The Crossroads of the Aether
Unfortunately I'm one of those people that doesn't have any friends interested in Steampunk, so going to cons, I tend to be left alone wandering around by myself. Being not the most socially skilled of people either, I was wondering, how do you do it? What are some ways you approach strangers and groups? How did you become members of the ones you're apart of? Any other shy steamers that have suggestions for someone else who has trouble?
The magic formula is the same for approaching people as it is for hanging out with them...self confidence. People are drawn to others who are secure about themselves. I'm normally quiet and rather shy in a crowd, but I've practiced having confidence and staying engaged. I learned that being a withering wallflower doesn't get me onto the dance floor. Standing up straight, chin up, smiling, and making eye contact is the best way to prepare yourself to engage in conversation. There's a positive psychological effect that takes place when you make these small changes...in both you and the people you're around. Others immediately think you're someone they'd like to interact with when you enter a room with a confident, yet approachable air.
Even if you don't feel confident, practice looking like you are. I used to practice my posture, smiling, and greeting someone in the full length mirror at home....which is also helpful for finding the most flattering poses for snapshots.
Staying engaged is the other side of the coin. If you have a conversation in the beginning and start tagging along, then stop talking all together, your group will leave you behind. I usually add a comment here or there, ask a question, point out something interesting. It does take some practice to know when you're being irritating vs engaging. I don't tend to like hanging out with people who blabber on without allowing others to join in the conversation, or start talking about complete nonsense that has no grounding with the rest of the group. There is a balance. The other thing to keep in mind is watching for escape cues from people. For example...I was talking to a gentleman about an upcoming event. He was engaged in our conversation for a few moments but started to glance around when other people drifted near. I took this to mean he was finished with our conversation, and ended my response more quickly than I intended so he could politely excuse himself. I didn't get offended, I just moved on. Ms. DelNorte is absolutely correct. Learning to read people and being a good listener takes practice, practice, practice.
Now, to answer the third wheel question...In addition to feeling confident I also lower my expectations. I don't go to any event expecting to find a friend. I'm content to talk to a lot of people, hang out with them if the occasion arises, and just have fun doing whatever comes my way. If I tag along with a group I don't expect to stay with them all day. We may drift apart, and that's okay. Lower expectation keeps me from being disappointed when things don't go the way I thought they should've. It takes a lot of pressure off of me, which boosts my confidence, which increases my fun.
I like to socialize at gatherings when I first get to an event I walk around for a while and then start to mingle and talk to people at times I am shy and may seem kinda of stand offish BUT, once you get to know me I'm a good friend.
Accidentily on purpose bump into someone: it makes a great conversation starter.