy expenditure is no longer a satisfactory explanation. Most of us, even those considered to live below the poverty line, are no longer in a state of biological energy scarcity.

    I cannot disentangle the disdain I’ve developed from the state of current societal forces and how they contribute to this. For example, is having to “tolerate everything disincentivizing anyone’s ability to express their discontent at the oxymoron of ‘imposed tolerance’”? Is “imposed tolerance”, shades of which existed for decades, being used as an excuse to amplify the trend to consciously bury one’s responsibility? Is it okay to accept over-consumption in its various forms or to want it if you haven’t achieved it after you’ve experienced a few instances of it? What opportunity cost do constructs of hidden/imperceptible leverage over others present when we expend vast amounts of energy to build such instruments that will inevitably snap when the sheer gluttony of whomever decides to exercise such instruments wants too much of it? Are these questions the proverbial canary in the mine for what others (I am sure that, today, I am not alone in the way I think) are going to experience as well? How will the global social fabric fracture, NOT because of what you described in your article, but in what is seemingly cynicism when it is potential evidence of a new stage in the life cycle of a being; a being at the intersection of a deeply evolved and evolving conscious consciousness constrained to exist in a form that needs to serve its physical urges.

    The question I keep asking myself is: “Should I reverse course and go back to compete so I can be amongst the fittest to survive or should I focus on the evolution of my consciousness”? And what form such evolution can manifest physically?” I cannot see the logic of the “survival of the fittest” anymore because it ultimately means (even if humans expand to avail themselves of resources on other planets/systems) that only one NEW being shall remain while all others, even if they continue to exist, shall be of a different subservient species. This new “fittest” being strives to exist above all others with little diversity along any dimension. What would be the point of such a limited belief “God”? After all, if an infinitely omnipotent omniscient consciousness existed, it could have willed such a being into existence in the first place. Therein lies the nearly impossible to disprove inductive indication that my only logical course of action cannot be to attempt to be the fittest to survive. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the playing out of various scenario simulations would eliminate “survival of the fittest” as a logical strategy to continue down the road of successful evolution. To wit, when one has already uncovered a pattern, like “survival of the fittest” or “if such and such happens, you can make money in the stock market”, it is very likely that in very short order, it will no longer suffice for evolutionary success. “Short order” can be micro-seconds, days, millennia or longer, relative to the context in which it applies.

    Countless successful species evolution events, biological or otherwise (such as stars), seem to occur when members of the species survive a suddenly extreme & hostile sequence of events because they are so equipped. Is a dislike for social interaction or social awkwardness a disease OR is it a temporary embalmment while a temporary condition changes? Or perhaps, and I am more convinced of this day after day, than in any other explanation, is being “asocial” a USEFUL and NECESSARY trait that is needed when the next phase of human species evolution comes? A phase in which physical connection is unnecessary and the achievement of infinite mental connection to various pools of consciousness unlocks a path to the phase that follows.

    As I finish writing this, I want to comment about the use of “disdain”, “imposed” and “hypocrisy” above. There are terms I used only to emphasize and telegraph how intense my thoughts and beliefs have congealed around being asocial. I do not feel disdain. In fact, I do not really feel much of anything anymore, and when I do, I try very hard to explore why I have not yet become immune to them. Over time, I have adapted to the idea that “feeling” itself is antithetical to necessary evolution of conscious consciousness.

    For anyone searching , why not explore what is at the “heart” (euphemistic expression) for how you feel? Whatever discovery leads you to, will you root it in unending and evolving considered purpose or stop at emotional discovery and call it a day? Is your goal to integrate socially “as best you can” or is your goal “to learn whether integration is but a step towards more…”?

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  2. I have always found any form of socializing (in person or online) literally excruciating, so I purposely avoid it. I do not attend work social functions or any events in my neighbourhood. If someone phones or knocks on the door, I do not answer unless I have to. Obviously I have no friends and have never had intimacy of any kind.

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