Are you comfortable doing the "press the flesh" thing? When you attend workplace social functions, do you line up against the wall, frozen in position, not knowing where to begin or how to start a conversation?
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Or heaven forbid, how to respond, should someone approach
If the thought of this type of occasion makes you shudder, if it drains you, if just thinking of the energy it would take to interact exhausts you, you might be introverted. (NOTE: all of us are a mix of both introversion/extraversion. This means that even if extraverted, you have moments when you relate to what I just described).
Whether you work with introverts or lean toward introversion yourself, you're not alone. Here's a sample of an email I received that demonstrates the challenges of being an introvert in an extraverted world, especially during workplace networking events.
QUESTION: Hi Marion. I am aware that others share my problem but no one has been successful in helping us wallflowers with their comfort levels at networking events so far. I'm such an introvert, I signed up for your communications newsletter in an attempt to learn how to "make small talk" at business gatherings without feeling like I'm having an anxiety attack and losing my words altogether.
Peggy, Birmingham, AlabamaMARION'S RESPONSE:
Hi Peggy. Bravo to you for reaching out to me about your communication challenge. My guess is, that in situations with your friends and family, you're not a wallflower at all. You likely feel completely comfortable and have moments where you have no problem at all at engaging in the interactions. Right? Here's the point: You already have the skills you need to forget the wallflower routine and begin to blossom.
To increase your comfort level at workplace mix'n mingle functions, the starting point is being aware of your thoughts. Thoughts become words, words become actions and actions, when repeated, become habits. It's these habits that form your reputation. It all begins with how you think.
TIP #1: Change how you think.
Clearly, you have a keen interest in connecting with others and already have strong communication skills -- otherwise, you wouldn't have reached out to me, right? Let that focus of wanting to connect with others be reflected in how you choose to spend your energy. Refocus your attention away from you and onto them, the people you're reaching toward. Use what I call, "The Limited Energy Principle".
You only have so much energy in your body. Instead of channeling it into thinking about your nerves, being self-conscious about how you look, and wondering what you're going to say, turn it all toward connecting with others. When you feel the nerves welling up, adopt the mantra, "It's not about me, it's about them". Come from a place of service and focus on the other person, not yourself.
TIP #2: Initiate contact.
Grab control, put yourself in the driver's seat. OMG, yes -- it's up to YOU to initiate contact. But how? This is the step that most people get stumped on, so let me share with you just a few of my top tips for initiating icebreaker conversations:
- Scan and plan. Scan the room and plan your strategy. If you're really nervous, approach someone you already know. If you feel more confident and adventuresome, approach a stranger. Ideally, choose someone who is standing alone.
- Introduce yourself. Walk over to the person, look him in the eye and say, "Hi, I'm Peggy. Nice to meet you. And you're ...?" They fill in the blank with their name and, bravo, you have a conversation going. Extend your hand after you've introduced yourself and make it a solid, friendly and confident handshake. If approaching and introducing yourself feels a little awkward, you could speak to the elephant in the room and say, "I'm just mix'n mingling a bit. I always find that a little awkward when I don't know a lot of people. Do you?" Or you could say, "I'm taking advantage of the chance to meet colleagues I normally get to chat with".
- Ask questions. Remember, you're coming from a place of interest. There's no better way to express this interest than by asking questions. Even if your colleague is verbose and you feel you can't get a word in edgewise, he or she has to breathe at some point -- pop a question in then! Lean in, take a breath, raise a finger to indicate you have something to say, and speak up. Use questions that must be answered with more than a "yes/no" response. That means, lots of "how" questions like, for example, "How many people do you already know here?", "How many of these type of events have you attended over the years?", "How does the planning committee get this event together?"
- Actively listen. If you want to be interesting, be interested. Let the other person know you're listening by nodding your head, punctuating the conversation with questions, inject "uh huh", "I see", "That's interesting" neutral comments if you have nothing else to offer. Just standing there isn't enough.
TIP #3: End the conversation and move on.
Yup, that's right. YOU take control and end the conversation to give you and your colleague a chance to mix and mingle with others. Nothing is worse than someone clinging. Be aware of your colleague's signals that it's time to end the conversation. Watch the body language -- are eyes wandering? Are shoulders and feet turned away from you? Have they clammed up and getting answers is like pulling teeth? Time to move on. Your objective: initiate and end at least 3 conversations. Your rule of thumb: limit your conversation to about 5 minutes, tops.
bottom line is this -- make an effort to communicate, and when someone
makes that effort with you, reward it by reciprocating. Doing those two
things helps everyone feel more comfortable, introverted or not.
PS: Want more ways to feel comfortable communicating in various situations? Consider investing in a webinar for you and your whole team: http://www.marionspeaks.com/marions-products/webinar-singles-may2013
NOTE: like this article? Invite your colleagues to sign up to receive their own at www.MarionSpeaks.com
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX "Award for Leadership in Service Innovation"
© 2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Without information being shared, the chance for synergy and innovation is greatly reduced while the chance for recreating the wheel (and spinning them too!) is increased. Here's the question: what could you do to encourage the sharing of ideas and information with people you know? Here's some answers that may work for you:
- Who needs to know? Don't wait for the other person. Define something you know that would be of value to someone else ... and then tell him or her. That's how you create synergy and build trust and rapport.
- Coffee anyone? Informal meetings are a great way to share information. Next time someone asks you for coffee, remember, it's not about coffee - it's about building relationships and an environment where communication readily takes place.
- Take a break. Everyone deserves a break, and you come back even more productive. Share that gift with a colleague or someone who needs a break as much as you do. If you use them wisely, taking a break could result in breaking a silo.
Positioning yourself as an approachable, proactive and receptive communicator will not only foster internal communications, it will foster innovation, brainstorming and exchange of ideas. Break those silos, nurture informal communications and reap the rewards of shared information. Besides, doesn't a coffee break sound great?Until next time, here's to ...
2012 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it: Communication catalyst, author, and professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein motivates and teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve morale, confidence and productivity by changing how they communicate. Get weekly hands-on tips by signing up for "Marion's Communication Tips" at www.MarionSpeaks.com
SCAN THE ROOM. When you're entering the party room, give it a quick scan to check out if you see anyone you know. If so, approach them. It's easier to start conversation with someone you've already met. If you work with them, you can ask about that project they're in charge of, or what they think about the latest company initiative. Build on the areas you have in common.
ASK THIS QUESTION. Here's the perfect question to ask if you're at a party and don't recognize a single face. Walk up to someone on their own, and begin by introducing yourself. "Hi, I'm Marion". If they don't reciprocate, prompt their response with, "And you're ...?" People will fill the gap with their name. Now comes the biggest tip you'll ever get. Ready? Ask them, "So how do you know (NAME YOUR HOSTS)?" This launches a whole area of possible conversation. They know them through work. "Oh really? And what do you do for company ABC?" Or they golf together. "How's your game these days?" Or they met on a vacation, "I just love cruises. Have you ever gone on one?" Take what they say, and ask a related question. Before you know it, you're having a conversation.
LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE. When mixing and mingling, remember the objective is to meet several people, not just one. You can always return back to someone for follow-up conversation, and when you do, if there was any sort of genuine connection, it will feel like you're coming home. You don't need to cover everything in just one encounter. Be sensitive to the fact that people may be trying to extricate themselves from your conversation talons, so let go gracefully before they start to squirm. Remember, they want to mix and mingle too, so let them.
LOSE THE BOOZE. Having a drink is fine. Having a bottle is not. No news flash there. Besides the obvious safety issues of drinking and driving, imbibing to excess at a family or office party puts you in a situation where you are out of control. Without control, we lose our boundaries and social veneer. We end up saying things we regret and engage in what I call, "career-limiting opportunities". Or we can irrevocably damage family relations when we tell that jerk relative what we really think (some things are best left unsaid). Sure, have a toast. Just know your limit and whatever you do, don't cross it.
Get ready, get set, schmooze away! Enjoy the holiday season, the family, the colleagues and the parties. How you mix and mingle speaks to your social skills and ability to connect with others. Hopefully these tips will make the mingling all the easier. Happy holidays everyone!
Until next time,
Better communication, better business,better life,
© 2010 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it: Communications expert, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve their businesses and their lives by improving their communications. Chat with her Facebook www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks or sign up for her FREE weekly e-newsletter "Marion's Communication Tips" at www.MarionSpeaks.com
OBLIVIOUS PEOPLE DRIVE ME NUTS
I burst out laughing this week when I read a post on Facebook from a friend (thanks Joanna, I owe you one). She was recounting her rather unpleasant grocery shopping experience with an oblivious person. After several attempts of politely asking him to move so she could get her cart past him to the cashier only to be completely ignored, she resorted to her military training and barked out the order in no uncertain terms. I couldn't help myself from doubling over in giggles about the scene I painted in my mind -- this prim and proper lady, this quintessential professional, this woman of decorum and class, bellowing out the command to "kindly move!" Hilarious.
It's always funny when it happens to someone else, isn't it? Oblivious people are the source of much entertainment when they affect another person's life.
Not so funny when it's us living the experience.
Think: bottom of an escalator or getting off an elevator, when the person in the front comes to an unexpected and dead stop. You and the others behind him or her are piling up in body heaps, completely unbeknownst to the person who is the cause of this mishap. They have no idea what mayhem they've unleashed and go about their blissfully unaware business.
What about how oblivious people affect our communications? Sadly, sometimes people are completely oblivious to social clues when it comes to how they communicate. I've seen this dynamic play out in social situations when a person tries to interject into a conversation and others talk right over. Oh, it's so frustrating! The excluded person feels rejected, invisible, overlooked, marginalized and possibly even embarrassed. Oblivious people: they walk the halls of our learning institutions, they hold seats in our offices and boardrooms, and some even make their way into our homes.
So what to do about them? What's the best way to handle the oblivious people in our lives?
The first plan of attack is to bring them into the moment, to raise their awareness of your presence and your needs, and (here's the tough part) to do so politely. For example, in the case of a social situation like a cocktail party or holiday gathering, suppose you see a couple people chatting. You walk over to them, thinking they'll notice your presence and invite you to join in. They don't.
Here's your plan:
Here's a caution: if you've been standing there for more than a few seconds and the clique you want to break into hasn't included you in its conversation, don't wait for the invitation -- it's probably not coming. Nine out of ten times, it's not because these people deliberately are being elitist and are intentionally snubbing you, but simply that they are blessedly oblivious. Don't waste energy being offended when likely none was intended; just take the initiative yourself. If it's met coldly, you're no worse off. Chances are however, that you introducing yourself into a conversation at a social venue and doing it in a polite and friendly way, will be well received. And if it's not, then those people are oblivious to what they're missing in meeting you, and that's their loss.
Until next time, here's to ...
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
If you enjoy improving your communications and the results that this brings, you'll love Marion's useful and insightful online products to help you hone your personal and professional communication skills. You'll find an ever-growing range of items including e-books, hard copy books, and teleseminars. All these learning and support items share strategies and tactics to enhance your communication skills and, at the same time, allowing you to remain authentically you and attract the success you deserve.
While Marion's best known for her expertise in communications, her clients and colleagues share that her biggest impact comes from her holistic approach and her philosophy of "better communication, better business, better life". She believes that in order to succeed, keeping your communications real, authentic, and reflecting your own personal values is the ticket to success. This, Marion says, is the key to your communications achieving desired results.
You can learn more about Marion and her courses, programs, and products at www.MarionSpeaks.com.
When was the last time you went to a function where people were networking? Maybe it was a company going-away party for a colleague, or perhaps a convention. Were you one of those people pressing the flesh and moving effortlessly to chat with others? Or were you like the vast majority and didn't quite know where to begin?
If you're not networking, you're missing opportunities to connect, strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. Here's a few tips you can use to allow you to mix and mingle like a pro:
THINK STRATEGICALLY. Before you attend an event, think about who you would LIKE to meet and speak with and why? What is it that you would like to say to them and why would they be interested (what's in it for them?). You may have specific names of people, or just the "type" of person you want to meet, e.g., someone from company XYZ.
CONTACT PEOPLE IN ADVANCE. It's often possible to connect with people in advance of a function. Sometimes, through word of mouth and by asking your colleagues, you can find out who's attending and get in touch with them. Your meet-up plan can be as casual as "we'll see you at the conference", or as formal as setting a meeting time and place.
APPROACH PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW. Take a risk, randomly go over to someone you don't know and spark up a conversation. But how? Ask a few key questions as conversation openers. Focus on what you two would have in common -- the venue and the event. You could ask open ended questions such as, "What made you decide to attend this conference? What do you hope to get out of it? Or if it's a private function, ask him or her how they know the host/s.
If you have great stories about mixing and mingling, let me know. I'd love to hear what techniques you've used, or how the ones above help. Now get out there to that next event and put these strategies to use. Go mix and mingle with confidence. And remember to bring lots of biz cards, you'll need them!
Until next time, here's to ...
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
© 2010 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it: Communications expert, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve their businesses and their lives by improving their communications. Chat with her Facebook www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks or sign up for her FREE weekly e-newsletter "Marion's Communication Tips" at www.MarionSpeaks.com.
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