Mingle With the Best of 'Em
Sunday, April 25, 2004; Page M03
In a town like D.C., connections are everything. Skillful mingling is do or die, whether you're networking for your job, trolling for love or in the market for interesting new friends. But if you're not a natural-born schmoozer, giving in to wallflower tendencies isn't your only option. By following these simple guidelines, you can walk into a room filled with strangers, have a great time chatting them up and leave with new numbers on your cell phone.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS FIRST. You want to convey that you're both confident and approachable before you speak a word. When you enter a room, casually scan the crowd and smile warmly at anyone who makes eye contact. Avoid nervous fidgeting or compulsively sipping your drink. Instead, move as if you've got all the time in the world, and there's nowhere you'd rather be.
BREAK THE ICE. As you walk through the party, exchange smiles and friendly hellos with anyone who meets your eye. Chat briefly with the people you already know and then prepare to get your mingle on. Start by approaching a small group of people near you who've left some physical space for newcomers. If they're in the middle of an animated conversation, walk up and just listen for a while. Slowly start to add relevant comments of your own until you become an equal participant in the conversation.
TALKING POINTS. To strike up a new conversation, offer someone a genuine compliment, comment on your surroundings or ask people questions about themselves. Start with general things, like how they know the host. No matter whom you're talking to, try to find some common ground and show interest in what they're saying by really listening. When someone new approaches, move over to make room; never stand in front of the person, and be sure to introduce yourself during a natural break in the conversation. As much as possible, keep your back toward the wall and face other partygoers.
WORK THE ROOM. Hanging with the same friends all night is no way to meet new people, not to mention bad party manners. Throughout the night, make it a point to instigate conversations with as many strangers as possible. Never sit in the same seat twice, and spend a while with several different groups. If there are particular people you'd like to talk to, make your way toward them slowly and during a shift in their conversation. When you're ready to move on, offer a simple "It was so nice seeing you again," and then move away to the buffet table, the restroom or another room of the party.
CLOSE THE DEAL. If you hit it off with someone you'd like to see again, take steps to see if that can happen -- before the night is over. At the end of your conversation or on your way out, express how much you enjoyed talking, and be clear about your intentions, whether they're professional, romantic or friendly. And no matter what, an amiable "It was really nice meeting you" will always leave a good impression. Angela Watrous
Angela Watrous is the co-author of "Talk to Me: Conversation Tips for the
Small-Talk Challenged" (New Harbinger Publications, 2003).
Want to know how to do something? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Become a Regular (The Washington Post, May 2, 2004)
Finally Banish Bad Breath (The Washington Post, Apr 25, 2004)
Get Your Own Web Name (The Washington Post, Apr 18, 2004)
Orchid Survival Guide (The Washington Post, Apr 11, 2004)
Stop the Biting (The Washington Post, Apr 4, 2004)