There are some talents you’re born with, like, say, the ability to draw, or run fast, or recognize celebrity voiceovers in TV commercials with 100% accuracy. (We’re trying to figure out how to monetize that last one.)
Then there are skills you can develop with time and the right attitude, like speaking another language, playing an instrument, or doing light home repairs (forget what your significant other says, we believe in you).
We’d place ‘being a fun person’ somewhere in between these two poles of talent acquisition. Some people have the gift from birth; some will never, ever have it (Russell Crowe, Kanye West, and Bjork, to name three); and some can learn, with a few tips, to rise above their default fun setting.
With that last group in mind, we did extensive research in the bars, restaurants, and karaoke venues of this fun-loving nation, and isolated—Steven Covey–style—the seven habits of the most consistently fun people we met. Tape this list to your mirror to review while prepping for your next big night on the town:
1) Be an organizer
Reserve that table at the sports bar—or the tapas bar—ahead of time. Get your numbers squared away and book a reservation. Just like that, your night out has a shape and a starting point. Everyone will be pleased that you took the initiative. This also applies to the evening’s end game: Appoint (or be) a designated cab-caller, uber-booker, get-home-safe-arranger-in-Chief. Bookend your night with this kind of clarity, and the middle will practically take care of itself.
2) Embrace the power of positive drinking
By all means drink, join in the spirit of the night and have a great time—but don’t drink too much. It’s not half as charming as you might think. Getting this right is all about your mentality going into the evening. That mindset should be less PARTY!!AAUUGHH!!, and more, I am super pumped to hang out with my friends and savor this night.
3) Know when to invite—and more importantly, when not to invite—the misanthrope of the group
You know that guy or gal in your social set (if you don’t, you might be that guy or gal)—the one who takes skepticism, about everything from dining out to Hollywood movies, to new extremes? You respect their integrity—they’re consistent, and their curmudgeonliness can be downright endearing at times—but there are certain group occasions where the storm cloud perpetually hovering over their head is just going to bring everybody down, and detract from the energy of the evening. On the other hand, there are some occasions---your Oscar party, say, or an anti-Valentine’s Day singles gathering—when Ms. or Mr. Misanthrope will add the perfect spice to the event. For those nights, they’re indispensable. Learn how to gauge the difference.
4) Put your phone away
Seriously. You’ll be okay. Tuck it in your pocket/ handbag/ man-purse and only take it out if you need it to navigate to your next location. That means no Googling What was Jennifer Lawrence’s first movie?, or Who won the 1994 World Series? * It’s more fun to try to figure it out through ancient techniques like, you know, talking. Because let’s face it, as we ingest all the astounding technological advances of our age we’re losing important things in the bargain. People pride themselves on knowing stuff, on remembering facts and events. Instant, universal access to Google search is pilfering part of what it means to be human (as we currently understand it, anyway). We’re on the fast track to becoming all access, no storage. Before that happens, before we can simply upload Wikipedia sites back-and-forth via the chips in our brains, help yourself—and your friends—to savor some old-school human conversation. They’ll be frustrated at first, but they’ll love you for it eventually.
5) Be flexible
So they don’t have your favorite bourbon/ beer/ hostess-on-duty that night—or your No. 1 choice of venue is booked solid. Take it in stride; there’s no shortage of other options, especially if you live in a city. Beyond that, don’t put the cart before the horse: the fun’s about seeing your friends, busting their chops, and rehashing that time you went cow-tipping and woke up the bull. Everything else is secondary.
6) Know that it’s better to give than receive
Go ahead, buy that round. Don’t worry. What goes a-round comes a-round. Also, you’ll be making a high-yield short-term investment into the conviviality of the evening—with guaranteed returns in bonhomie, gregariousness, amiability, and good cheer.
7) Practice Jiu-Jitsu Conflict Resolution
You’ve probably seen this in practice without knowing it, exactly. A fellow patron jostles someone in your group’s drink (or vice-versa) and everyone tenses up. Enter your highly enjoyable friend, stage left: He immediately defuses the situation with a few well placed diplomatic phrases, and the next thing you know, the room’s air pressure has re-stabilized, smiles have returned to faces, and Angry Guy is buying everyone drinks and acting like the life of the party. This is no accident: enjoyable people are not only experts at keeping a good night barreling down the tracks, they’ll also go out of their way to do it—and make it look easy.
*Trick question: there was no 1994 World Series. Strike year.
Keep it Light
There’s a good reason train carriages in the Old West were frequently posted with signs forbidding the discussion of religion or politics onboard. Those topics frequently led to gunplay. Stay away from controversial topics—whether they’re politics, religion, or an old grudge in your group. And if someone brings them up, just steer the conversation back to calmer waters. You’re here to forget about that kind of stuff for a while, to have fun and let off steam—but not necessarily through your ears.
Don’t reach for the stars
If you set overambitious goals for your night out, the whole evening runs the risk of collapsing like a soufflé at some point. Schedule things, for sure, but, ultimately, you’ll want to err on the side of simplicity over multiple bells and whistles that could block the night’s ultimate objective: to have fun. If your friends have to worry about getting to the next venue, or picking up tickets, or jockeying for parking at multiple venues, well, the evening might start feeling like work—and that can wait till Monday.
Learn to say 'Yes'
The most enjoyable people we know maximize their fun on the town by borrowing a page from improv: They “yes, and…” everything (well, everything within reason). They embrace new experiences, people, and conversational gambits with open arms. They don’t shut people down, directly contradict them, or balk at offbeat options for the night. So learn to follow their example; saying no closes the door, while saying yes opens it, and possibly several others beyond. Who knows what lies behind them? After all, your days on this planet are numbered. Don't ask why—ask why not.