Article #1: How to Be Socially At Ease
Let us imagine that you are invited to a lovely party where you will meet strangers as well as people you know. I have decided to make this a tea, as the uncharted casual contacts of a tea party most nearly parallel those of everyday experience.
PLACE YOURSELF MENTALLY BEFORE YOU GO. Before you go to the party it will be well to study your attitude on your relation to other people generally. Right here your inferiority complex—everybody has one of sorts—begins to stir like a waking beast, doesn’t it? So our first task is to put him to sleep again until we can get rid of him permanently.
You can’t have a good time at a party or be charming unless you feel on an equal footing with everyone present. Of course, it would be absurd and stupid to compare yourself with your hostess or host and each guest to see if you are an equal. So we must rid ourselves of these surface comparisons. They are unprofitable and odious.
If a great singer is present, you can’t honestly feel that your voice is as good as hers. If the richest woman in the community is there, gorgeously gowned, how could you feel that you are as well-dressed as she? Unless you are a striking beauty, you can’t honestly feel that you are as good looking as the prettiest woman there. Unless you have a dynamic personality and are a witty conversationalist you can’t even imagine that you are as entertaining as the cleverist woman present. The most popular and beloved woman may be none of these—but she is charming. So why bother with such comparisons?
There is another more important and deeper quality that you can feel which will enable you to mingle easily and enjoy yourself with people above you and below you on the social ladder. It is impossible to keep your social contacts on an even keel. If you lived in a palace and had six secretaries to protect your exclusiveness, you would still meet a number of undesirable people. So you must reach a point in poise and charm where you remain the same regardless of what or whom you contact!
For this type of poise we must have a little philosophy that supports our conviction of equality. There is a danger here that in striving too hard for a sense of equality with the highest types of people one may be a little belligerent’ and say with a chip on the shoulder, “I am as good as anybody in the world.” The crudeness and bad taste that would prompt such a statement in that mood are sufficient proof that one is not!
FEEL A BASIC KINSHIP WITH EVERYONE. We are all travelling the same path. The only difference in people is that each has arrived at a different place on that same path—but we all have the same feelings and the same reactions somewhere along the way.
So no matter how shy and small you feel, you may know that everyone present has experienced that same thing. If they have overcome it and seem assured, that should only prove to you that you, also, can conquer your self-consciousness. Try to understand that the other fellow has his problems of inferiority, perhaps not just the same as yours, but, nevertheless, just as real to him.
When you are meeting a new person, try to think of the stranger’s problem of instantly adjusting to you—try to help him find familiar ground where he can be at ease. This will accomplish two things. It will take your mind off yourself, eliminating for the moment any possibility of your self-consciousness. (You know you can’t be self-conscious unless you are thinking about yourself!) Then, too, your interest in the newcomer will make him think you are charming. Never be afraid to go more than halfway to establish social ease. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people at a reception or party or tea to say or do something that will make them happier. A wallflower is usually self-elected. She slips through the door and slides into a side seat on the edge of the room as though she were clinging to the edge of a whirling disk and might be thrown off any minute.
NEVER, TAKE THE FIRST CHAIR IN A ROOM—walk calmly well inside and take the most inviting chair hat is vacant!
Pause before you enter the room, see where people are, locate your hostess or whoever is in charge of the affair. Go to her and shake hands. She will introduce you to those landing in her immediate group.
… “Remember that people put the same interpretation on us that we put on ourselves. They take their cue from is! We cannot control the smoothness of life from without—but we can control it from within—we can control our reactions to anything that happens to us. This is poise!
… WHEN WE REALIZE THAT THERE IS A STEADFAST, DIVINE PERSONALITY WITHIN US THAT IS BIGGER AND FINER THAN ANYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO IT, WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO LIVE. This is when we get up on two feet from the all-“ours of animalism and bewildered ignorance and realize hat we have souls. The experience passes but the experiencer remains to have other experiences.
When you realize the importance of this “experiencer” within you, then you are in a position to develop unshakeable poise. This is not a religious conception—it is an inalterable fact of life. The person that you really are is so basically a part of the harmony of the universe—so established in the world of reality—that you can afford to take our importance for granted and put your mind on others.
When you understand this basic truth, you will become socially unselfed and immersed in sociability. Just to refrain from talking about yourself, not to be patting your hair and clothes and not to patch your makeup in public—these do not guarantee charm. These are but the first baby steps toward charm in being socially unselfed. Charm demands that you be genuinely interested in your companions—you can’t fake it!
YOU MUST SHOW GENUINE INTEREST. You must be so interested in other people that you understand their humanness, stand ready to smile at their arrogance, to fix up their failures, to admire their accomplishments and to ignore their errors. People are fascinating—the most fascinating study in the world! . … If you can give humanity a mental handclasp of sympathy and at the same time a wink of tolerance, no king nor queen can throw you off poise!
… The desire to be capable of the best self-expression … is a splendid motive that drives one to sharpen one’s tools for the making of good conversation—but cold perfection will never warm the hearts of your hearers. You must strike the spark of animating warmth born of a pulsing human urge to share what you feel.
This spark comes from the fires of a burning desire to draw closer to the mind and heart of your neighbor, to give him solace when it is needed, encouragement and sympathy always, also laughter to brighten his spirits and to lighten his load. And when I say “neighbor” I do not merely mean that person whom you would like to cultivate for social or material reasons. I refer to every life that touches yours.
From The Woman You Want to Be by Margery Wilson. Published by J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia and New York. Copyright 1938.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. On Being Sociable
- 3. Health And Fitness Clubs
- 4. How To Advertise
- 5. Getting Prepared
- 6. Entertaining
- 7. Respecting Private Spacing
- 8. Expanding Local Contacts
- 9. Good Public Relationship
- Article #1: How to Be Socially At Ease
- Article #2: Real Houses Are Like Real People
- Article #3: An Excerpt from In Tune With the Infinite By Ralph Waldo Trine
- Article #4: Preparing A Dinner Party For Non-Hygienic Guests By Elizabeth D. McCarter, D.Sc.