There’s a simple trick from psychology for motivating yourself to be more social.
It’s usually used in the world of sales. Instead of asking “Do you want to buy a car?” a salesmen will ask “Would you rather buy the red car of the blue car?” No matter which you choose, you still end up buying a car.
It’s also used by parents, who ask their kids “Do you want carrots or broccoli with dinner?” instead of “Do you want to eat vegetables with dinner?” Rather than giving their kids the chance to say no, they only give their kids options that lead to healthy veggies.
You can use this trick with yourself, too. If you have a choice to be social or non-social, instead make it a choice between two social options. In other words, instead of asking “Should I go to that party on Friday night?” find another social opportunity for Friday night, and choose between those two.
For instance, you might think “Oh, there’s a new cool movie out – I could ask a friend to see that on Friday.” So now your choice is between watching the movie and going to the party, which are both good social options, instead of the party or doing nothing social.
This also works when you are already at a social setting. For instance, let’s say you’re at a party but you aren’t talking to anyone. Instead of thinking “Should I start a conversation or not?”, try asking yourself “Should I start a conversation with this person or with that person?” or “Should I join that group by the snack bar, or that group that’s playing Guitar Hero?” No matter what you choose, you’ll move towards more social opportunities.
There are two important caveats for this trick, though.
First, it is okay to be non-social sometimes. If you’ve had a rough week and you really need to give yourself some quality alone time, don’t force yourself to be social. Or if you are at a party but you're feeling exhausted, it's fine to take some time to just people watch and recharge. But if you do want to motivate yourself to be more social, this is a helpful trick.
Second, avoid using this trick on other people. While you can occasionally nudge people’s behavior by asking them to choose between two options instead of choosing yes or no, you can also come across as rude and pushy.
For instance, if you ask a stranger “Will you go on a date with me?” you’re likely to get rejected (since they don’t know you.) If you ask a stranger “Would you like to go on a date with me to a restaurant, or on a date with me to a movie?” you’re still likely to get rejected, and you’re likely to offend the stranger (because you were obviously trying to manipulate them into doing something they wouldn’t normally do.)
Third, this only works if the options you give yourself are reasonable. If you think, "Should I talk to 100 strangers at a bar, or call up every single one of my friends?" you are still going to end up saying "No!" to both options. So choose options that, while potentially challenging, are still doable.
To sum up: Use this trick only when you are ready to be social (not when you truly need alone time), only on yourself (not others where it can be manipulative), and only with reasonable options. Then report back in the comments and tell me how it went! 🙂