A lot of people get anxious about mingling at the company holiday party. Some people feel as though they can't relax because they always have to be "on." Others feel like they should approach the boss, but they don't know what to say. And many others tell me they're introverts who find it hard to socialize with strangers or people they don't know well.
Rest easy. There are some simple, proven techniques to be the most interesting person in the room. And the best news--introverts have an advantage.
1. Enter the room with a smile.
In a recent study at the University of York, researchers found that we tend to trust a person who is smiling more than someone who is frowning or has a neutral expression on their face. Psychologists call it the "expressivity halo." Simply put, we trust people when they're easier to read. A smile is the easiest expression to interpret.
When I work with CEOs on their communication skills, I'll often grab their notes and, with a sharpie, draw a big smiley face on the first page. Most people are so consumed with their own thoughts or anxieties, they forget the simplest way to make a positive first impression--smile.
2. Make eye contact.
Earlier this year I spoke to legendary Hollywood producer, Brian Grazer. He's negotiated mega-movie deals for forty years. "No matter where I was or who I was with, every connection was made possible by face-to-face interaction and a look in the eye," Grazer says.
During a conversation at an office party, resist the temptation to look for someone else to talk to. Pay attention to the person in front of you. Put away the smartphone and make eye contact. If you make the person you're speaking to feel like the most important person in the room, they'll love you for it.
3. Show interest in their stories.
People love to talk about themselves. Remembering this simple, fundamental part of human nature will take you far in your career.
On a plane trip from California to the East Coast, I was seated next to the CEO of a famous entertainment company. I could tell by a bag tag that he played golf. I asked him about it. The CEO began to tell me stories of the places he's been and the famous golfers he had played with. As a golfer myself, I loved the stories. As long as he talked, I listened.
When we left the plane, the CEO turned to me and said, "You're one of the most interesting people I've talked to in a long time. Thanks for the conversation." I walked away feeling really good about myself until I realized that I had barely spoken a word.
The CEO found me interesting because I was interested in him. Show a genuine interest in other people's stories and you'll be the life of the party.
4. Give sincere compliments.
We love "likes." We count likes on Instagram and Facebook and those services have exploded in popularity because of it. A compliment is the equivalent to a 'like' in a face-to-face conversation. And people can't get enough of them.
In his bestselling book, The Laws of Human Nature, Robert Green reminds us that everyone has insecurities, no matter how outwardly successful they may appear. Genuine compliments go a long way toward "allaying their insecurities," according to Green.
The key to flattery, says Green, is to be as sincere as possible. "Choose qualities to praise that you actually admire."
5. Read more books than your peers.
Humans are natural explorers. A hunger to learn new thing is deeply wired into our DNA. If you're more comfortable alone with a book than with a big group of people at a nightclub, the company party is your time to shine.
For example, let's assume you'd like to impress a boss or a senior executive at the next party. Connect to their desire to learn something new through your knowledge of books.
You: "It's nice to see you. Your latest blog post reminded me of something I read in Bob Iger's new book."
Boss: "Oh? The Walt Disney CEO?"
You: "Yes. Iger calls his mindset 'the relentless pursuit of perfection.' He says the secret to a great corporate culture is to build an environment where people refuse to accept mediocrity. You and Iger share the same philosophy.
Boss: Yes, exactly! What's the name of the book? I'd like to read it."
In under a minute, you've flattered the boss--twice. You demonstrated engagement by reading the blog. And you taught your boss something new.
These five approaches will help you stand out at the holiday party. Remember, building rapport and strong connections with strangers, bosses and peers will do wonders for your career.