May is party season – graduations and weddings are important moments in peoples’ lives, and we often find ourselves thrown together with strangers or relatives with whom we’re not close, and we need to have a pleasant conversation. You may think people are born charming – and while some are – being charming is a social skill anyone can develop. Here, as taken from our book, Treating People Well, are a few tips on how to connect with others in an unfamiliar setting:
- Ease Your Way In – When entering a crowded room, look for a loose group of people who seem to be chatting easily. Make eye contact with one and extend your hand. Then say, “Hello, I’m…” Offer some tidbit of information about yourself, preferably with some humor, such as “I’m Tom’s favorite brother. Okay, his only brother.”
- Exit Gracefully – If you find yourself stuck in a deadend conversation, it’s alright to disengage gracefully. Some exit lines: “It’s so nice to meet you. I hope we see each other again.” Or “I’m going to get a drink. Can I bring you something from the bar?” or “There’s my friend – will you excuse me?”
- Remember Names – Try to remember the names of the people you meet. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it if you can’t remember or didn’t hear them clearly. If you’re introducing two people and you can’t remember the name of one of them, simply say, “Have you two met?” and let them introduce themselves to each other.
- Don’t Get Discouraged – If the person you’re trying to talk to doesn’t respond, they may not know how. It’s not you; it’s them, so don’t take it personally. This works both ways; if someone introduces himself to you, be polite and welcoming and engage in small talk. It’s a few minutes out of your life, and it’s kind.
- Make An Effort – When you find yourself seated next to someone for dinner, engage fully. Make eye contact, keep your phone in your pocket and lean in to show your interest. Smile, and listen to what they’re saying.
- Ask Questions – There’s almost always something useful or interesting to be learned from talking to another person, and people love to talk about themselves. Often the people who are considered the best conversationalists are those who ask a lot of questions because it shows genuine interest and attention.
If you’re in the New York City area, Jeremy and I will be speaking at the 92nd Street Y on May 23rd. We’re delighted that actress and producer Judith Light will be the moderator as we discuss all things Treating People Well.