The Art of Mingling (2006) teaches readers how to mingle like a pro.
Among the (Machiavellian) skills you will learn is getting int a new group, dropping your boring speaking partner or talking to the host of the party you’ve just crashed.
- Have fun: mingling is its own reward
- Keep moving
- Top minglers are great at managing the conversational flow (and have no hang-ups about white-lying)
Jeanne Martinet says, first of all, don’t worry if you’re anxious: many people in the room feel as lost as you are as soon as they walk in.
And she has some top suggestion on how to carry on in spite of the awkwardness:
- Enter the room, smile and say: “I’m gonna fake it until I make it”
- Imagine your best friend is there with you in the room
- Imagine you are a famous actor you like
- Start talking with the wallflowers. Or pick someone who’s very similar to you
- Start with a target who’s obviously open to receiving you
I very much like her advice to push yourself and “fake it till you make it” compared to Vanessa Edwards’ one of staying in your comfort zone.
Some Mingling Tips
Here are some quick wins you can start adopting right away:
- When you’re lost open with “excuse me but I don’t know anyone here”
You can start your conversation by being very honest and saying “excuse me, but I don’t know anyone here“.
And you should smile, but not on full power: they also need to deserve your full smile.
- 10 to 15 mins per conversation
Jeanne Martinet advises an optimal conversation is around 10 to 15 minutes per person and then move on.
- Don’t talk about the stuff you managed to finally remember
I’m sure it happened to you:
you wanted to say something about a certain topic but just couldn’t remember.
Then it dawned on you but the conversation moved along.
But it’s so cool you say it anyway!
Most of the times that’s anticlimax and won’t do anything good for the conversation or for you.
As a matter of fact, don’t even waste energies trying to remember things you can’t remember: it’s much more important being engrossed in this convo.
- If you’re heavily distracted: don’t mingle
If your girlfriend seems a bit too engrossed in conversation with that stud she’s chatting with, tell your speaking partner you need to take a break from the conversation.
It’s much better than pretending you’re interested and spend all your time glancing away.
- Link questions to replies
Your questions are better if consequential and dependent on the reply you get.
And watch their faces: when it lights up you found a great topic
- Enjoy not being in a convo
Once you can enjoy also not being in a conversation, then you’re hitting your stride and you become one with the party
- Carry the convo when entering a group
Jeanne Martinet says than when you enter a group it’s then your duty to carry the conversation.
The attention is on you, and you should get the conversation going back again.
So ideally you’ve prepared something cool or fun to say.
- Drop bad apples pretending something got your attention
When you’re stuck with some bad apple, Jeanne Martinet advises you take control of the interactions, then (pretend to) notice something in the room, nudge at him, smile and say “excuse me”.
Jeanne Martinet adds that the guy is probably used to being ignored and by pretending something got your attention is you leave him hanging to dry in a warm way.
I don’t personally feel this is warm at all.
Taking control of the interaction is key indeed, but a good old “going to the bathroom” is much better.
This is because pointing at “something” in the room and exiting with an “excuse me” gives no real reason to exit.
Such a behavior says that anything happening around is more important than your speaking partner.
That’s not “warm”.
Going to the bathroom instead at least uses the excuse of a physiological need.
He/She knows it can be fake of course, but if you fake something, it’s better to at least pretend it’s something important
Dealing With Arrogant People
Jeanne Martinet says that when you meet truly arrogant people the temptation in many of us is to flatter him.
But flattering is a sign of weakness to the truly arrogant and it gives even more power to someone who’s already assuming superiority.
Great social analysis from the author here.
Jeanne Martinet then says that you should tease them, communicate the way they communicate so to show that you speak their language.
For example you could tell them you hear something terrible about them, or that you never heard about them.
Basically, show yourself as tough as they think they are and don’t care whether they like it or not.
When the drops the arrogance, then you can go back to normal: the rules only apply until they exhibit arrogant behavior.
Interviewing mode for the shy ones
The Art of Mingling says that a conversation shod be like a volleyball game with lots of back and forth.
But if your conversation partner is very shy lots of question can help draw him out.
Jeanne Martinet says that the best interviewers counter any reticence by couching the question between examples.
Ie. if you find out he just moved to a new place you could say:
You: oh cool, the last time I moved for was about a year ago.
Funny enough I’ve always around Wittembergplatz but just on the opposite side.
I didn’t move far but it took me a while to get used and find the best restaurants, dry cleaner and all the stuff, but once I learned the neighborhood I just loved the new location.
How’s the move been for you?
Changing the subject
Changing the subject is a bit like having to go from one side or the river to the other.
The key is to find the material to build that bridge.
Your group consists of an architect, her husband, and another person.
You want to talk about the architect’s building as you love them. The husband though is talking about his garden.
Everyone else is passive or making innocuous comments like “oh nice” “those flowers are beautiful”.
Your start building your bridge by thinking of all possible connections between the two subjects.
Then you turn to the architect and say
You: planting houses in a community is a bit like planting a garden in a way isn’t it?
You: do you work closely with the landscapers on the gardens and lawns in your buildings?
The architect will answer and you’ll be able to continue in your chosen course of conversation.
This was genius.
The Art of Mingling suggests yet another option if someone chatters away about flowers, and that is to take the word flowers and let it lead you to another topic.
Here you don’t have in mind a destination topic, you simply want to move away from a certain topic, either because it’s boring or because you want to take control of the dialogue.
Ask if bees pollinate all flowers or just some.
You can then add you have an uncommon fear of bees or that you’re allergic or that if they also think how fair it is that after a bee stings you, they die,
From this last one can branch out to a topic of aggression and justice, which can be more interesting than flowers and fertilizers.
Jeanne Martinet says that free association is more flexible and open-ended than bridge building.
With free associations you can simply move away from point A, but you don’t necessarily need point B.
Pole Volting power Move
Another great technique from The Art of Mingling is Pole Volting.
Pole Volting makes a quick comment about the topic and then suddenly changes.
You: yeah, there so many different kinds of flowers it’s crazy, I can never tell one from another. But hey, before I forget to ask, how old do you think this bar is, some people say it just started but the reviews went back many years.
You:Yeah, all this talking about flowers made me think about honey and man, am I starving at the moment. Anyone else here is hungry and would like to share something?
Without a wrap up would be “have you heard Trump is getting a divorce?”
You might interrupt with an abrupt non sequitur if someone is entering a dangerous topic, like your ex-wife in front of your GF: “wait, I’m having a deja-vu”.
And then you change topic.
Real Life Applications
- The technique for faking until you make it, such as thinking of yourself as a famous actor and starting with the easier targets can be gold.
- The topic changing techniques are also fabulous and do give them a try soon
- “Take your scalp tips”
I don’t know Jeanne Martinet but my guess reading the book is that she’s a driver and a rather dominant personality.
It gives me the idea she makes friends as much as she can easily make enemies -in the sense of people who dislike her-.
I believe you have to go for what you want, but you can do it with some classier moves.
Funny, biting, irreverent, and Machiavellian.
The Art of Mingling will teach some good tricks and mindsets about mingling.
One I enjoyed was: drop the “need for truth”.
Mingling is about good feelings, and truth and reality are not always conducive to optimal interpersonal relationships.
When that’s the case, find something better than the truth.
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