Posted by Kindra On December - 26 - 2012 938 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first Lincoln Chamber of Commerce function in a long time. I was a guest of my attorney, Perry Pirsch, at a Business Executive Roundtable. Then all of us at the meeting went to a welcome party across the hall for two new Lincoln executives. I saw a surprising number of people I knew! Ran into Rod Armstrong, one of the policy advisors from then-Governor Nelson’s staff and a new colleague of his at the AIM Institute. Saw Don Wesley, Lincoln’s former mayor and, more importantly, the kid who grew up in the big three-story home behind my parents’ house.  Since I don’t keep up with local politics in great detail, it took me awhile to figure out that Carl Eskeridge is currently chairman of the Lincoln City Council. He was a fellow board member at the Lux Center for the Arts, and took over my spot as chairwoman of that board when I had to leave. I knew others at the party, and also made new acquaintances. As many people do at such events, I felt a bit shaky in terms of what I would say to each person who passed within speaking range. I’ve been to many social events like this, though, and it took only a few minutes to remember these three main rules of engagement for interaction at group events: 1. Get into a think-on-your-feet mood. That doesn’t mean saying what you’re thinking the instant you think it. It means first thinking what you could say to the person you are talking to by connecting something in your life with theirs…and only then speaking. 2. Ask questions. It works best to talk about the other person, rather than talking about yourself. Yes, if they ask a question about you, it’s good to answer with a brief and authentic answer. But then turn the conversation back to them. There are three reasons this is a good idea: 1) People like expressing themselves, and they will remember the encounter as a positive one; 2) It will help you learn about that person, so you can make connections, identify opportunities and begin to build a relationship; 3) It reduces the amount of talking you have to do, if you are one of those who struggles to come up with things to say. 3. Keep it short and surface. When it’s your turn to talk, use short sentences. If you go into a long description or deep diatribe, your conversation becomes one-sided and your conversation partner will become restless. Keep discussion subjects positive, light and brief to allow for a healthy back-and-forth dialogue. If you need to discuss something heavier with someone, make an appointment to meet later. Remind yourself of these three solid guidelines for conversing at cocktail parties and other group social events, and you’ll not only enjoy yourself more, with reduced stress, but you might even find you become the life of the party!

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