March 27, 2017

Six Ways to Become a Master Mingler

  • Subline: You don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy social situations

You’re at a party, a conference or a chamber mixer. And admittedly, you’re not a social butterfly. You feel more like a social caterpillar, wishing you could hide behind a leaf until the party’s over.

There are those who thrive on social situations. They know everybody’s name. They tell great jokes. They have stories about their last vacation, their new house or the interesting people they know.

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to be the life of the party. You can meet new people, make connections, make yourself known and -- believe it or not -- enjoy yourself in social situations.

1. Keep your back to the wall
OK, not literally. But when you stand in the middle of a room, you are turning your back to half of the people there. Stand to one side, looking out (and looking friendly). Much more approachable.

2. Don’t cluster up
If you attend an event with your spouse, friends or coworkers, it’s tempting to talk with them. But to strangers, it looks like you’re having a private conversation and don’t want to be interrupted. Not very social.

3. Ask questions
If you’re not a naturally talkative person, don’t sweat it. Let the other person do the talking. You can also find connections if you listen …”Where do you work?… My cousin works there, too.” “You grew up in Mitchell? I’ll bet you know ….”

4. Keep moving
If you meet someone interesting, you might be tempted to glom onto them and keep the conversation going. But it's better to cast a wide net, meet as many people as possible and keep the conversations short. Be polite. And if your conversation partner makes moves to disengage, make it easy for them.

5. Pay attention
Don’t look over the shoulder of someone while they talk. It’s rude, and it gives the impression that you are bored with them. Besides, if you remember the details of your talk, your next conversation will be easier.

6. Don’t pick fights
This one should be simple, but I’ve seen people suddenly launch into a speech about politics, sports or whatever to a complete stranger. You don’t have to be phony or timid, but you need to remember you’re there to learn, not teach. And tone is hard to interpret. You might think you’re having a friendly exchange of opinions, but the other person thinks you’re a jerk.