Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cheers (to being less awkward)!

Tonight, I'm going to a retirement party for my favorite professor from law school, a tweed-coat-with-elbow patches type of gentleman who signed all of his emails with "Ciao!" even though he's not Italian and truly enjoyed engaging with his students, both in and outside the classroom. 

I'm happy to go and raise a glass to him, but this situation brings one of my personal phobias to the fore: approaching strangers at cocktail parties!  I have friends who are wonderful at this kind of thing, and once I'm actually in a conversation with someone, I'm fine, but for some reason, I am absolutely terrified of trying to break in on the edge of a ring of people who are all chatting away at a party.  And then I worry that my lingering makes me look even more awkward than the fact that I'm already standing there alone . . . and even though I know that it's silly, it's my nightmare!  
Pinned Image
Image by Roland Bello
 Here are my three strategies for alleviating my cocktail party stranger anxiety:  


1.  Try to arrive with a friend or date, if possible.  There's something about not showing up alone that is really comforting.  The trick is to not use that person as a crutch and not talk to anyone else all night!

image via here

2.  If I'm alone, I find the longest line at the bar and wait in it.  I think I initially heard this at a networking strategy training session when I worked at a law firm (ugh -- don't you hate the word "networking?"  It just makes "talking to people" sound like horrible drudgery).  The intent of the tip was to give you the maximum amount of time to meet people and ultimately give them your business card, but I've adapted this for general partygoing: waiting in line gives you something to do so that you don't look strange hanging out by yourself, and it gives you a purpose for being in close proximity to a bunch of other people who you can talk to without having to awkwardly approach them.

Steak and “Oyster” Skewers
image via Sunset
3.  Before I go to a party, I scan the most emailed stories on and scan's home page.  You'll pick up on any huge news stories, some interesting tidbits about wacky things that are going on, and likely at least one thing that's interesting enough to bring up if there's a lull in conversation (i.e., "Did you hear about those real-life Hangover guys who stole the penguin from Sea World and woke up with it in their hotel room??" or "Did you see Mad Men this week?  The Beatles' licensing company never lets people use their music on television, so it was apparently quite a big deal."). 

What's your party MO?  Are you a pro at meeting new people, or are you awkward like me?  And if you're one of those people who are fantastic at this sort of thing, what are your secrets?



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm exactly the same way. Once I'm engaged in a conversation, I'm fine but working up the courage to break the ice is difficult for me. And I am definitely the strange one just standing there by myself. Soo awkward. Thanks for the tips!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...