Being a Host

Until this point, Ren and I have emphasized the individual aspect of social skills. We have written about the actions you can take and the mindsets you can adopt in order to be comfortable and have fun in various settings. These are important skills, but they are only part of the picture. The next step is to put those around you at ease.

For instance, suppose you are hosting a party where your guests don’t all know one another, and the challenge is to engage your guests and help them feel comfortable mixing among strangers. While you cannot guarantee that everyone will have a good time, you can take meaningful steps to help out. Read the rest of this entry »

Meeting People

The top concern for a lot of anxious undergrads is the fear that meeting people will only get harder as they get older. It makes sense. On the surface, college is designed to facilitate your social life. You work, eat, and live with thousands of young, eager individuals. You have roommates. You are forced to do group projects. Clubs and social groups besiege you with invitations. Yet meeting intelligent, fun, perhaps datable people is still hard. So what do you think will happen when you’re living in an apartment, working full time, and eating lunch at your desk?

It will be tough, but with some thought, you can come out ahead in your post-college social life. Meeting people through common friends is of the utmost importance. A long-time friend of mine shared this concern. After graduating from MIT, she moved in with three friends from her sorority. Now, when they throw the occasional Friday-night party, they mingle with people from four different companies. Read the rest of this entry »

An Unpleasant Exchange

You’re chatting in the hallway between classes. In the circle are several acquaintances and a cute girl you’ve seen around but have yet to meet. You want to make a good impression. The conversation turns to last weekend’s escapades, and the guy on your left mentions how he beat you handily in basketball, or maybe you’re at Harvard, in which case he didn’t just “beat” you, he “wiped the floor” with you. Flustered, your mind races. So many things are wrong with his statement. Neither of you had been keeping score, though it was probably closer to a tie. Plus, the game was just for fun. You blurt out something to this effect, speaking quickly in an effort to get it all out before someone butts in and cuts you off. No one seems to care about your explanation. The guy laughs “whatever dude” while slapping you on the back a bit too aggressively.

Scenes like this are common; there is always someone to target and someone to impress. It’s tempting to argue that those who find themselves in confrontational situations do so at their own prerogative, that we could very well maintain a mental list of unpleasant people. But then we run the risk of passing up opportunities simply for fear of encountering one of them. If an asshole shows up in our group of friends, are we to find new friends? If we encounter one at the workplace, should we quit our job? Are we to limit ourselves to accommodate those we find distasteful? Even if we wanted to, given the pervasiveness of situations in which people feel the need to assert themselves, it isn’t feasible. Read the rest of this entry »


As a follow-up to my post on formal etiquette, I’d like to provide a guide to dirty dancing at Harvard. Since so many guys get so many steps of this wrong, I’m going to be thorough.

You and your bros arrive at a large, muggy room somewhere in the quad. Hopefully the place is already packed with CSA girls. If it isn’t, leave and come back later.

The dance party is now in full swing. Maybe you’re standing awkwardly to the side, holding a beer, and looking at your phone like someone is actually calling you. Put the phone away. There is a group of girls jumping frantically up and down in the middle. Move toward the one closest to you. Place your hand firmly on her shoulder and leave it there until you have her attention. Say exactly, “Would you like to dance?” A lot of guys just start grinding up behind a girl, and to be honest, meet very little resistance, but that’s poor form. (Note: Make sure to get rid of your beer in advance. You’ll need both hands free for this.) Read the rest of this entry »