20 Nov Survive the Holiday Socializing (with Strangers)
It’s that time of year as the holiday season rolls into town and our calendars fill up with events that require us to socialize with strangers. The idea of networking and engaging in small talk may make many of us cringe, especially extroverted introverts like myself.
However, I have learned that these situations present invaluable opportunities for personal and professional growth.
I guess we could completely avoid the parties & gatherings, but choosing to be a Grinch doesn’t help us professionally or personally this time of year.
So if we have to (suck it up) go, we might as well find a way to make the most of it.
Let’s dive into a few ways how:
1. Focus on Others:
Shift your focus from yourself to others. Instead of getting caught up in worrying how you sound or appear, focus on making connections and helping others feel acknowledged and valued. Shifting your perspective opens doors for genuine conversations and memorable interactions.
Besides, the reality is that everyone in that room is worried about what others will think of them (it’s natural). You go against what’s common (and turn down that inner fear) by putting your focus onto others.
2. Play Tennis with Your Questions (Ask Open-Ended Ones!):
A great conversation is like a game of tennis – the flow goes back and worth. When we ask closed-ended questions that get an answer like “yes,” “no,” etc… the game ends after the serve.
But when we intentionally ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions? Then we give someone the opportunity to respond (hit the ball back), and allowing us to follow up with another question to keep the conversation going.
To break the ice and initiate engaging conversations, gameplan a few unique and fun questions to use throughout the night before the event starts. Move beyond mundane topics by asking about someone’s interesting experiences or memories related to the occasion.
This will help to create a lasting impression and demonstrate your curiosity and genuine interest in others. Plus, who doesn’t remember the person with the great questions at a party? They stand out way more than the “where are you from? how long have you known so-in-so” ones.
3. Give Compliments:
Seek opportunities to compliment and connect. Start conversations by offering sincere compliments on something distinctive about the person, such as their attire or accessories.
This approach can not only open the door for further conversation but also makes individuals feel appreciated and seen, creating a better connect with you.
4. Remember Names:
I struggle with this, and it’s become an area I’ve worked to be more intentional with in group settings. Struggling to remember names is common, especially in overwhelming groups.
However, making a conscious effort to repeat people’s names while conversing with them makes someone feel special – and increases your influence and likeability with them.
Associate their names with unique details, such as their outfit or something they said, to facilitate better recall. Personalizing interactions demonstrates your attentiveness and makes individuals feel seen and valued.
5. Be Aware of Your Body Language (and Have Fun):
What are you saying without saying anything from your mouth. Your body language plays a significant role in how others perceive you during social events. Avoid closed-off postures, such as crossing your arms or standing in the corner, and instead, maintain an open and inviting stance.
Pay attention to what your body does when nervous, then take intentional steps to adjust toward your desired body language.
6. Be an Inclusive Leader:
What if instead of wondering “who I will talk to,” you sought out those at the event who look even more nervous or shy than you do? Imagine why kind of impact you’d have on someone else when you took steps to say hi and initiate the conversation with those fearful at the event.
Doing so creates an inclusive environment that encourages others to join conversations and reduces anxiety for those who may be more introverted or shy.
We will also make a significant impact on those individuals during their holiday season and beyond.
Networking and socializing with strangers may be daunting for many of us, but as leaders, it is essential to master this skill.
We unlock our inner leader by shifting our focus onto others, preparing meaningful questions, offering sincere compliments, and creating connections with overlooked individuals.
Embracing these strategies allows us to make the most out of social events, build strong relationships, and become the leaders others look up to by helping others feel seen, heard, and most of all, important.