Have 👏 you 👏 heard 👏 of 👏 the 👏 stinkbird?! 👏
Let me tell you aaaallllll about the stinkbird.
Well, technically it's called a hoatzin, and it's native to the forests of Guyana.
Firstly, it has claws on its wings. Yup. Claws. On its wings. And when they're babies, hoatzins use those claws to climb trees like a monkey.
Secondly, it apparently smells REALLY bad, which is a trait that no other bird in the entire world has.
In fact, it actually digests its food very similarly to a cow, thus causing the extreme stench of this bird.
While it must be pretty awkward for this poor creature to be the only smelly member of its extended family, there might be something that feels even more uncomfortable to us humans: entering a group conversation at an event.
Most of us tend to just… hover there, hoping that some kind member of the group will let us in. Otherwise, we just stand there in a limbo between walking away or speaking up.
As someone who used to suffer from chronic-hoverer-syndrome, I'd love to share some tips that'll help those moments feel a whole lot less awkward.
Here's what we're going to cover today!
Part 1: Social mindsets
Part 2: Ways of entering groups
Part 3: How to Practice
As an extreme introvert, I don't want to ever leave my home
Whenever there's any sort of event, opportunity, or social gathering of any kind, my brain screams at me to say "no." I know a lot of people can relate to that. And even when I do say "yes," I'm kicking myself the day of the event, because I really really don't want to go.
And, in the past, when I did force myself out the door, I'd always dread entering groups and talking to new people. I thought I was doomed to be bad at it forever.
Thankfully though, all social skills are just… skills
And when we see them as such, we realize that we can improve. We can transform from feeling completely overwhelmed to totally smooth in any scenario.
Over the last decade, I've worked to make all my social interactions feel great. I can happily tell you that if you put the time in, all of these social tasks become a ton easier, to the point where people assume you were always socially graceful.
That's why I suggest a playful mind
When it comes to these sorts of things. It's not about getting a certain outcome, but instead about practicing and analyzing to see how we can keep improving and having more fun.
So as we dive into these tips, go in with a sense of play, experimentation, and fun.
Thankfully, most everyone else at an event is feeling just as awkward as we are
Yup, it's true. From the ultra high-level CEO, to the brand new student, almost everyone at any sort of networking event is feeling at least a little out of their depth and unsure of themselves.
We can use that to our advantage. If they feel weird, it's okay that we do too.
Now, let's say you show up to an event…
There you are, drink in hand (I myself prefer cranberry juice with a lime), standing alone amidst a sea of people.
You look around to see if you know anyone, and… you don't. Uh oh. It turns out it's a room full of strangers who all seem to be so much more socially gifted.
So what should we do
If we want to enter a group of new people, but don't want to be a total weirdo while doing it?
Here are just a few techniques that'll help:
1. Comment on the environment
2. Enter as a pair
4. Acknowledge others
The easiest way to enter a group, especially when you're all alone
Is to simply comment to the group about something in the environment. The food being served, a drink, the temperature… literally anything. Even "this is a really nice space!" is more than enough in a lot of circumstances to get a conversation rolling.
Depending on the type of event it is, you may want to comment to someone in the group individually (if the event is super loud and an entire group couldn't possibly hear you), or just as a general statement to the group as a whole (if the event is a little more subdued.)
Now, if you have a buddy with you
And I suggest you bring one if you're new to this whole "networking" thing, then it becomes incredibly easy to join a group of people as a duo (or trio, or quartet, or…)
Literally just walk into a group with your friend, and introduce yourselves. That's it. If you want to make sure they know you're there and they make room, just ask "is it alright if we squeeze in?"
You may be shocked at how quickly groups will part like the red sea to welcome you into their bosom if you're in a small group of your own.
Sometimes, though, you may even overhear something from another group that makes you want to join and pipe in.
And that's actually a great way to join them
For example, if someone in a group is talking about Mass Effect, Metal Gear, or anime (I have very deep, intellectual tastes), then I gotta hear what they're saying.
All you need to do is go up to the group and say "I couldn't help but overhear you talk about X. I just had to come over when I heard that." and you're in. It's that easy.
Is this eavesdropping?