So, you will be able to celebrate the dropping of the ball and some libations at a party you scored an invitation. When it comes time to socializing, keep in mind the party dynamics. There will usually be a polarization effect. Most times, birds of a feather will flock together. When you arrive, are you an aggressive hunter, are you seeking out guests to meet, or are you curling up in the corner in the fetal position?
At a social gathering, you will normally have pockets of different conversations occurring. I play I-Spy and eavesdrop. I flitter around like a covert spy listening to each conversation. I move from group to group, until I find something I am interested in and can ease into the group.
If you hear a topic you know a little about, jump on that like a squirrel on a nut. Look at the feet of the folks in the group. If someone has his or her feet pointing out, that is the white space to fill. Those that have their feet pointed inward and shoulders squared to the group are displaying the most interest. Slide into the group and listen. When a pause occurs in the conversation, offer your two cents of brilliance.
Want to establish conversation with a stranger on the buffet line. Using this simple method is a quick and easy way to remember how to engage people in conversation. Use the acronym: FORM
Family – Married? Children? Spouse and children’s interests/activities? Where do you live?
Occupation – find out what they do and make their occupation sound like the most important job. I value everyone’s contribution to the economy or the community. If you are not sure of what their job is, ask them a lot of open-ended questions to explain their job.
Religion/Recreation. Religion can be a minefield. Most times, examining religion is more dangerous than ascending Mount Everest. What do they like to do for fun? Dancing, golf, tennis, scrap-booking, Bunco, hiking, etc. Where do they go on vacation? Ask those active listening and open-ended questions.
Main Interests/Money/Message – This can be tricky as well. You are exploring the source of their income and what gets them out of bed.
All of these questions allow you to develop a relationship and become likeable. Find something in common. It provides the conversational partner the sense that you are interested in them.
Avoid talking too much. We have all heard the “Chatty Cathy” that figures the more information they throw at you the more informed you would be. Less is more. Make it all about them, not about you.
Listen Listen Listen - I cannot stress this enough. You should be listening three times more than you talk. Point your torso and feet towards the persons of interest. Ask how they were selected to attend the gathering or their connection to the host. That will stimulate further conversation.
Proxemics - is the name given for establishing body distance. We all have certain zones of comfort. After the initial grip and grin, most people will retreat to their normal space and do not encroach.
Smile – When you flash a genuine smile at someone, the results are always positive. Smiles generate a positive response. The act of smiling releases the feel good endorphins from the brain, which leads to making us feel happier. Brain scans show that smiling activates parts of the brain associated with pleasure and happiness.
Face - I’ll keep this short. If a person’s mouth and nose is moving around more than a spin cycle of a washing machine, it is a good bet that they are not copasetic with your conversation.
Eye contact – When you first meet someone, make sure you address the person with your eyes. The eyes reflect that you have an interest in the recipient. Due to cultural differences, some people are reluctant to look you in the eye.
The optimum time frame to maintain eye contact is around seventy percent of the time. Focus your initial gaze on the golden triangle of the face. This is the region covering the eyes through the mouth.
Handshake – There is nothing like a firm handshake web to web. We have all felt extremes. One person crushes the hand, while others have felt like a wilting rose. Adjust the grip as you grab the hand. Another subtle technique of dominance is a person that grabs your hand and either pulls your body towards them, or attempts to give a slight roll of the hand to exert their dominance. Accept it for what it is. Do not be a lingerer. Squeeze and release. The lingerers are viewed as creepy.
Hugs – As a society, we are now hugging more than ever. We are all among friends and the embrace is a welcome sign of affection. When we are greeting for the first time, the hug becomes kind of an awkward dance. Should I or should I not? Let the other person set the tone.
Male to female hugging is a more tepid world and should always be established by the female. Hugging can be a great method to establish rapport. We enjoy the stimulation of touch. On first meetings, you can never go wrong with a handshake.
Hands – Oh what to do with the hands. They do seem to get in the way at times. The most neutral position is at the sides along the hips. After the initial greeting, the hands are really in the way. Keep them visible. It helps to have one hand occupied with a beverage or a folder.
Arms – Where the hands go, so go the arms. Keep the arms from crossing the midsection. Avoid placing your arms in a position known as the fig leaf. That is where the hands drop over the privies and cover them like fig leaf. It is a position of weakness. Placing the arms behind the back is a position known as the royal or regal stance. It projects a dominant stance and sets the tone that you believe that your status is higher. Another strong dominant position is arms akimbo. This is the position in which you place your hands on your waist and the elbows point out away from the body. It is a territorial display and not conducive to the first impression.
Legs and Feet – Keep them pointed in the direction of the person or group of interest. Where your feet will normally point, is in your direction of interest. Point your feet and body towards your conversational partner.
The End – Most important, have fun and laugh. For more information on rapport building and interpersonal communications, take a look at my book – Face 2 Face.