Does the idea of going to a cocktail party filled with strangers make your palms sweat and your mouth go dry? Do you get so stressed out or make up reasons not to attend? You’re not alone. So to help us navigate the murky waters of a crowded room, I’ve enlisted my good friend Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle, the world renowned author of The Art of Mingling, as our guide.
But first, you can listen to an excerpt from The Art of Mingling audiobook right here:
Before you fall victim to your nerves and bail at the last minute, check out Jeanne's top three Quick and Dirty Tips for mingling like a master:
Tip #1: How to Handle Minglephobia
If you feel like vomiting whenever an evite pops into your mailbox, you may suffer from Minglephobia, the secret terror of large parties. Yes, my mannerly friends, it’s a thing, but something we can all fix with some proper training and assistance.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand where you’re coming from in dreading a large gathering, however, what you perceive as fear, others may view as rude. Sure, deep down you may be cringing at the mere thought of walking into a room filled with people and being forced to interact, but if you are constantly bailing out on events because of that fear, people may view that as not liking them or thinking you’re too good for their company. Both of are likely not the case, but how can they know that? The excuse of, “Well I don’t like crowds …” isn’t a proper answer to turn down an invite. I mean, if that’s the case then I guess you can never go to a wedding, a holiday party, or even to a busy restaurant. As Jeanne points out, parties are the best opportunity to ditch the fear and openly chat it up with strangers.
Parties are the best opportunity to ditch the fear and openly chat it up with strangers.
Jeanne says that the fear isn’t uncommon and is something we should all openly embrace: “I refer to this as the secret fear of parties. I mean Katie Couric even confessed to me that she had Minglephobia, of all people! Everyone thinks they’re the only ones that have it.”
I also asked Jeanne about mingling during weddings and parties—a key topic many people email me regarding nerves in crowded settings. Jeanne says that’s actually your best time to mingle: “Weddings and parties are great places to mingle because unlike other situations, weddings are filled with the feeling of joy and love and people are in an open-ish mood.” So before you feel as if you’re the only one on the planet who is a little uneasy, take a deep breath and realize you’re not alone.
Tip #2: What Am I Doing Here?
One reason people often skip out on big events is because they believe it will be a waste of time. Not that the event isn’t fun, but that their inability to properly work the crowd and mingle with new people will just leave them in the corner, checking Facebook on their phone. For starters, it’s unfair to think of yourself in one way due to previous mishaps. Just because one networking event was a bust for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they all will be that way. With that, follow Jean’s advice to make sure you leave with something other than your parking validated.
“There’s always opportunities,” Jeanne says. "People ask, ‘Why should I be here? What am I doing here?’ But if you actually go into the fray and start talking to people you almost always will end up having one or two ten or fifteen minute conversations that really do enhance your life. It’s sounds crazy, because people think the conversation at a cocktail party is so superficial, but it’s exactly the playfulness and the unknown-arena that actually can enhance the quality of your social life.” So, at the end of the day, take a chance and see what happens. After all, more times than not, others feel just as nervous. Follow Tip #1, and embrace your fears.
Tip #3: Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Jeanne says, “Mingling is a basic human fear. In the Art of Mingling, I talk about an attitude aid called How To Fake It 'Til You Make It. You can’t really say, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be scared…’ But if you pretend you’re not scared, and take a deep breath, and pretend to be happy to be there, people will read that on your face and your demeanor. They will respond positively to you and then it helps to delay your fears.” Here’s the deal: no one is super comfortable in every situation. In fact, despite being a card-carrying member of the Extrovert Club, even I get nervous and unsure in certain settings. However, knowing that leaving the situation is not an option, why not just put on your big boy/girl pants and as Jeanne says, “Get out there, take a risk, and be yourself.”
As Jeanne points out, your fears can be read via your body language and that will hold you back from either meeting people or others approaching you. Like wearing a mask to pretend your Superman for Halloween, we can all fake a little character in us to pull of mingling at a party … even if only for a moment.
There are many other helpful tips and funny anecdotes filled in The Art of Mingling, like the Emergency Escape Hatches which are surefire and mannerly ways to excuse yourself from a conversation or party all together. You'll also find insightful theories on how to calm yourself with the Tao of Mingling. So take it from me, your friendly manners guru—add this book to your collection and break into a room with style and confidence.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
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JEANNE MARTINET is the author of eight books, including The Art of Mingling which has sold 150,000 copies and has been published in ten countries. She has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, Salon, The Boston Globe, Glamour and The Washington Post. She has shared her humor and mingling know-how on numerous TV and radio shows, including "The Today Show," "The CBS Early Show," and NPR's "Morning Edition." She lives, writes and mingles in New York City.