It happened to me just the other night. I went to an event with my one friend, who had to leave for something and I found myself stuck and alone. I casually knew a few other people at the event, but I didn't know them SUPER well. All of them were in a little group. I was nervous to approach them, and frustrated about what to do!
Well, with the request of a Vingler, I have a few tips and tricks about how to approach and interact with a group.
Know the group dynamic first.
Do you know a few people in the group? Perhaps you know one, but the rest you don't know at all? Or maybe you don't know ANY of them! I promise you can still join a group and be casual.
Catch the eye of someone in the group, by placing yourself into their eye view. Smile, wave. And if they notice, then make your way to the group! Usually that person gets the idea that you want to join the group and the group conversation, and they'll make the transition easy for you. If the person doesn't get it. Well they say hey to that person, "Hey Dave! I'm not sure I know everyone here, I'm Nicole!" or so on...
Go up to the group, no reservations and just say, "Hi!" Scary, I know. But usually someone will say "Hi!" back. (And if they don't they are jerks and who wants to be in their group anyway.) You can then flowing after that. Here are some intro convo ideas:
If you don't know anyone in the group-- "Hey I'm new here! You all seem to be having fun, mind if I join?"
If you already know the people-- Bring up a former conversation. "Hey Dave how's your cat?" Bring up something that just happened-- "How about that sports team that did that thing!" In my instance, I was approaching a group after seeing a play: "Wow, talk about a cool cast! And those costumes amiright?" It's like anything that you have common ground on.
Listen to the people that are talking
Most people think it's easy to "listen" to someone, but is it really? In my experience if you really want to develop and get "in" with a group, you really have to understand the people in the group, and what they love. Try listening to what the conversation is really about. Pick out the emotions in their tone, try to understand the dynamic. If you listen really well, you can reference things they said before or pick out their feelings.
Worry less, do more.
Ok, so I know I'm giving advice. But take that advice and throw it out the window. All that really matters in that you take this information, and don't internalize it too much. Approach the group confidently. Fake confidence if you have to, but always settle into being who you are. Because what people really want is you to be yourself. So once you get there, worry less about how you are perceived in a group. Just be happy and proud of yourself for doing something that maybe scared you at first.