The Holiday Collection: Breaking In Without Breaking Out in a Cold Sweat
By Debra Fine on December 20, 2013
So by now you know that I recently spent a few days and nights gallivanting around DC with elected officials.
Wait. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Gallivant may be the wrong word as I am not — and will never be — Rielle Hunter.
But I did spend time at The White House and at Vice President Joe Biden’s private residence and it was and still is unforgettable. Being in the small talk business is a benefit for me because I usually don’t have the panic that others often experience when walking into an unfamiliar room with unfamiliar faces and starting a conversation. For those of you who suffer — and I know many of you do — I remember your pain. Last week’s blog included four simple steps to starting a conversation with a stranger; a little pre-holiday gift to keep you merry and bright. But what happens if you don’t find a singleton in the room? What if everyone is already grouped together and chatting merrily while you are standing alone, feeling foolish?
Breaking in is hard to do, especially when it comes to conversation. You don’t want to continue to stick out like the Lone Ranger without Tonto. You also don’t want to start lurking around like…well…I was going to say Rielle Hunter but that would be in poor taste. So, let’s just say you don’t want to start lurking around.
Not to fret my fellow small-talkers! There are simple, non-lurky ways to find your way into a group conversation. Here’s how:
Fake a seizure.
Kidding — here’s how to do it:
If there is someone specific in the room that you have been hoping to meet and he is engaged in a conversation with another person, wait patiently and then approach the OTHER person, your target’s conversation partner. Politely, ask for the other person’s permission to interrupt:
Hi, I’m Debra Fine. Excuse me for intruding, but I’ve been trying to connect with Bob for weeks. Would you mind if interrupted you both for just a moment?
Most people are gracious enough to agree.
The other option is to tap the shoulder of your intended conversation cohort and state your wishes:
Hi, I am Debra Fine. Excuse me for intruding, but I promised myself to connect with you, Bob, before the evening ends. Please look for me when you have a free moment.
At this point you will either be invited to join the conversation or Bob’s partner will excuse himself and move on (he may have been ready for greener pastures anyway, so double kudos). If neither of these things happens, Bob will know you made an effort and will likely seek you out later.
Attempting to break into a larger group? Try this:
Stand slightly away from the group, but show interest in the speaker while waiting for the group to acknowledge you. They will likely physically shift a bit to allow you into the inner circle.
Ease your way into the conversation by acknowledging that you have been listening. You can do this by nodding your head, smiling, or chuckling at a funny quip that’s been shared.
Look for visual cues that some or all of the group has warmed to you. At that point, you know you’ve been officially welcomed to use your small talk skills like the pro you are. No Rielle Hunter or fake seizures necessary.
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