Not sure how to approach an interesting stranger? Here are some strategies to get you started.
Be open to everyone you meet.
Mingling is indiscriminate; it works best when stirring the entire room. Your purpose is not to zero in on the one or two people you find most interesting at first glance. Rather, your aim—apart from a real interest in getting to know people—is to be attractive and interesting yourself, because of your outgoing and friendly manner. Besides, first impressions can deceive. By talking sincerely with anyone who crosses your path, you may be surprised by someone you would have otherwise overlooked.
Assume you are not alone.
No one goes to a social event hoping to stare at the carpet all evening. Some people are more accessible than others, and some are more interesting. But everyone present is a conversation waiting to happen—wanting to happen. Each person said “yes” to meeting new people the moment they set foot in the door. Consider that a personal invitation.
Pop the personal space bubble.
One reason Americans find mingling so difficult is that we socialize while encased in imaginary suits of armor—or at least with “Do not touch” signs hanging around our necks. A brisk handshake is as good as it gets. Yet body language is paramount when meeting new people, accounting for a vast majority of communication between you. Brief and disarming physical contact is a wonderful way to get past those barriers and make a connection: a handshake that lingers a moment longer than usual; or a hand on the shoulder or forearm to emphasize a point.
Ask questions—lots of them.
Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but the lack of it will murder your mastery of mingling. Think of yourself as a reporter on assignment. But you don’t want the typical small-talk facts: “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” You’re after the story behind the story. Nothing disarms people any faster than meeting someone who is genuinely interested in them.
Stand out - with a smile.
Sadly, if a typical roomful of single adults were a beaker of chemicals, you could wait a long time for a spontaneous reaction to take place. Physical proximity is not enough, even with loads of electromagnetic attraction in the mix. A catalyst is needed to really get things going. Here’s the hot tip: You can be that catalyst, stirring things up, making connections, and attracting attention. All it takes is some confidence, a little practice, a genuine smile, and then—kaboom!—you’ve blown the roof off the lab.
Use the power of intention.
It is amazing when one realizes how we can create our own reality. Visualize how you want the event to go, picture yourself being warm, engaging and funny - and often times that is exactly how the evening will unfold.
Unfortunately, listening well is an endangered skill, even among people who grasp the importance of asking questions. The key ingredient of listening is simple: focus. Maintain eye contact with the person speaking. Don’t let distractions compromise your concentration. Pay attention to what is being said—that’s where your next question will come from.
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