3 Genius Finishing School Tips to Help You Build Confidence in Social Settings

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No matter how you’ve experienced the pandemic, after on-again, off-again social plans over the course of the last two years, the social atrophy is real. I consider myself to be an extrovert who—pre-COVID-19—had a fairly full calendar of (mostly work-related) social gatherings. But at a recent cocktail party, I arrived frazzled and unfocused. What happened to my ability to make conversation? To circulate feeling polished vs. self-conscious? To not lean on my phone as a crutch to avoid social awkwardness? I was out of practice and it showed.

The truth is that social skills and confidence require work and finesse, which is why I turned to Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, for a brush-up via her brand-new online finishing program, designed to help participants look and feel their best.

Finishing school—something the likes of Princess Diana, Carla Bruni, even Jacqueline Kennedy attended—in particular is a great fit for social re-entry. Different than etiquette, which focuses primarily on polite behavior, it teaches polish—manners included—so that you not only know how to project confidence and grace, you learn how to dress, speak and work the room in style.

Myka’s online program is broken out into 83 instructional videos, each one bite-size in length, so they don’t overwhelm. I kicked off the course, optimistically. Right out of the gate, there were three critical social rules I wrote down that would have helped me feel much more empowered at my recent event:

1. Always calculate an arrival buffer. It’s a rule we mostly apply to job interviews, but arriving at any social occasion—brunch, a play date, a work meeting—10 minutes early will put you ahead. It allows you to walk in calm and collected and with time to go to the bathroom and freshen up vs. frantically racing in apologizing and worrying you’re in the wrong place. (Guilty.)

2. Make an effort. We’ve all drifted into the comfort zone of athleisure—in fact, even office dress codes have changed—but adding one intentional detail or piece to your appearance can make a huge difference in your confidence levels when you enter a room. Maybe it’s a pop of lip color or a manicure or a matching belt and shoe combo. Whatever helps you feel more put together is a win. (At the social gathering I attended, I found myself massively underdressed, which threw me.)

3. Get a drink. No, this isn’t about liquid courage. It’s more the idea that having something to hold will give you purpose as you mingle, even if what you decide to sip is non-alcoholic. (For the record, I declined a drink at the event I recently attended, which put out a vibe that I was less leisurely. A sparkling water would have at least given me something to do with my hands.)

Still, my favorite piece of advice—there are so many incredible tips and insights in Myka’s course—is perfect for navigating social anxiety and awkwardness as we all put ourselves out there again: Prep a list of three topics to pull out of your back pocket before you get to any social event. A finishing school fail-safe, having conversation starters at the ready puts you in the position of automatic charmer and connector. Per Myka, news-worthy and non-sensitive topics should be your go-to. (Know your audience, of course, but a convo about the power of the Encanto soundtrack or the latest beauty trend called sweater nails are fun and interesting things to fall back on anytime there’s a lull.)

I tested these tactics out at a weekend playdate (low-stakes!) with new friends and felt my confidence levels rise. I arrived on time, with a fresh coat of mascara and said yes immediately to the La Croix they offered. I also had already thought about topics—like the fact that we both can’t wait for the return of The Marvelous Mrs. Maiselwhich immediately reduced those frazzled feelings and allowed me to relax instead of rushing to find common ground.

Is finishing school an essential? For anyone looking to put a social spring back in their step, I’d say it is.

Rachel Bowie Headshot

Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...