Leil Lowndes is a management consultant and speaker and author of How to Instantly Connect with Anyone: 96 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships. Her book helps you understand the basics of making other people feel comfortable and, well, good around you. Her theory is that if you make someone feel good about themselves, they will get a warm, Pavlovian feeling every time they see you. Conversely, if you make people uncomfortable, that sense of unease follows whenever they see you.
You can see how these tips would be very helpful in networking and job search, especially if you haven’t given it much thought before. Meeting and connecting with new people is an essential skill, and some of us just don’t have it. Even if you’re an extravert with great social skills, there might be something to learn. Lowndes doesn’t claim that these tricks actually fool people most of the time; she says that many people will see your technique and give you quiet credit for handling social situations with such grace. Here are some of her tips for overcoming everyday blunders.
- How to have more fun at a big gathering: arrive unfashionably early. It sounds like a bad idea to many people, including Lowndes, who only did it accidentally one year when she forgot to reset her watch after a Daylight Savings time change. She arrived at the gathering 15 minutes early instead of 45 minutes after the invitation time. To her surprise, she enjoyed the event much more than others where she arrived at the height of the crowd. She helped the hostess finish last minute preparations, and met other early arrivals in small groups as they came in. She felt at ease and comfortable meeting just a few people at a time, and even took on introducing new arrivals to her recent acquaintances. Always intimidated and uneasy in large groups, this incremental approach to “working the room” made her enjoy the event so much that arriving early is now her policy.
- How to smoothly change the subject (especially if someone is about to commit a conversation blunder.) Lowndes recommends using the last concept mention in the current speaker’s conversation to segue into a totally new (more interesting, less explosive, less sensitive) topic. For instance, say someone you meet is droning on and on about how dull his job is, and you know that the other person in the group is still stinging from a recent layoff. You can make a masterful subject change in just one sentence. Mr. Insensitive says, “And then there’s the bad cafeteria food to contend with…” You jump in with “Speaking of food, you know where I just discovered the best Cuban bread? It’s in Riverside, at the corner of…” Then you run with the new topic until something else comes up. Tactful, assertive, and probably the best way to keep someone from continuing on a painful subject.
Look for more tips for easing awkward social situations in future posts.