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How to Be Better at Parties (nytimes.com)
275 points by mhb 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments





The fact that this kind of article needs to be written in the first place seems to confirm that there's so many basic things that people just don't learn how to do anymore, because exponential advances in technology have changed our lives so drastically that we just no longer run into the situations where we would organically learn those things.

Especially with the internet, it's easier than ever to shut yourself in and never go out into the real world and have real meaningful interactions, while still feeling like your online life is full of real, meaningful interactions. Just immerse yourself into a sub-community filled with 2k people, and you feel like a social butterfly.

And it's not just social lives. Things like learning how to interact in basic ways with your cashier at the store, or how to make new friends outside of work, so many of us just don't know how to do this, because our heads were in The Cloud™s while we texted and browsed reddit in line at the grocery store.

Things have even changed profoundly within a single generation. When I was in school, Tamagotchis were the thing. When my little brother was in school, his teacher was using YouTube to teach them. Now my son is in high school and all his classmates have Android phones, which are such a game changer that they aren't even allowed to even have them turned on in school.

And going back a little further, my oldest son and daughter have The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls which teach stuff that 100 years ago everyone knew, and now you need to buy novelty books to learn, despite many of the skills and tricks these books teach still being useful.


I think you're projecting and making broad assumptions with no evidence, based on your feel and the ever present "back in my day" syndrome. People have been awkward and people have been sociable before the internet, and people are awkward and sociable after the internet. Today you have people with their heads buried in their phones, 100 years ago it was newspapers. There is no qualitative shift, at least I will not proclaim so without evidence.

And yes, this article is patently ridiculous. Way to overthink something that should be about relaxing and having fun.


>Today you have people with their heads buried in their phones, 100 years ago it was newspapers.

However, there is also no evidence that people 20 years ago were walking around all day with their heads buried in newspapers, reading them in grocery store lines, during walks in the park, and in class when they weren't really supposed to. Maybe on benches and on the bus.


Yes, I'm not saying I deny it either. I just say not to jump to conclusions based on gut feeling and "back in my day" arguments.

> And yes, this article is patently ridiculous. Way to overthink something that should be about relaxing and having fun.

Well, I found that article incredible useful.

Like, one of the main reasons I'm depressed right now is because I just can't relax. I'm away from family and friends and apparently don't know the basics of human interaction.

I'm just grateful that there are people overthinking simple things out there so I can catch up and fix some of my anxieties.


Glad it helped you then!

I'm a senior millennial (mid-80s kid) but I can tell you, anecdotally, that younger generation is more addicted to their phones and devices than my gen ever was. There was a car accident in front of my younger cousins' house where a car hit a fence and literally flipped over. While me and my uncle/aunt and a few others called for help and chatted about the event...my younger cousins were busy texting the event to their friends. It was as if they were there, but not really there.

I'm not sure I agree with the distinction that talking about an event with people who are there is "chatting", but talking about it with people who aren't there is merely "texting".

> my younger cousins were busy texting the event to their friends. It was as if they were there, but not really there.

Sounds like they were meaningfully interacting with their friends.

Back before the internet, they'd have probably rushed inside and fought over who got to use the phone to call their friends first, and describe the incident outside over the phone to them.


Probably they'd be interacting with their fam who was there and in the moment and later they'd call up their friends about it.

> Sounds like they were meaningfully interacting with their friends.

That's a meaningful interaction to you - texting?


Why would you think it's not? What point are you trying to make? as it seems obviously a 'meaningful interaction' to communicate with someone. (disclosure: I don't have a mobile phone, have never sent a text)

Kids these days - texting, emailing, talking on the phone, writing letters, exchanging meaning through spoken words. Whatever happened to a good, clean round of picking bugs out of each other's fur?

>People have been awkward and people have been sociable before the internet, and people are awkward and sociable after the internet.

Yep. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" was published in 1937.


Through, that one is more advanced and about how to be skilled manipulator and sleezy.

You haven't read it at all, have you?

That book is the sales bible!

i've only skimmed parts of the book, but i recall the author explicitly saying multiple times that it is not a book of "tricks", but rather tactics that can only work if there is genuine interest behind them.

idk how much time you have spent being deliberately manipulative, but unfortunately i have in my earlier years. unless you are naturally this way, it takes a lot of work in the moment and people are not usually fooled.


I have read the book and that was my conclusion from it. That it is harder to pull that actually off is true, but it it being hard does not change much on my assessment of book.

I did not tried manipulate people much and hate a lot when people try to manipulate me. People in the past did that to me. Hence my distaste with the book.


I agreed with you until the last paragraph. Parties "should" be relaxing and fun, but what if they aren't? Focusing on how you should feel a certain way when you don't isn't helpful, whereas making adjustments to how you act or think about things can be.

One of my favorite "back in my day, grumble grumble" quotes, attributed to Socrates: https://www.bartleby.com/73/195.html If you sprinkle "cell phone" in, you can't tell that it wasn't written this week.


Most important part of the linked article so no one else has to pay the penalty of reading for my earlier misquote: "[Quote Investigator] has determined that the author of the quote is not someone famous or ancient.

It was crafted by a student, Kenneth John Freeman, for his Cambridge dissertation published in 1907. Freeman did not claim that the passage under analysis was a direct quotation of anyone; instead, he was presenting his own summary of the complaints directed against young people in ancient times. The words he used were later slightly altered to yield the modern version."

Thanks for sharing this the-dude, you've helped make me a little less misinformed, even though I'm sad to learn it's not a direct quote :)


For reference here's a party guide from the 1950s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA93BhDBskw

these things have been going on a while


He never made the claim "nobody before 1-Jan-2002 was ever socially deficient or withdrawn from society", which you appear to be responding to.

What social consequences (specifically pertaining to human behavior) do you concede computing has had, if any?


On the one hand I see where you are going, but on the other hand, 100+ years ago there existed etiquette books and charm schools (aka finishing schools) and so on. In the middle ages noble children were sent off to be raised by allies and relatives where they would be trained in how to do court.

A staple plot of teen movies going back forever (to at least the 80s, but probably longer) is a kid who somehow makes friends with the cool kids and they actively teach the "loser" to be "cool".

Point being, sure there is maybe less chance of learning these skills organically, but I think that intentional learning of these skills is not a new thing that modern life has brought about.


I grew up before the internet and I never learned how to navigate parties. I think it depends more on being able to see somebody close to you to learn from.

This resonates with me. When growing up the 'parties' I went to or heard about were really just excuses to get drunk together, which, when you're not really into drinking culture, isn't very interesting. Actual gatherings where people came to talk and socialize were few and far between.

EDIT: I do have a different expectation for parties, but understand that parties have a spectrum, from people going to a party to drink/smoke/bump what have you to reach a point of near senselessness on one end of the spectrum, to perhaps a gathering of people in the same industry who are trying to "network" at the other. My expectation for informal parties is in the middle of this where people may drink but where it isn't their expectation that they will get drunk, and the discussions will be more intimate and not business related.


I think you have it backwards. In my experience, the "drinking culture" is the excuse to get together and even meet new people sometimes. Getting a beer at the bar is a cheap way to have a place to be and "activity" to do while talking freely. Same with the bottle and the living room at someone's place.

The actual alcoholics drink alone. (And that's essentially the problem.)

Some would say it's sad that we can't just gather around a table just to talk. But the advantage of the drink (not necessarily alcoholic), is you have to be there and not on the phone.


“drinking culture” is often the only way to socialize in groups, and not necessarily alcoholism. But it can very well be.

Compare it to other “drug cultures”, e.g. cocaine. Of course users socialize heavily, but that does not mean that they are not addicted or harming themselves.


But it also doesn’t mean that they are addicted, or that the social drinkers are just fine.

Were people not talking/socializing while drinking? It sounds like you have a nonstandard expectation for "parties".

People aren't as entertaining as they think they are when they're drinking, and not being drunk means you really need other aspects of the experience to fill in.

You also have the problem that people get suspicious of people hanging around not drinking alcohol.


I'm not making the claim that drunk people are equally fun for a sober person to hang out with as other sober people, which you seem to be responding to - I'm saying the majority of the population would expect there to be alcohol at a party (even the type of upper class New York party described in the linked article).

It sounds like they wanted a hobby meetup group or similar.


> You also have the problem that people get suspicious of people hanging around not drinking alcohol.

Once you're out of college I think this is mostly in your imagination. Nobody will judge you for drinking water or diet soda and you similarly shouldn't judge someone for enjoying a beer at a social event.


Right, seeing by example is how we learn most basic soft skills. But if you're staring at your Nintendo 3DS (or Sega Game Gear like I was gifted as a 5 year old) when your parents drag you along to parties or to the grocery store or wherever, then you're not going to learn anything at all, except maybe how to beat level 2.

I still don't see this as a new phenomenon. Before Android phones there were Game Gears. Before those we had Tiger Electronics handhelds. Before those we had comic books.

The only major thing that seems to have changed are the names of the distractions.


Also how much content they contain. You could go through a new comic in 20 minutes flat. Game Gears could last a few hours. Android phones provide endless content.

> Android phones provide endless content

this is a true statement, but idk how different it really is for the kids. when i was a kid i would happily spend hours rereading the same garbage star wars expanded universe books over and over and over, even though i had basically memorized the plot. with the abundance of content, i doubt today's children would be as satisfied to revisit the same thing so many times, but i also doubt that they waste much more time than i did.


They provide endless _new_ content. I still don't see how the kids of today aren't learning social skills through observing their parents because mobile devices are sucking their attention away.

My point is that the nature of what kids do at parties hasn't changed in any significant way to support your original claim that there are "so many basic things we just don't learn how to do anymore".


How to Win Friends and Influence People was published in 1936, and has a lot of similar advice about how to interact with people. Technology has clearly changed the contours of our interactions but I think it would be a stretch to assert that social awkwardness is a new phenomenon.

I don't know, I'm pretty sure parties have always been awful for some part of the population. Personally my solution is to never go to them.

I’ve always hated them, even before the Internet was huge. I’m a fairly social person and I’m okay in crowds, but once the number of people I’m trying to interact with exceeds ~10 it’s just too much for me.

The worst are work “parties” and happy hours where everyone feels forced to go, no meaningful team building really happens, and the cliques in a company become more evident and visible.

Plus I’ve lost some hearing due to one too many loud metal shows, so party conversation is pretty stressful.


>no meaningful team building really happens, and the cliques in a company become more evident and visible.

Are your work parties dry?

I work at BigCo we have a monthly "free beer and pizza" on our floor and it's the great at getting people to meet each other and de-siloing.


> Are your work parties dry?

They aren’t but it still ends up being the same people grouping up and talking to each other. Maybe it’s the company culture but it makes the whole affair feel pretty uninviting.


There are just many different types of party. The default is just bad, true.

In my youth it was common to drink at a "party", until it was fun. Then I decided that parties where I need to be drunk to enjoy, are not worth my time. But trust me, there are different ones ...


i don't genuinely enjoy most parties, but i do very much enjoy small gatherings of close friends. unfortunately, close friends do not grow on trees, and as an adult, i don't actually get that many opportunities to meet a broad range of new people. i find that parties are one of the few places in american society where it is acceptable to just approach people who seem interesting and start talking to them, so i see value in them even if i don't like them, per se.

People have been awkward at parties since there were three or more people gathering in a social setting.

Relevant:

> Texting is now the preferred form of communication [among teenagers], with 35 percent of teens saying that’s their favorite way to communicate, compared with in-person (32 percent), social media (16 percent) and video chatting (10 percent). In 2012, in-person communication was the most popular. (Emphasis mine)

Source: https://www.recode.net/2018/9/10/17826810/social-media-use-t...


No. It wasn't the internet or cellphones or gaming. This is a 20th century problem. Previous societies had rigid systems of etiquette. We don't.

One upon a time if someone wanted to start a conversation with a stranger there was a clear and practiced way of doing so. You could easily identify whether a person was of a similar class and background to yourself. Then there were acceptable and unacceptable times and places for such conversations. It was rigid, formal and often evil (racism etc) but it gave everyone guidelines.

Vestiges of this still exist today. Two doctors or lawyers know how to identify and address each other. Certainly the military has formal rules. It isn't about common backgrounds, it is about knowing exactly how the other person expects to be addressed and how they will respond to you. Such knowledge makes starting that first conversation easier.


Side note, if you are interested in skills that "everybody knew 100 years ago", there are much better books to be had. "The American boys Handy book" comes to mind. Popular Mechanic published a bunch of books back then (pre 1920, don't be confused with some of the latter stuff which isn't as good).

Of course those books assume that there are things like a junk model T in the backyard that you are free to take parts from or otherwise destroy. Just to name one change in circumstances.


I fucking hate parties, and never had a "real meaningful connection" at one. But that's not to say I've never had such connections. Attempting to do so just becomes more difficult when you're trying to raise your voice above ambient noise levels and listen to someone trying to do the same.

I certainly lost the illusion of online communities being like real communities. I mean, I certainly don't post to HN to feel socially competent.


> I certainly lost the illusion of online communities being like real communities

this was a really sad part of growing up for me.


Sometimes it's okay to evolve in the sense that average people forget how to do (now) unnecessary things.

I.E. Standard/Manual Transmissions

Socially, maybe not, but my example still stands.


"go out into the real world" screw parties (exchange screw for the f bomb). If you have any kind of convictions not a days its really difficult to go into crowds above 30. One person will be a complete idiot or disgusting and its either being able to enjoy the company of such a person or leave.

Im middle class (bachelors degree, not from a wealthy family) and the "medicore" , "average" person just talks so much shit out of their ass. Its like a public twitter forum where stupid cliches about "Trump is an idiot" or so much drugs and even orgies have become a not too crazy idea.

Can we have the 50s back without the racism. The people are not the same but parties are not the same either.

I wonder if the rich have stayed classy? Parties are like a rap video. Twerking being a phenomena should tell you all you need to know about the "party" culture in America.


There's a lot going on in that comment... You need to sort that out.

kinda reminds me of ajit pai going off on why he hates america. [0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNR3Z6hWTvg


I was being tongue and cheek for the most part.Is there really nothing in my previous comment that does not resonate with your juxtaposition on how the standard "party" has changed from previous generations.

Hell give me the 70s, at least the disco seemed fun. But I guess thats where the drugs started too.

Anyways I would appreciate just ignoring the comment instead of being snarky. This board has standard I hope it strives to keep.


> This board has standard I hope it strives to keep.

It seems to have done its best to downvote you.


It sounds like you have a lasting impression about what a party is like based on movies or TV shows. My experiences at parties are very different from what you've described.

On that same note:

I think we're seeing 2 problems:

1. People really don't want to get together due to the consequence of callout culture/(PCism/SJWism). This has caused people (I'm seeing the effects with the communities I currently and have previously maintained) to be less likely to share, be willing to meet with people, and even branch out their friend circles. Censorship/Censorship has been the conservative "let's all get along" response.

2. Technology has become a detriment, I'm not sure when we're going to have our WWI for personal technology. (WWI introduced the concept that all of these improvements in technology may also bring death and destruction) Given the hooks of technology, we're going to get to a really nastic predicament here. I'm not sure how to describe what it will be, or how we can fix it. But we're losing valuable communication skills and we're making things worse for society. (That has been an ongoing thing for a while) My theory: We're going to go into a dark age.

----

Lastly: If you found this article somewhat helpful, I would suggest reading Captivate by Vanessa Williams/Edwards?


For some counter perspective to point 1, I'm a white male in the Bay Area whose interests often place me in diverse groups, some of whom advocate social justice policies. I haven't noticed SJW/PC culture as an actual barrier to socializing and no one I maintain contact with has ever mentioned it as a problem.

Anecdotally, SJW/PC call-out culture appears to have a much more depressing effect on public discourse over the internet where posting opens you to criticism from anyone on the internet.


Are those groups focused on sj polices? If they're groups where that's not the focus, and they've injected those policies. (I.e. let's say a HN user group) That's a problem. How comfortable would you feel stating a disagreement without even mentioning your identity or status? How comfortable would you be in stating the disagreement if you weren't 100% confident on what you were saying?

For communities not focused on policies there's a certain amount of fragmentation along what I would call sj/pc social norms. In my boardgame group, for example, if you intentionally refer to someone using pronouns they do not like you get ejected; in which case you could leave our regular meeting place and walk 4 blocks down to another gathering where that sort of behavior is tolerated.

As far as expressing disagreement goes, the rule is the same as it's always been as far as I can tell: The degree to which a view outside the local Overton Window is expressible is directly proportional to how much the listeners respect your politics/thought process/moral grounding and how far outside the Overton Window the view is. The more the listener respects your politics/thought process/moral grounding, the more radical the idea you can argue to them without being dismissed. Go too radical for someone who doesn't know you well and you lose the listener.

So in direct response to your question, I'm very comfortable stating disagreement on topics that it's socially acceptable to disagree about generally and am comfortable disagreeing about anything with certain specific groups of people. This is, as far as I can tell, the most any society has ever achieved. A Bay Area neoreactionary will be shunned by most for expressing their belief that a woman's place is in the home just as a progressive in Birmingham, Alabama would be shunned for suggesting there's nothing wrong with abortion.

I would go so far as to say that if this level of self-censorship is new to someone then they have been fortunate to spend much of their life in communities in which their views fit comfortably inside the local Overton Window; for everyone else this is normal.


Having the rule about pronouns is what I was referring to. Just having that rule makes people afraid of being rejected from the group from a slip up like that. (Thus creating censorship) Personally, I avoid groups that mandiate things like that or I'll aggressively reject that rule. (I'll let them know that it's a bad rule and I will speak up on it frequently.. will I intentionally treat the people who feel the need to have a different pronoun than what they're percieved badly.. no) However, I realize that I'm different and I don't tolerate bullies.

So I would say first, respecting pronouns is not a rule unto itself, it's encompassed in a more general "be respectful" rule, whose interpretation is informed by our social norms.

Second, for a group seeking social cohesion a certain amount of censorship is desirable. We also don't allow people to casually disparage people of color because if we do those members of our community who are people of color would either leave or cause a ruckus, neither of which we want.

Third and lastly, mistakes are tolerated, we're people not caricatures and know that the pronoun stuff can be difficult to track. If you slip up you'll be given a "look" and a chance to correct yourself. If you don't correct yourself, and continue to slip, interventions slowly escalate from friendly reminders of the form, "hey, please watch what pronouns you use" to longer discussions about why your behavior is not acceptable in this context. We use this same approach for people who use unacceptable language, or have trouble controlling their volume when speaking, it's the only way to keep a group of random people tolerable to be around.

As I stated, you are immediately shown the door if you are intentionally misgendering someone. So if someone tells you they want to be called she/her/hers and you very emphatically refer to them as he/him/his a dozen times in three minutes you get the boot. Just as we'd throw out someone who was being extremely rude to our members in a more conventional manner.


I feel that we're getting down in the dirt with one particular groups' conventions.

On an interpersonal level, I respect the overton window. On a group level, I'm highly concerned with it. It caters too much to the needs of the over sensitive.

I'm on the level of if you're abusive towards other members, you've lost the support of the group and a rule about that is fine. Setting the line at "don't abuse other people" is generic and supported to all people.

But when you codify a rule about pronouns, you're just giving an endorsement to the most oversensitive member that would be 'victimized' by that 'crime.' (Are they going to be easily set off by mistakes?, unintentional misusages during excitement) It also communicates to everyone that it's something you will be rejected and ostrisized from the group over. (That's where the silencing effect comes in).

Anyways, that's my 2c and what I've seen about some groups and how I run my groups to be inclusive.


re: 1 -- i've yet to see this ever happen to anyone I know. In fact, i've seen a handful of sketchy situations where it might even be warranted, and it still hasn't happened.

The thing I see all the time, online and off? Comments like yours where people (mostly guys) self censor out of fear of this hypothetical life catastrophy.

I think we dudes are hurting ourselves here. Far more than PC culture wants to harm us (which seems on the internet like a lot, but in reality, is effectively nil)


ITT: People who don’t understand that other people are socially awkward and actually need to be taught skills like this (ranging from regular nerds to those on the spectrum), who don’t realize that “just be yourself” is terrible advice to anyone asking questions on how to be social.

It’s not just a modern problem caused by phones.

Maybe if you think about this in context of tech conferences, that will help you get more use out of it.


> who don’t realize that “just be yourself” is terrible advice to anyone asking questions on how to be social.

To me that sounds like - "how do I learn to drive?" - "Just be yourself!" or "how do I train to run a marathon?" - "Just be yourself!". Yeah, thanks for the advice.


"How do I learn three new programming languages in a weekend?"

"Just be yourself."

Great advice, thanks! (-:


That I probably could pull off. For some loose definitions of "learn" at least :)

I mean, the weirdest thing for me is that these types of articles have been written forever. I remember being a kid 20 years ago and reading articles about how to be charming and make friends. I'm sure they were written 20 years before that as well.

It's kinda weird all the judgement.


“How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1936.

Also, American party dynamics are different from many other cultures, so this guide is quite useful for foreigners.

Coming from Eastern Europe, I was really clumsy socially during my first visits to the US because I didn't recognize the boundaries of small talk.


"Just be yourself" is the best advice. Unfortunately it's like a zen koan and takes many years to understand.

If it takes many years to understand the point being expressed by some words, then those words aren’t being very effective at teaching the point to begin with. One might say that’s a pretty clear criteria for evaluating whether some advice is “the best” or not.

The bar for advice is the aftermath, having followed it, not how easy it was to understand or to do.

The best way to learn this stuff is to travel alone. When you travel, you have to learn to be that weirdly gregarious person who introduces themselves to random people. You'll also learn that if people think you're weird for doing exactly that, well that's their problem. Unless you're trying to befriend a bunch of middle schoolers, you're not going to get ganged up on by a group of people for smiling and making small talk.

I don’t know; I have traveled alone and end up going the whole trip without talking to anyone, so I don’t think it forces you to be social if you aren’t trying.

Traveling alone bifurcates based on personality.

Extroverts become more so. Introverts become more so.


In day to day life I have a tremendous amount of social anxiety. When traveling alone I feel free to be open and generally ridiculous as the repercussions of a social faux pas are limited.

I guess it depends on why you are introverted; for me, I actually don’t have any social anxiety. I feel very comfortable being myself and am not worried about what others think. I choose to be alone because I enjoy it and it relaxes me.

i disagree. i am more of an introvert, but travelling alone let me step out from daily behavioural routine and discover my extrovert side.

>> The best way to learn this stuff is to travel alone.

Doing this helped me so so much. The only issue I had is it gets very difficult to form long lasting relationships when you're on the road all the time. But it worked on getting my "foot in the door" so to speak at parties or whatnot now


"Sink or swim" advice is laden with survivorship bias.

I traveled alone a lot and never been that person. Then, I'm an introvert so it's not natural for me anyway.

On the bright side, reading this article was easily 10x more awkward than even the worst party I've been to.

Personally I detest people who interact with others in a programatic way. Not perhaps the people themselves, but this kind of behavior. I feel compelled to snap my fingers in their face and say "WAKEUP! We're right here talking, stop performing!"

Please, please, please stop trying to be pleasing to other people. Just relax and be yourself. Performed, goal oriented, behavior at parties is hugely off-putting to me and most people I know (although I don't live in New York, so ymmv).

You may say something that's upsetting to someone, or is brilliantly insightful, or in retrospect obviously silly. So fucking what!? IT'S A PARTY, not a convention. It's this kind of attitude that there is a "right" way to be social that contributes to social anxiety. Fucking stop it!


> You may say something that's upsetting to someone, or is brilliantly insightful, or in retrospect obviously silly. So fucking what!?

It seems like you mean well, but as a person with generalized anxiety disorder, telling someone who is anxious about parties that they shouldn't be anxious about parties probably isn't going to be very helpful.

> Personally I detest people who interact with others in a programatic way. Not perhaps the people themselves, but this kind of behavior. I feel compelled to snap my fingers in their face and say "WAKEUP! We're right here talking, stop performing!"

If a person who is anxious about parties tries to socialize at a party using some sort of system in order to reduce their anxiety, and you call them out for how they are socializing, that person is now going to be more anxious at parties.

You seem like a person who isn't anxious about social situations, which is good, but understand that some people are anxious about social situations, and articles like these can possibly help those people.


Telling people you have an anxiety disorder is exactly the kind of genuineness that is preferred by most people (in my experience), over ticking off boxes in a proscribed social interaction check list, or having a performative affect.

I did not say, and would not say, that you should not feel the way you feel. Advice on how not to behave does not speak to how one feels.

My advice does not apply to you if you have a disorder that requires you to handle social situations in a particular way. However, you should be aware that regardless of the reason why you must not be genuine in social situations you will be perceived as disingenuous.

On the other hand for those without a disorder, if you can tolerate being genuine or at least not intentionally fake about yourself and your interests you will have a better chance to connect with people.

> You seem like a person who isn't anxious about social situations...

You'd be right that I seem that way, you'd be wrong that I am that way.


What said is kind of a catch 22. The one thing a person with social anxiety would be reluctant to talk about is their social anxiety, the lack of talking of which further worsens the anxiety.

I used to be an extrovert/ good at social interactions when in my country, but have found it very difficult to replicate my social interactions in the US.

I break social relationships into 4 kinds. Acquaintances , close acquaintances , friends and best buddies. Each have very well defined boundaries. Having a pool of predefined things to talk about has made making acquaintances significantly easier in the US. Not having a rule set for interaction makes the options too wide, and causes a type of decision paralysis.

I still struggle with converting those to close acquantinces and friends, but I am getting better. And I am one of the good ones. Most people from my country only hang around people of their nationality because of being unable to make basic acquaintances with people. These people aren't socially awkward, just completely confused in a system with foreign rules for interaction.

I went on a tangent here, but I am sure there is a point in there somewhere.


>interact with others in a programatic way.

Yes, there's something demonic about intentionally rule-based behaviour.

>It's this kind of attitude that there is a "right" way to be social that contributes to social anxiety. Fucking stop it!

Here's the problem. You're claiming both that it's wrong to interact like this and that there's no right or wrong in social interaction.


I am not giving you a prescription for how to be liked. In fact I can assure you that some people will like you and some will not.

I'm saying that though failure is unavoidable, a performance of social correctness is more failure prone then being genuine.


Isn't that assuming that people can't be genuinely unconscious/robotic? Can't we allow them to be so?

>Just relax and be yourself

nah. socializing is performing by necessity.

"being myself" would entail picking apart people when they say silly/ignorant things regarding religion, science, etc. it'd be interrupting people and explaining how their favorite TV shows are full of holes. how their prattle about celebrities speaks to the emptiness of their heads. it'd be playing the devil's advocate when nobody is looking for a balanced discussion. it'd be going on long monologues on various topics. these are not endearing traits to have. i know that i wouldn't want to be around such a person for long.

maybe this is why social interactions can't be relaxing for some people. once you know that being yourself and "relaxing" is extremely grating on other people, you know to keep it tightly under wraps, which circumvents any relaxation in social situations.


> picking apart people when they say silly/ignorant things

That may be a good thing.

Most people would feel discomfort [from your attempt to pick them apart]. In this case you would learn not to speak with them.

Some other people would enjoy thoughtful discussion with you. These would be your new friends.

But if you try to put your polite mask on - it would be hard for you to find new friends, even if there are matching people at that party.


His point was that he is making effort not to be dick over unimportant matters to people who don't enjoy that. Because all in all, what he described was not looking for throughtfull discussion and it seemed to be intentionally so.

I for one, appreciate effort and am willing to reciprocate. If he don't explain me why my favorite shows are dumb, I will not insult his shows.

You also assume that people who take others apart don't mind the same being done to them. In my experience, they typically like to pick apart others, but can't handle being picked apart.


> In my experience, they typically like to pick apart others, but can't handle being picked apart.

Yes. cryoshon even states in his post that he wouldn't want to be around a person like himself. So he's only allowed to interact with masochists who like being constantly criticized while never criticizing back, because anything else would be "fake"?


> they typically like to pick apart others, but can't handle being picked apart

Such people are not competent to pick apart others, because they did not polish their criticism against the feedback they receive.

I, personally, like both: find mistakes in other people mental models and people finding mistakes in my mental models.


You are correct, but conflating two issues. The issue at hand is goal oriented social behavior, which is one end of a spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum is what you accurately describe, differentiating private and public self.

Another helpful tip along these lines is don't arrive at parties nude

...well at least not unless that is explicitly required.


> i know that i wouldn't want to be around such a person for long.

I dunno. I don't mind picking apart holes in a show or two (I watch a bunch of shows and most of them are full of silly holes, that's par for the course) and having some balanced discussion. Long monologues though are probably not good at parties, and definitely no celebrity talk.


> Just relax and be yourself.

For a lot of people, having a script allows them to relax and be themselves. I don't see whats wrong with them interacting the way they want to interact, rather than the way you want them to.


I don't think this takes into account how helpful an action plan can be.

I would never, ever go to a gathering without forthought, self coaching, and some tips for myself lined up. There's way too much social pressure and too much of my self-esteem on the line to skip it.

And if I'm not afforded that, or it's a surprise, I'll just go to wherever with my laptop and browse HN or work on my projects instead.

People are really, really hard, especially for us with social anxiety.


"There's no right or wrong way to party...just be yourself!"

"There's no right or wrong way to dance...just be yourself!"

"There's no right or wrong way to paint...just be yourself!"

"There's no right or wrong way to play the drums...just be yourself!"

I don't buy it.

If a thing can be done at all, it can be done better or worse. Even if my perception is the only thing that matters, things can still be done better or worse by the yardstick.

> Please, please, please stop trying to be pleasing to other people.

It's not just about pleasing other people. It's about pleasing myself. And I'm pleased when I have a good relationship and a good conversation.

> Just relax and be yourself.

Advice typically given to people whose "selves" are naturally anxious, i.e. the opposite of relaxed. Being able to follow an outline can make such people considerable more relaxed.


You've described quite well your weakness in social situations. Have you sought help for it?

(My comment is neither a joke nor sarcasm).


I simply ask people what led them to the party in the first place.

This normally leads to converstaions about their friends, then hobbies and lastly jobs.

Either I have (had) some similar interests/frieds/job or I just show general interest for parts of their lifes.

The main point that helped me in such coversations simply was: Not having a goal.

I don't care if I just have one conversation, find new friends, a hookup, business contacts or whatnot. I simply try to learn about peoples lifes and appreciate the conversation.

Somehow this elevates one already above 90% of dudes who talk to someone at parties...


This reads like it was written by someone terrified of even potentially offending others.

A good trick if you have trouble striking up conversation or finding what to talk about: FORD - Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. Once you have a conversation going, just let it flow of course - but it's a trick to get past the initial "hello" stage.


>A good trick if you have trouble striking up conversation or finding what to talk about: FORD - Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams.

These are bad conversation topics if you don't have a similar background as most of the other people at the party. The point is to connect with people. Highlighting your differences is not the way to do this.


>These are bad conversation topics if you don't have a similar background as most of the other people at the party.

That's a fairly narrow way of looking at it, and having a differing background actually benefits, instead of hurts. If there are differences, there is more for you to talk about so you can both explore each other's perspectives. If you're not interested in their perspective, don't ask the question. However, I'll warn you that if you are not interested in their perspective, they likely will not want to talk to you - why should they?

I think you're viewing FORD as a hack to get the communication going. That's a self defeating mentality.

>The point is to connect with people. Highlighting your differences is not the way to do this.

I and many others read this as "I want to connect with people. But I really don't want to understand why someone is different from me." I don't know if that's what you meant, but that's the signal people will get from you.


Just talk about the weather over and over again.

Yeah, I disagree with FORD totally.

FORD is heavy and personal. The point of small talk is that it's small and light. You have to make sure you trust a person before you start talking about personal stuff.

Small talk is about progressive disclosure. You make the conversation a little bit more personal and see if the other person reciprocates--but you have to start small, that's the whole point. If someone started out asking me about FORD I'd think they were odd/awkward or maybe snobby.


You think asking about what someone does 40 hours a week is odd/akward/snobby? Dreams might be a bit heavy, but occupation?

When I was in college, conversation tended to flow pretty smoothly from asking people about their majors and what sort of job they hoped to get after college.

(maybe the other party was bored by these conversations, idk, but they seemed to happen pretty smoothly)

One of the things I noticed as I got older, is that for any number of reasons, lots of people wind up spending 40 hours a week doing something other than what they hoped and dreamed they would be doing.

And they tend to not enjoy talking that much about it when they're off the clock.

People will tell you about what they do, but lots of people aren't interested in answering follow up questions, or making conversation about their job flow very smoothly; often the conversation gets stilted pretty quickly.


Yes. It depends on delivery, but it can come across very snobby when class differences may be involved. I've noticed when talking to 'upper class' people they often lead with asking about occupation, as if they're trying to guess how much money I make, or trying to figure out if I'm 'worth knowing' in their estimation. Reading too much into it? Maybe, but I'm sure some other people feel the same way if I do.

I make a point to never ask, unless it's a work scenario (conference/meetup). Besides, there's usually something more interesting to talk about.


Shame about bluntly discussing salary is one of the greatest tricks the rich have played on the poor.

Salary is irrelevant to it. We're talking about how it's uncomfortable and generally not advisable to say "well I own a canoe that's painted up for duck hunting" when everyone else it talking about their yachts. It's a class thing, not a money thing.

> generally not advisable to say "well I own a canoe that's painted up for duck hunting" when everyone else it talking about their yachts

Why? The goal of most social conversations is to find a common thread, and if your commonality with this mustache twirling yacht owning theoretical is that you have a little canoe you enjoy taking duck hunting, then you at least have the beginnings of your thread.

Wealth and it's presence or absence is not indicative of social or moral worth, nor is socializing about "besting" the other person with your knowledge of imported French brandy. You may well talk to the person for five minutes, get through the usual pleasantries, and find you have nothing at all in common and part ways - or you might both settle on talking about small game hunting.


like most social things, it depends heavily on context. if you're a software dev and you start talking shop with another dev, it's probably a safe topic of conversation, unless the person really doesn't want to talk about work after hours.

unfortunately there is a lot of baggage wrapped up in one's occupation (social status, money, etc.). if, as a software dev, you start asking someone who works at a pizza place all kinds of questions about their work, it could be a very different dynamic.

btw, i used to work in a pizza place and i had devised all kinds of strategies to optimize every aspect of my job. i loved when people would give me the opportunity to talk about it, but i know a lot of my coworkers were very unsatisfied with their job and place in the world, and would not be happy to be asked about it by someone who obviously made a lot more money.


Honestly, as a pretty private person, it’s nobody’s business what I do for a living. If they ask I just say “exotic dancer.” I get a laugh to break ice, and we can move on to a different topic cleanly.

Seriously. The answers "minimal contact, creative work, talking to animal people, being transformed into an animal person" only work at specific kinds of parties. Definitely not the ones full of people with healthy families, ordinary jobs, common hobbies, and normal dreams.

Family here should mean your immediate situation, eg if you're a bachelor, if you have 16 sons, or live with a bunch of friends in a haunted mansion.

And you know, be proud of who you are. Some people spend 40 hours a week as a blood elf archer.


Wow, good acronym. Now if only I had a good way to remember names, it's something I'm really bad at. Somehow when somebody tells me their name my brain goes on holiday, even after I purposefully repeat it, like 'Hi Luke, nice to meet you..'. Five minutes later I'll be struggling to remember it.

That's even worse at a party full of people I've never met before.


You have to do this discretely, but I keep a notebook in my pocket and I will (sometimes) write the person's name down when I get a chance along with a note about who they are. This is even easier in smartphone age as everyone is checking their phones all the time anyway, just note the name there.

So? Gee. Where is it written that you have to remember everyone's name? It's normal to forget, everyone's brain goes on holiday. It's not so important, is it. It's just a name. If later you want to know, say 'Sorry, I've forgotten your name' or something and smile, they've probably forgotten yours too. No need to stress out about that.

This could be one of the killer apps of Augmented Reality.

When you get into the mindset that asking about precisely those kinds of things is potentially offensive - at the least, relatively nosey and prying - then that's when the real fun starts, or rather (that statement was sarcastic), ends.

The advice is targeted at people for whom “let it flow” is not as easy as it is for you.

i typically cut the F and R and stick to the O and D. i can sometimes make myself interested in relatively boring occupations by learning more, and people's dreams are at minimum instructive for the purposes of building my own.

I have my own DERP, or PRED if you're less fun: Dreams, Emotions, Regrets, Problems

I don't why this post is getting so much hate. I liked the article and it has some good points.

Always be late. Grabbing a drink / food is a perfect time to start an intro convo with someone that you'll have a real convo with later on in the party. Don't talk about yourself ask questions of others. Don't bring up work. Don't drink too much. Look for opportunities to help others (grab them a drink.. offer direction.. etc. but avoid man-splanning).

Most importantly have a good time. If your not.. then leave.


> Don't bring up work

I would bet from that statement you're not interested much in hearing about other people jobs and/or willing to talk about your own. But, well, I am, on both counts. YMMV.

Since we're talking about scripted conversation, why not design a more evolved script that takes into account some people like to talk about their X, and some don't, such as:

"Is your job interesting (smile) ?"

If yes: question further and listen

If not: say "good, mine neither (smile)"

My take is it would work in some regions of the world where somewhat blunt, tongue-in-cheek questions, a tiny bit of healthy self-derogative sarcasm, and some obvious white lies aren't necessarily bad things.


> Always be late.

Unless you don't know anyone there except for the hosts. It's always easier to let them introduce you to the first few people through the door while the atmosphere is still calm. From there, you already have an "in" with the rest of their friends that show up later.


Will have to disagree. It's even better when you only know the hosts to be late. Most people at a party don't know each other they are all getting to know each other. If you come in late.. some folks will already be looking for new people to talk to, and you'll essentially be "new kid in class".. aka someone new and exciting to talk to.

> Don't bring up work

Why not bring up work?

Work is an important part of our identity. It makes sense to talk about it.


Don't bring it up.. doesn't mean don't talk about it. If work comes up then it comes up.

No matter how interesting / fun you think your job is; Work talk can lead to you talking to much about yourself in a way thats not interesting / fun. It can limit the type of people you meet, and you can miss out on some really great network building.


> Work talk can lead to you talking to much about yourself

That may happen with any topic. What is so special about work?


How could work "come up" if nobody brings it up?

This reminds me of a few passages in the 2 Feynman books ("What Do You Care What Other People Think?" and "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"

At the beginning of "what do..", Feynman's mother gives very practical advice on how to treat women well and how to behave at parties. In "Surely..", when he is in a student club, the guys who always study and the guys who always party decide to teach each other the skills from the other side.

Both passages struck me about how society cared about teaching people the necessary social skills. Part of what made Feynman shine was that he could be social as well as smart. It seems his environment and upbringing cared deeply about these skills and think about them as skills: Being social would not come automatically, and needed teaching and practices.

To me, this article demonstrates what happens if society think social skills do come automatically, and tries to wallpaper over the cracks if it fails.


So, what was his mother's advice?

Sorry, I dont have the books around at the moment

> If you can bear it, go solo, and watch the other guests make a beeline toward you.

This advice seems heavily skewed towards attractive people.


Not necessarily. I've often found that if I set by myself for long enough at parties then usually someone will come along and start a conversation. And I'm male and not remotely attractive. The trick is to sit somewhere it it doesn't look like your awkwardly not joining in, but purposely choosing to be.

After reading this sentence I just wanted to comment here that the article seems to be written very much from a female POV. As a lone guy, surely people won't "beeline towards you". It requires a lot more effort and initiative.

One suggestion that I think the article misses is "host parties".

I struggle a lot with social anxiety, but hosting brings everyone into a safe known space, you can always duck out to do the "jobs" the article suggests, and you learn a lot about how to manage the flow of people, set things up so everyone has a good time, and have an easy in to pretty much any conversation.

Hosting a good gathering (be it a small dinner or a drunken bash) is an important skill that's often overlooked.


I hate hosting parties much more than going to them. If I am hosting them, I have to wait until everyone leaves before I can go to bed. If I'm not hosting them, I only have to wait as long as I like.

If you find this article absurd, as many commenters here apparently do, then perhaps it wasn’t written for people like you.

For those of you confused, the parties being described here are ones that you "walk into one but don’t know a single person there...or perhaps you’re only vaguely connected to the host". Though some of the advice given would be helpful even in a BBQ with a large group of your friends.

I was shy once. I took a couple of theater classes at the community college and read Dale Carnegie. After that social situations are easy (

I can still get anxious for what I think are good reasons : like big socioeconomic differences or it is a professional event or whatever . But just meeting new folks or speaking is no problem now.


> Who among us, save the most self-sufficient and confident partygoer (and who is that insufferable person, anyway?), wouldn’t like to party better?

I think I gave up caring about this about 10 years ago.

--edit-- Actually I don't think I ever cared about this, I was probably that person, because I was too interested in just enjoying myself to be bothered what my party-rating would be at the end of the night. I think I gave up caring about parties at all a few years ago.


It's not about having a party-rating, it's about having a better time at social events. If you don't like social events then that is an even better reason to want to be "better" at them.

I'm not sure it is, it seems to be focused on making other people think well of you.

> If you don't like social events then that is an even better reason to want to be "better" at them.

I like social events, I'm just not really fussed by mass gatherings so much any more. Further, why would I want to be 'better' at something I'm not really bothered about? That seems a little perverse.

I don't care for oysters. I'm not sure that means I should spend time studying how to eat them better, there are plenty of things I do like.


> I don't care for oysters. I'm not sure that means I should spend time studying how to eat them better, there are plenty of things I do like.

Oysters aren't an unavoidable part of life?


Neither are parties are they?

I mean, I'm fine with them,I don't actively avoid them and I don't get anxious or have a terrible time. I just find them less appealing as I get older, especially when compared to having a good time with a small crowd of friends.


I've gotten way "better" at social events and parties over the years. It hasn't changed my dislike for them; I still find them exhausting and unpleasant.

I think it's important to remember that one's level of skill and appreciation of something aren't always directly related. I have found some things to be more enjoyable as I've improved (art, music, fighting games), but other things, like big social gatherings, remain unenjoyable for me.


You're missing the point he just stated, the goal he described is appreciation. Creating your own appreciation in a specific context is the aforementioned skill, and finding it to be exhausting and unpleasant is reflective of not having that skill.

The quoted line is just some funny-bitter coping talk for an insecure person. Certainly there are some people who are comfortable and happy, neither arrogrant jerks nor quivering in fear.

I've not read all the comments yet (nor TFA) but my spouse works in Tinseltown — where major deals might be enabled by mixing at social functions — and her guiding tenet is "The 50/50 Rule," which is basically what it sounds like:

'Aim for the ratio of your conversation time (or word count) to be equal to that of your fellow conversationalist.'

Meet someone who has an interesting career / hobby / culture, but they only speak in single sentences? Game on, then, for you to draw more out of them! Likewise, a dullard with no original ideas or fun topics to draw on? — hey, it's up to you to find a way to make them hold up their half (without their knowing, obvi).

It took me some time to adapt and get the hang of it, but I must admit that it's made my abilities in the casual or friendly (e.g., "annual friends") social settings much stronger. You'll also find that people will remember you as being fun to chat with and they'll be more likely to catch up with you intentionally when or if you again cross paths.

Highly recommended.


Wow. What kind of parties do these people go to? Ensembles? Gifts?

Hell, I'm happy if I remember to bring my lucky D20 and not the metal one that destroys tables.


What kind of "party" do you bring a d20 to? I think your experience might be an outlier, most of this advice seems extremely pertinent to the events I go to.

Adventuring parties, obviously.

As long as you have a cleric you're good.


Maybe you are the outlier. Most people are not New York socialites, and aren't in college wandering into frat parties. Or perhaps there are many different ways people live, and "cocktail" parties are just one of them?

Sounds like the parties you go to may be way above my budget level - both monetarily and socially.

Birthday parties. Cool ones, at least.

Dutch (birthday)parties are so weird for foreigners that every other party seems like a walk in the park (saying this as a Dutchman who is used to it): https://dutchreview.com/culture/dutchness/how-to-celebrate-y...

It's a bit similar in France too, on your birthday, your nameday or any happy occasion YOU ARE the one who is expected to bring pastry, cake and drinks to your office, and buy everyone drinks at launch.

Sounds like the right thing to do is to just not tell anyone that it's your birthday...

One simple trick to start a conversation is to ask about someones hobbies. Because this is what people like to talk about.

Tried this a lot of times and it always works. Most of the time the conversation will go into other interesting directions.


If you get invited to parties, you're already halfway there.

In this thread: broad generalizations about society, generations, and socializing based on mostly anecdata and personal experience.

New York journalists are somehow more socially awkward than SV programmers

I feel like this was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek fluff piece for the New Yorker but took a wrong turn at 42nd Street.

[flagged]


I upvoted it after reading your comment…

Wow, the NY Times sure is hip and cool, am I right my fellow hip and cool college-aged young adults?

People will really overthink everything won't they...

Ask HN: What 10x socialising as-a-service do you use to manage your party hacks ?

Are people upvoting this or have several people simply tried to post it?

This is so classically a big difference between men and women. Most guys here will laugh at the advice because they never think like this - just turn up and drink a beer. Women know better.

That's an inaccurate gender stereotype.



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