Going out alone can be strange. Especially if it’s not something you’ve done before. You’ll feel uncomfortable by yourself in a crowd, but that’s normal. And don’t worry, the awkwardness will fade quicker than you think.
On the bright side, this is the perfect way to get out of your comfort zone and have adventures you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
How to go out alone everywhere
It’s socially acceptable to go out alone, and you’ll have fun
One of the hardest parts about going out alone is making peace with yourself that you’re actually doing it.
You’ll take a shower and dress up, but then convince yourself not to go out because “it’s just too awkward”.
We’re social creatures, and doing something without your “tribe” can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. This is normal, and the sensation quickly passes one you do it a few times.
One debate you might have with yourself, is whether or not you’ll have fun or just waste time.
Fortunately, psychologists have already asked this question. As it happens, going out alone at the theater, movie or concert is just as much fun as going out with friends.
People don’t really notice you
It’s easy to assume people are constantly judging your every behavior, and gossiping about it behind your back. In reality, barely anybody cares enough to even notice you.
Researchers tested this by doing an experiment where a student wears an embarrassing shirt with Barry Manilow, sit in a room with other students, and then guess how many people noticed the shirt.
The shirt wearers believed 50% of the other people in the room noticed it.
Only ~20% of the other students had done so.
Also, the wearer stood more because there were only 4-7 people in the room every time the experiment was conducted. As a rule, we vastly overestimate how many people actually bother to notice us.
In a packed bar, club or concert, the chance of you standing out would probably plummet to 2-3% at most.
Put another way, only 2-3 people out of every 100 would figure out you are by yourself. And even if they did, they wouldn’t care.
Truth be told, going out in a crowded place alone is almost like wearing an invisibility cloak. Nobody bothers to see what you’re doing, and even if they do, they won’t judge you because they barely care.
Go to solo friendly events
One potential problem when going out alone is finding an answer to the following questions: “where do I go” and “what will I do there?“
Usually, the first idea is to go out at a certain location: a bar, pub, theater, cinema, museum etc.
While this approach can certainly work, a simpler approach is to go to events.
The advantage of events is that you’re much more likely to find people of similar interests. This in turn makes it easier to spark a conversation, since you already know you share a common interest with someone.
Here are just a few examples of solo friendly events:
- Book clubs.
- Professional meetups (designer meetups, engineer meetups etc)
- Book exchanges.
- Board game gatherings.
The only drawback of events is that mostly bigger cities can offer the quantity and variety that allow you to be selective.
Assuming you live in one, how do you find them?
The easiest solution is to go to www.facebook.com/events, and use the Discover function on the left menu.
Select a day (or interval) when you would like to go out and scroll down the list until you find something interesting.
The bigger your city, the more events, and the higher your chances of finding something interesting.
Most of the events tend to be about concerts, plays, movies. Every once in a while however, you’ll find events that are much more social in nature.
By keeping an open mind and sifting through them, you’re bound to find something that catches your eye.
Although Facebook events is the best place to find stuff to do by yourself, there are other options. One of these is the Meetup app usually focused on interest groups. Another one, more focused on events, is Eventbrite.
You’re not the only person who goes out alone
Another mental trap you can fall into, is thinking you’re the only person that’s come unattended at an event or location.
However, chances are that a bunch of other people have come alone. You just can’t recognize them because they’ve made friends already and mingled with other people and groups.
Assume you’re comfortable talking to strangers
Whenever we meet someone new, our first instinct is to go through an exploratory phase before we allow ourselves to feel comfortable with a person.
Unfortunately, most people find this exploratory phase boring and tedious. As a result, many friendships and relationships simply don’t get past this point.
The easiest solution is to simply skip this phase entirely. Assume you’re comfortable talking with a stranger, and that the stranger is also comfortable talking to you.
Even if you’ve just met a person 5 minutes ago, treat them as if you’ve already talked 2-3 times before and are just catching up.
Assuming comfort works because people will pick up on your relaxed attitude and match their mood to yours. That’s why we have that feeling of knowing someone for ages, even if we’ve just met the person then and there.
Almost everybody enjoys chatting to strangers
Another thing that might hold you back from making new friends, is thinking people dislike talking to strangers.
In a series of extensive studies, psychology researchers wanted to know if commuters and travelers enjoyed their trips more when they either:
- a) remained silent the whole journey.
- b) talked to somebody else.
- c) imagined they would have talked to somebody, but didn’t.
They tested this by creating three groups, one for each choice, and then measured which group enjoyed the trip the most.
Turns out that group B, where the participants actively talked with another traveler, had the best experience of all. What’s more, they found out participants had a near 100% success rate in sparking a conversation with a stranger.
And according to subsequent studies, the strangers too enjoyed participating in the conversation, even if it was initiated by someone else.
Passing comments are the best conversation starters
In almost every circumstance, the easiest and most casual way of starting a conversation is to simply make an observation about something. If you’re at a concert for instance, try a casual comment such as:
“They seem to be on a roll tonight.”
The reason these observations work is because they’re very simple, unassuming and don’t demand a serious commitment, either from you or the other person.
If a person isn’t in the mood to talk, they can just give you a short “yeah, pretty much”. These simple comments allow people to turn discreetly down your invitation to talk without making you feel embarrassed.
And if the other person does want to talk, you’ll know right away. The answer to your passing comment will be more in-depth or even end in a question for you:
“Yeah, they’re a good band, I’ve listened to a bunch of their albums. How long have you known about them?”
Go to events, activities and locations you can enjoy alone
“Why are you here all by yourself?”
An awkward question that can easily catch you off guard.
Fortunately, there’s a 99% chance that nobody will ever ask you this. However, that doesn’t stop your brain from worrying about it all the time and ruining your mood.
The easiest way around this is to provide your brain with an excuse as to why you’re there.
It doesn’t even have to be complex or well thought out. The only requirement for the excuse is to be believable.
“I’m at a rock concert because I like rock, duh!”
“I’m at a bar by myself because I just came from work and wanted to have a drink and unwind a bit before going home.”
“I’m at the movies by myself because my friends weren’t available today.”
There’s nothing wrong with going out by yourself. But until you’re completely comfortable with the idea, these excuses can help convince your brain that you’re doing something else entirely.
From your brain’s perspective, the fact that you’re alone is merely an accident, and not something you would do on purpose.
As a bonus, you’ll also get a go-to answer if somebody else ever does decide to ask you why you’re by yourself.
Going out to a concert alone
If you’re a music lover with some niche tastes, you’ve probably skipped a few concerts because you didn’t find people willing to join you. But that’s really no reason to miss out on the things you enjoy.
After the initial awkward phase that everybody feels, you’ll find that solo concerts can be awesome adventure where you experience things you wouldn’t have otherwise.
The awkwardness will pass very quickly
The negative feelings you have about going to concerts solo will reach their peak intensity just as you arrive at the concert location. As you get comfortable and settle down for the show, the awkwardness and discomfort will melt away very quickly. It shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to an hour to feel at ease and relaxed.
You won’t suffer from regret or FOMO
There’s nothing stopping you from leaving a concert if you’re not having fun. However, the reverse does not apply. You can’t go back to a concert you missed out on, and the regret can hang over you for months, sometimes even years.
The crowd and the strangers will set you free
Probably the biggest concern you might have, is the awkward feeling of being by yourself at a large social event. That shouldn’t phase you though, because nobody cares.
As mentioned above in the Barry Manilow experiment, people are simply far too self-absorbed to notice what others are doing. The more people in a given location, the more you melt into the background.
It doesn’t even have to be that big of a crowd. A few tens of people are enough for you to blend into the scenery. In a crowd of hundreds or thousands, you become invisible, and forgettable.
Thus, you’re free to do stuff you wouldn’t try doing with friends, out of fear they would judge you too harshly.
The time between your arrival and the start of the concert
This interval will probably be the most unnerving one. You’re alone in the venue, with not much to keep you busy. People are slowly trickling in, chit chatting while the music starts.
It’s easy to feel self-conscious at this point and wonder if coming here was the right decision. These doubts and anxieties are normal and will soon fade.
To speed up the process, make yourself comfortable with the location, have a drink, chat with the bartender, casually exchange a few observations with a fellow concert goer, read a book or play a phone game. Anything that distracts you from your temporary nerves.
Dance like nobody’s watching, because nobody is
Unless you’ve got some absolutely amazing, showstopping moves, nobody really bothers to look at how other people are dancing.
If anything, people are really looking at how the crowd dances, rather than any individual. It’s more of a forest vs trees type of thing.
You don’t have to talk to people, if you don’t want to
Don’t get hung up on the idea that just because you go at a concert by yourself, you automatically have to socialize with people. You don’t.
Concerts are about music, and if you’re not in the mood for people, just find yourself a comfortable place and enjoy the show.
You have at least one thing in common with everybody there
The cool thing about going to a concert is how nobody there is really a stranger.
A stranger is someone you know absolutely nothing about. This doesn’t apply to concert goers, since simply by being there, you have a rough idea of their musical tastes.
Not only that, but people with similar interests can often be broadly compatible personality wise.
To socialize, stick near focus points with constant traffic
If you want to chat, you can try talking up the people closest to you. If that’s not an option, consider hanging around the some of the important points of interest at a concert. These are places that have a constant influx of people, such as food stalls, bars and merchandise stands.
To strike up a conversation, throw a comment around about the band, the singer, the atmosphere, a food or drink suggestion etc. Just break the ice and let other people decide if they want to chat, and see where it takes you.
You don’t have to worry about other people’s fun
This is especially true if you’re into music that’s outside the mainstream. By going with somebody else, you’ll always worry whether or not they’re enjoying themselves or not. This is especially true if you are the one that invites them.
Not only that, but bored people and friends can pressure you into doing something else instead of listening to the music. For instance, they can try to talk you into going to a food stall, going outside the bar, or even change locations.
If you go by yourself, you’re free to shape your experience any way you want.
Going to a bar alone
Bars can be a more stressful experience than concerts or movies because they are designed to be social settings.
As a result, it’s easy to feel a pressure to socialize when by yourself at a bar. From your perspective, not socializing in a bar makes you stand out, and not in a good way.
As with all solo activities however, you’re just overthinking it. Below are a few tips and tricks you can use to make a lone trip at a bar enjoyable.
It’s socially acceptable to go to a bar alone
Once concern you might have, is thinking that going to a bar all by yourself is socially frowned upon, like putting pineapple on pizza.
That’s not really the case, bars are open for anybody, as long as they pay for their drinks, are polite, and don’t cause quarrels.
The time you go can make a difference
Like all business, bars and pubs have their own daily and weekly rhythm.
The 5 to 8 PM interval during the week days is a good time to go, since most of the clients are working people that want to get a drink after a day at the job.
Some people will come unattended and just unwind. Others will come with their work colleagues. But everyone is in a chit chatty mood, relaxing after a day’s work.
The 7 to 11 PM interval on weekends and Fridays is trickier to socialize.
One reason is that most people come in groups with friends, so they’re mostly focused on one another.
Secondly, they may not have had enough time to settle in, and relax for the night. Even tight knit friend groups require a few drinks and some time to warmup, and before that happens they may not be easily approachable.
Become a regular at a bar you like
Each bar has their own personality and crowd of regular visitors. Just as with people, you’ll find that you’re compatible with some bars, but not others.
However, you might need to visit the same bar a few times in order to figure out if you’re compatible or not.
Once you do find a bar you like, aim to be a regular. It’s much, much easier to be social and relaxed in an environment where you feel welcome and accepted.
At first, you might be tempted to bar hop, and switch bars every day. This isn’t a bad approach, and it’s certainly possible to have fun this way.
However, if you’re new to this, it will be faster to find your footing if you become a regular at a bar. Once you figure things out, bar hopping will be a lot more fun too.
Figure out the type of bar you want to go to
When it comes to socializing, it’s helpful to divide bars in two categories: destination and hang out bars.
Destination bars are the ones groups organize to go to during a night out. They tend to be located in downtown areas or entertainment districts. Some are outside the city center, but have a strong brand that attracts visitors.
Destination bars are difficult places to socialize, since most of the people who go there are groups of friends, coworkers or acquaintances.
Hangout bars are local and unpretentious establishments away from the downtown area.
They don’t have much of a brand name, and are mostly frequented by people from around the neighborhood.
Most clients treat hangout bars as extensions to their home. Instead of sitting around doing nothing, they come to the bar to have a drink, watch a game or simply chit chat with somebody else.
Befriend the staff
If you go to the same bar often, make sure you get to know the staff and are on friendly terms with them.
Besides their usual tasks, bartenders and servers also have to observe the social dynamics in the bar, and at least have a sense of “who’s who” and why they’re there.
By being friendly and respectful with the staff (and a good tipper), they’ll often act as matchmakers and slide you into conversations with this person or that person.
As an added bonus, simply chatting with somebody else can relax your nerves. It also puts you in a chatty mood, and makes it easier for you to initiate a conversation with others there.
Finally, being friendly with the staff will also make you look like a regular, and others will perceive you as having a trustworthy status there.
After all, if the servers and bartenders like you, that means you’re probably a cool person to be around.
Go to event nights
Bars will often organize or host different kinds of events, such as board game nights, theater nights, quizzes and more. It’s much easier to go to an event by yourself, since the event itself acts like an ice breaker.
Luckily, a boon of the modern age is that such events are now public and you can easily discover them using Facebook or other similar apps such as Meetup, Eventbrite etc.
A good way to check if a bar hosts such events is to visit the “Events” section on its Facebook page and see if it has any past or upcoming events.
Look for activity bars, (ex: pool tables, board games, anti-cafes)
The hardest part about socializing alone at a bar is breaking the ice.
Fortunately, some locations make this process easier by having different games you can play. Others have a layout that encourages people to talk to one another.
As an example, it’s easy to break the ice by asking someone if you can join them at a game of darts or pool.
Anti-cafes are another great place for socializing. If you haven’t heard of the concept, these are bars where you buy time instead of drinks or food.
By paying the hourly rate, you get access to a kitchen with some drinks and snacks, as well as a table seat you can work or read from.
The regular customers of anti-cafés are professionals that want to break a routine and work in a public place, but without the hustle and bustle of a regular bar.
Because of this, most of the people there are by themselves, and are more open to talk to somebody else, especially during their work breaks.
Bar layouts also matter a lot. Ideally, you want to choose one that structures the seating so it brings people closer together and allows conversations to start out casually.
Find a good spot
One of your first instincts when going to a bar alone might be to sit at a corner table and pretend you’re invisible. It’s a subconscious way of staying out of trouble and avoiding too much attention.
If all you want to do is people watch, enjoy a drink and catch up on some work or reading a book, that’s great.
However, if you’re looking to socialize then the best approach is to sit at the bar, or as close to it as possible. The bar is the center of the room, and everybody has to go there to have a drink. This creates a constant stream of new people coming and going, which you can engage in a conversation.
Depending on the layout of the bar, it also puts other people within earshot and makes it easy to talk to them.
Make the conversation about them
When it comes to conversations, probably the most useful rule of thumb is to know that people’s favorite topic is their own life.
Keep the conversation focused around the other person. Only talk about yourself when you are asked to do so.
Being a good listener is a very useful skill, and an important element in “charisma”, so don’t be afraid to stay quiet, asking questions and going off on tangents.
As long as the other person follows along, you’re doing ok. If the other person feels they are oversharing, they’ll start asking you questions to even things out.
What you should try to avoid as much as possible are hollow chit chats, where the people are simply waiting their turn to say something. These discussions grow stale fast, and sooner or later one or both participants will be looking for the exit.
Take a book with you
If you’re into books, consider taking one with you whenever you go out. Simply reading the book at bar table and people watching from time to time can be an enjoyable activity.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to socialize, then a book can help to relax you and ease some of the initial tension.
Sometimes it will even work as a good icebreaker since some people will be curious what you’re reading and ask you about the book.
Going to the movies alone
Just like with concerts, the biggest problem when going to the movies is that you’re dependent on somebody else to come with you in order to enjoy yourself.
If you’ve got lots of friends who like movies, this might not even be a problem. But if you don’t or your movie tastes are very particular, then the only sensible option is to just go out and see the movie by yourself.
It’s either that, or having to cope with FOMO and regret.
Fortunately, going to the cinema alone is a breeze once you get over just a few mental road blocks.
Truth be told, the only problem is that once you get used to it, you’ll find it annoying to bring a companion with you.
Movies aren’t really social activities
When you think about it, movies aren’t exactly designed to be social activities. Essentially, you have to go into a dark room, be silent, and watch a screen for 2 hours or more. Not exactly social.
The real socializing happens before and after the movies, and often a movie isn’t even the topic of conversation for more than 10-15 minutes, sometimes even less.
You’re probably a movie lover
In the USA, 78% of people go to the movies once a month or less. If you’re part of the 22% of people that goes to the movies 2 or more times a month, then chances are you’ll struggle to find a movie partner.
This then puts you in a tough spot: either go alone, or don’t go at all.
If that’s the case, simply ignore the “awkwardness” and go to the movie. As mentioned in a previous study, people who go alone to a movie have just as much fun as those in a group. So if you choose not to go, you’ll be missing out on the fun and suffering from a sizeable portion of regret.
It’s far more widespread than you think
If you can’t stop feeling like the weird single person in the theater, then take a look around. So many people go to the movies by themselves, that you’re bound to spot one or two.
If the theater is packed, chances are you won’t be able to separate the single people from the grouped ones. But if that’s the case, neither can the rest of the audience figure out you’re alone.
If the room is mostly empty, then the single people will easily stand out. And in that case, you’re not alone in being alone at the movies.
Nobody cares if you come alone or not
Almost everybody in the theater is part of a group, and they’re there to watch movies and chit chat with one another until it starts. They don’t really notice what other viewers are doing, unless it bothers them.
The truly weird people aren’t the solo viewers, but the ones that make it a purpose to monitor the other spectators, criticize them for whether they are alone, how they are dressed etc.
The theater staff don’t judge solo moviegoers
Theater workers are aware that a large percentage of movie watchers come by themselves, and won’t bat an eye if they see you do the same.
They are much more sensitive to how civilized and well behaved you are, since that directly impacts their own time working there.
When the audience leaves the room, the staff primarily checks up to see how clean the theater is, whether customers spilled drinks, smeared chairs with cheese and so on.
A normal person coming to the theater alone isn’t even an issue. They’ve seen them so often, they just blend into the background.
Enjoy the movie your own way
One downside of seeing a movie with someone else is that you have to take the opinion of others into account: time schedule, seating arrangement, post-film activity, foods, drinks etc.
When on your own however, you have total freedom in deciding every aspect of the experience down to the smallest detail.
You can choose to see a 2D or 3D version, go farther or closer to the screen, go very late in the evening at a screening and just about anything else you can think of.
After a while, you’ll find the freedom to make your own choices and not having to care about others to be intoxicating, and going to to the movies solo to be a guilty pleasure of yours.
Doing stuff by yourself can be a bit awkward if you haven’t done it before. But, fortunately, it’s a lot easier than it looks, and can go a long way into helping you build a more fulfilling life, with more social opportunities and a lot more friends.