Socializing, A Skill You Have To Master.
A “How To” of successful Hobnobing!
Let’s start with the fact that most people in a large group are socially uncomfortable in some way. We cover up with many defences developed since childhood. These often interfere with our ability to listen and hold eye contact. Even worse, we may keep glancing around the room to see who else is there, sending a non- verbal rejection of the person we are engaging with.
So it’s best to go into the fray with an awareness of these habits. That puts us in control and results in a much better experience of the conversation. Disciplining ourselves to do this diverts our mind from worrying about what people might think of us. The truth is that they’re so busy worrying about themselves they don’t think of us nearly as much as we think they do!
It’s also useful to approach the room with the “there you are” attitude, rather than the “here I am” attitude. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about in this respect, then you are going to be a bore!
To understand this dynamic further, think of people who you might see on stage, particularly at the amateur level, because those who are focused on the audience empower them and become successful, while those who focus on how they appear on stage, are not.
A good plan is to ask questions and focus on the person you’re meeting and make an effort to be interested in their reply. It’s not that we are pretending to be interested but in a forced environment conversation is also likely to be forced. This is when I shake my head and wonder what it’s like for royalty. In addition, they have to put up with the smell of drying paint when ever they travel!
If I really want to look around the room for a general survey or to find someone I’m looking for, I may ask a question like “do you know many people here?” or “could you just excuse me looking around for a second, as I’m trying to find my wife?” or whomever.
As I write this, I’m reflecting on a small group of people I was talking with at an international meeting just the other day. In this group there was Japanese gentleman that nobody was engaging with. Noticing this, the “there you are” rule popped into my head and we ended up having an interesting and amusing conversation. I have never been to Japan and to be honest, I don’t think that I have talked directly to a Japanese person before. That was a win for me.
So how do you enter a group of people already chatting? In this situation try making eye contact with someone and if able, move within their social distance. This maybe a bit uncomfortable, but people are most likely to make room for you to move in. It’s important to be aware of non-verbal signals such as clutching your glass like a life preserver and rounding your shoulders instead of standing confidently.
I will just end this with a little army story. We would move through the jungle and use hand signals, and things like setting up for the night were all done as a drill. We would sometimes go for days with virtually no conversation. One night as darkness settled in, we were on top of a jungle clad mountain in heavy monsoon rain. I noticed my platoon sergeant crawling up to me. His urgent message turned out to be a new joke that had me doubled up with stifled laughter, I kept giggling to myself for ages. Under normal circumstances, it was a joke that would have earned a chuckle or two but I remember that incident because I became aware of need we all have for human contact and recognition.
Meeting new people can result in opening up avenues in our mind and in our careers. As the saying goes, there’s no opportunity without risk.