It’s the holiday season and that means you’ll likely be attending lots of parties, which means you’ll be doing lots of mingling. But if you’re like many people, the thought of mingling with complete strangers either fills you with dread or just seems like a chore.
Well, my guest today on the show has spent her career teaching people how to mingle and even have fun while doing so. Her name is Jeanne Martinet and she’s the author of the book The Art of Mingling. Today on the show, Jeanne shares tactics you can use to overcome your fear of mingling and then walks us step-by-step through how to talk with complete strangers at a social event. She starts with how to seamlessly join a conversation, how to keep the conversation going once it starts, and how to exit a conversation without it being awkward. Jeanne then walks us through actions you can take if you get snubbed or if you end up putting your foot in your mouth.
If small talk is something you struggle with, this show has a ton of actionable advice.
- How Jeanne came to start writing about mingling and social skills
- What is “mingling”? At what point does it transition more into just “conversation”?
- Isn’t mingling and small talk shallow? Why can’t we just jump into deep conversations and topics?
- Techniques to make mindset shifts in uncomfortable social scenarios
- The “invisible man” technique
- Why “just be yourself” is actually poor advice
- The first thing to do when attending a party
- How and why to adopt the mindset of the host in any social setting
- Mingling and food/drink
- The 4 best opening lines/maneuvers
- Why your opening line shouldn’t be about someone’s career
- How to use flattery (including with other men)
- Properly using the “fade in” technique to enter a conversation
- How to maintain a conversation, but also still scan the room for new opportunities
- How to manage civil conversations in a tense political climate
- Politely ending conversations in mingling situations
- How to handle social rejections
- How to follow up with people you’ve met at social gatherings
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Jeanne on The Today Show in 1992
- The Art of Conversation
- AoM’s Social Briefing Series
- Podcast: Small Talk and Difficult Conversations
- The 3 Elements of Charisma
- Podcast: The Charisma Myth
- The Importance of a Good First Impression (here’s a podcast on the same topic)
- Using Body Language to Create a Good First Impression
- How to Make Eye Contact the Right Way
- How to Follow Up After Meeting Someone in Person
Connect With Jeanne
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Recorded with ClearCast.io.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast. It’s the holiday season and that means you’ll likely be attending a lot of parties, which means you’ll be doing lots of mingling. But if you’re like many people, the thought of mingling with complete strangers either fills you with dread or just seems like a chore. My guest today on the show has spent her career teaching people how to mingle and even have fun while doing so. Her name is Jeanne Martinet and she’s the author of the book The Art of Mingling.
Today on the show Jeanne shares tactics you can use to overcome your fear of mingling and then walks us through step by step on how to talk with complete strangers at a social event. She starts with how to seamlessly join a conversation without it being awkward, how to keep the conversation going once it starts, and how to exit a conversation without seeming like a jerk or awkward. Jeanne then suggests actions you can take if you get snubbed or if you end up putting your foot in your mouth. If small talk is something you struggle with and attending a party with people you don’t know fills you with fear, this show has a lot of practical advice you can put into action today. After it’s over check out the show notes at aom.is/mingle.
All right, Jeanne Martinet. Welcome to the show.
Jeanne Martinet: Thank you. Hi.
Brett McKay: You’ve made a career for yourself writing about social skills, socializing, mingling, faux pas, how to handle that. I’m curious, how did that happen?
Jeanne Martinet: Actually it was quite accidental. Many years ago I was invited to a wedding with college friends. My first college friend had gotten married and it was like a big reunion, and at the end of the reception we were all hanging out in someone’s room and everyone started saying to me, “Jeanne, how in the world …” I realized that I had met the whole town of … It was in Dayton, Ohio and I had met everyone at the whole wedding and everyone else had said, “We just talked to each other. How did you do that? And why did you do that?” And I suddenly realized that this was something that I love to do that people either didn’t want to do or were scared to do. So one of my friends Larry said, “You should write a book about this,” and I wrote down all my techniques on a cocktail napkin, and that was how The Art of Mingling was born.
Brett McKay: So I’m curious, were you naturally like that? Like you naturally mingled. It came natural to you, so you had to think, “What exactly do I do?”
Jeanne Martinet: Yeah, exactly. The thing was that it hadn’t always come naturally to me. I think that when I was 13 or so I really wanted to be popular but kind of was a little bit insecure so I trained myself. I read this series of books that were written about debutantes in the 1930s or something, and in the books there were all these lines. I think I probably did have a natural inclination to talk to strangers, but I did consciously figure out how to do it from an early age, and then I forgot about it until this particular day in Ohio and then I realized, I really do have a system.
Brett McKay: You have a system. All right, so your first book, The Art of Mingling, this was published back in the ’90s, right?
Jeanne Martinet: Yes. It was my first book and it was published in 1992 and it was so successful that I have done two major updates of it. The most recent being in just 2015.
Brett McKay: Right, because a lot has changed in the world of mingling since 1992.
Jeanne Martinet: Yeah. The actual techniques and how you mingle hasn’t changed but the world in which we mingle has changed certainly.
Brett McKay: Right. Cellphones.
Jeanne Martinet: And with all the technology and everything.
Brett McKay: We’ll get into that. So let’s get into specifics. First off, how do you define … What is mingling?
Jeanne Martinet: Well literally mingling means mixing, and basically what I mean by mingling is interacting with a lot of people. I mean a lot of people as in more than two at an event or a party. Often it’s a room where you don’t know anyone or an event, but it doesn’t have to be. It just means that it’s more like a tasting menu rather than one dish, and it’s not to say that at anytime you can’t switch into deep conversation mode, but the idea is that it’s where you meet new people and you’re engaging in a different way because you’re exposing yourself to new things.
Brett McKay: And what do you think the average timeframe for it to be considered mingling as opposed to I’m now engaged in deep conversation?
Jeanne Martinet: Basically it’s between I would say 5 and 15 minutes. Depending upon what kind of party it is and so on, because obviously if you meet the love of your life or your next boss you can certainly step aside out of the mingling fray and have a one-on-one, but in order to really get the most out of a party you should really not talk to … You could always come back, but I’d say after 10 or 15 minutes you need to leave that person, go on to somebody else.
Brett McKay: Okay, and we’ll talk here in a little bit how you do that, because I think that really throws a lot of people off, but one of the things that some people would say about mingling is that it’s superficial and shallow and that oh, you should just be real and get real to the heart stuff. What would you say to these folks as to why they need to put that prejudice aside and really embrace mingling?
Jeanne Martinet: A lot of people ask me this question and I really think that behind this question is fear, but that’s another whole conversation, but what I’d say to them is there’s two main things I would answer this. One of them is, I’ve had 10 minute conversations with strangers that have changed my whole perspective on a subject, or at least enhanced my day, and you never know who you’re going to meet. That’s the other thing. It’s like travel or being an explorer. It’s an unknown field, and so instead of thinking of it as superficial conversation, you think of it more as unknown travel, social travel, and you never know when someone you meet, you either have such a good laugh that that enhances your day or you get a new perspective on something that you wouldn’t have otherwise if you hadn’t talked to that stranger. And sometimes those strangers become acquaintances and then become friends so it’s definitely worth doing. You can’t think of it as just that 10 minutes. It’s how it creeps into the rest of your life.
Brett McKay: Well let’s about the fear. You say that that excuse is often given because they’re afraid. Why are people afraid of mingling? What are the biggest ones you think?
Jeanne Martinet: One of the things I discovered when I wrote the book and then right when it was about to come out is that 90% of America has what I call mingle-phobia, and I didn’t even realize that when I first wrote the book, I thought it was going to be this tiny little thing. That the publisher paid me a little bit of money and it was just this little blip in my life, and the first thing that happened was I got on the Today show with Katie Couric, and then I got on everything.
That is when I realized that I had tapped into this very primal fear that I don’t have. What I discovered is that what most people are afraid of is being rejected, not knowing what to say which is the same really, and also there’s another fear which is about not knowing how to get out of a conversation. But that’s secondary, but there are a lot of people who won’t go to a party because they’re afraid of getting stuck, but mostly it’s about being judged. The terror of being in a conversation and having silence is absolutely a huge thing on most people’s mind.
Brett McKay: Do you think the fear is applicable to just people you don’t know, or do people have that fear even with people they do know?
Jeanne Martinet: I think mostly with the people they don’t know because that’s why I hear a lot of people say, “Well I’m not going to know anybody at that party so I’m not going.” That’s certainly the bigger fear. I think people still have social fears when it comes to going to parties and maybe they’ll say the wrong thing, but mostly I think it’s about the people’s fears about mingling trying to talk to people that they don’t know, because it’s a totally unknown thing.
Brett McKay: Right now it’s the holidays. There’s going to be a lot of parties. There’s people who they’ve got them on the calendar right now and some people out there, they’re definitely afraid. They’re like, “Oh my gosh. I’m not going to know anybody at this thing.” What are some mindset shifts people can make, or tactics they can use to get over that initial fear so they can start interacting with people and start mingling?
Jeanne Martinet: I outline various techniques in the book. I call them survival techniques, and they really are just to get your mindset changed. There’s something that I offer up called the buddy system, which is where you pretend … These might sound silly, but remember they’re just for your own trick of your brain. No one has to know you’re doing this. One of them’s called the buddy system, and that is where you enter into the room, you feel yourself freezing up, and you just pretend that your best friend or your wife or your mother or somebody who loves you, or maybe not your mother, I don’t know, is standing right behind you right over your right shoulder going with you into the room, and you just have to envision that they’re there with you and so if somebody doesn’t say the right thing to you or whatever, you can just picture them saying, “Oh, well that guy’s a jerk,” or whatever.
Then there’s also another one that is helpful to do which is called the invisible man. The thing is, this is based on the truth that most people know intellectually which is that people really aren’t looking at you. They’re only concerned about themselves, and so the invisible man is based on that and basically you pretend that no one can see you when you first enter the party, and that lessens your self consciousness until you’re ready to become visible, which should do fairly quickly, and actually talk to someone. There’s also just the faking it til you make it kind of thing, which I also talk about in The Art of Mingling.
Brett McKay: I’ve used that one. I’d imagine if I go, “What would Cary Grant do?” Right?
Jeanne Martinet: Yeah, right.
Brett McKay: And the thing is Cary Grant, he even said. I think there was a quote. He’s like, “The greatest performance I ever did was being Cary Grant.” I don’t think Cary Grant was naturally charismatic, but he had this idea that he wanted to be and he put it on and it worked.
Jeanne Martinet: Right. That’s the thing to remember is that people cannot see your fear, and the idea of fake it til you make it is that if you walk into a party and you smile and you pretend to be confident, this is why when you’re mother told you, “Just be yourself,” that’s wrong advice. When you walk into a room and you are smiling, people will respond with smiling because people respond to positive behavior with positive behavior, and then once they do that you actually will smile, so it’s a way to trick yourself into it and then pretty soon it’ll be real so you don’t have to fake it except for in the very beginning.
Brett McKay: All right, so you’ve done these tricks to get over that fear. The hard part is, you’re in the party. You don’t know anyone. How do you which person or group is receptive to you mingling with them? Because I think that’s the thing that you end up just having your hands in your pocket or holding a drink and an hors d’oeuvre plate, so what do you do?
Jeanne Martinet: The first thing you do is, which most people know but you might forget. The first thing to do especially if it’s a big party is after you’ve put your coat down or whatever is to find your host or hostess and say hello. Because that’s the person you know. So if your host or your hostess is standing with someone, they will of course introduce you, so now you already know this person and those people. That’s number one.
Then if they wander away and you’re all alone, you look around the room and you when you want to approach a group, check out body language. You don’t want to approach a group if you’re nervous that is standing with their arms around each other very tightly arranged. You want to go up to someone, one or two people or three who are sort of looking around and have more of an open feeling to their bodies. This technique is called practice your mingle on a wallflower. You can even find somebody who’s alone who looks like they’re lost too and go up and talk to them.
You can also use the food and the bar. It’s never a good idea to … When I say use the bar I don’t mean have 17 drinks before you talk to someone, but the food and the bar. People are gathered there for a purpose which is to get a drink or get food, and you can talk to them about, “Oh, it’s crowded here,” or, “Have you tried the salmon?” You can use those things as props to talk about. “Have you tasted this?” Things like that. Then there’s a whole section in the book on opening techniques and opening lines as well.
Brett McKay: We’ll get into that here in a bit. One of the tactics I like, because I’ve done it myself and it’s very effective, is find a way to help the host or hostess serve food. Because it’s easy.
Jeanne Martinet: Yeah, that is a great thing to do. With the proviso that … It’s great because you’ve got food in your hand and you can meet everyone at the party because they’re all going to come up to you to get food and you say hello. However, you don’t have hands free to shake and you pretty much have to keep moving around with the food, so it’s even a quicker mingle than ordinary. In other words you can’t really get into a conversation while you’re standing there with food, so I would recommend more that you actually mingled by the food than you mingle with the food. I think you pass the food around and then put it down and then go mingle, that would be fine but it does kind of limit you because you can’t actually have a drink in your hand while you’re passing the food. So it does put you in another … Now you’re a helper and yes you get to go around and talk to people but you’re very limited because you’re just offering food. You know what I’m saying.
Brett McKay: Yeah, got you. So, opening lines. That’s the first impression. Everyone knows oh, the first impression is the most important thing, and then they put a lot of this pressure on that they got to say just the right thing, and then they’re so self conscious that they say something stupid. But, what are your typical go-to’s for opening lines to start the mingling?
Jeanne Martinet: After years of research, I identified four basic opening maneuvers, and I also have a lot of opening lines in the book so you don’t have to maneuver. You just use the opening line. But one of my favorite opening approaches is called the honest approach. If you’re at a party where you do not know anybody, it’s quite effective to just go up to a group of people, stick out your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Jeanne and I don’t know a single soul at this party.” It’s a little bit scary at first but it really works well because unless they’re total idiots or jerks, they will actually be nice to you and say, “Oh, well this is so-and-so,” and they’ll introduce you and they’ll ask you how you came about coming to the party, et cetera, and then you’re on your way. It’s sort of like you’re giving over your power to these people and to make yourself vulnerable people will usually be kind, and also it’s refreshing in a way.
If that doesn’t appeal to people because it’s a little too direct, there is the classic fade in maneuver, which is when you kind of edge up to a group and you listen to what they’re saying, listen very hard, and when it’s appropriate you just enter in. You say something that’s relevant to the conversation as if you’ve been there all along. The trick of the fade in is that you can’t hang around the periphery too long, lest you become a party ghost. You don’t want that to happen. You’d have to actually complete your fade in.
Then another one of my favorites which you have to be a little careful with if you’re a man I think these days, but it’s called the flattery entrée, and it’s when you go up to someone and you say, “Excuse me for interrupting but I have never seen such fabulous earrings.” Of course, that’s an easy one to do if you’re a woman, but if you’re a man you can still go up to another man and say, “That’s the wildest tie I’ve ever seen,” or like that. Stay above the chest when you’re doing the flattery entrée.
Everyone likes flattery, or you can even use … If you know something about the person, like you’ve heard that they’re the one that brought the guacamole, you can go up and say, “Excuse me. I don’t mean to interrupt, but did you make this fabulous guacamole?” That’s another form of a flattery entrée, and people would respond warmly. Then also I have a whole list of opening lines that range from risk-free to daring. Daring ones are scarier but they can often be more fun once you get into it. And that’s all in The Art of Mingling.
Brett McKay: On the flattery one for guys, if you want to flatter a guy and not be weird about it, compliment the guy on his watch.
Jeanne Martinet: Yes. That’s a great one.
Brett McKay: What’s great about it, because usually with a watch first off, guys like that because you know, they probably spent a lot of money on it, so it reflects your style, but also there’s usually a story behind it and so you can get them talking about the story. “Oh, this was my grandfather’s watch, blah blah blah blah,” and it’s great.
Jeanne Martinet: Right. That’s absolutely true. Watch is kind of like the male version of earrings for women. I mean sometimes women have watches too, but you’re right. For a man, that’s usually the thing that they wear that has something interesting about it. One warning I would have. A lot of people make the mistake in their opening line of asking people what they do for a living. That seems like a natural thing, because you want to figure out who the person is. You’re asking them a question. But if it’s an opening line it’s actually not recommended, and here’s why. You don’t know what subject you’re bringing up when you ask somebody what they do for a living. It could be they don’t have a job. They’ve lost their job. They do something you don’t want to talk about and now you’re into that conversation.
But more than that, it’s really kind of like it comes off sounding like you’re trying to figure out if that person’s worth your time. To ask somebody right away what they do, it’s kind of like, “Okay, who are you? How much money do you make? And do I want to talk to you?” It’s fine after you’ve talked to them for a few minutes to then say, “Oh, so and what do you do?” That’s perfectly normal, but just not as an opening line.
Brett McKay: Going back to the fade in approach, how do you do it in a way where … The way I’d be afraid with that is that I think I’d make my comment and then everyone would think, “Who the heck is this guy?” Is that a risk you take, or most people just don’t care, right? Or they just don’t care?
Jeanne Martinet: Most people don’t care. That goes under the heading of, everyone has mingle-phobia and you’re not the only one who’s scared and if you realize that every single person, even if they look confident, almost everyone has the same fears or has had the same fears as you so most people are going to not be rude about it. If you end up making a comment that doesn’t go over, probably the worst that happens is they just ignore it and keep going on, and it might be a little bit awkward and then you can either stay there and try again, or if you’re not interested or it doesn’t work you just fade out. You just fade out in a fade out escape. The fade is not my first choice because of that. It is a little bit … But the thing about the fade in is if you listen for a while and the conversation doesn’t seem like something that you can get into, you can abort. You don’t actually have to complete the fade in and you go try with another group. So it appeals to some people for hedging your bets.
Brett McKay: One thing you talk about throughout the book is that with mingling, one of the common bits of advice we’re told when we’re having conversation, we need to be present with that person, look them in the eye, but also with mingling you also have to be on the lookout for other stuff at the same time you’re doing that, so how do you balance looking for new opportunities-
Jeanne Martinet: The rule is that you oftentimes do have to look around the room because otherwise you never move, but the rule is that when the other person is speaking, you have to keep your eyes focused on their face. When you’re talking, then you can actually let your eyes wander because sometimes that’s a normal thing. You could be thinking. A lot of people’s eyes wander when they’re thinking about something and it’s less rude. Obviously you have to keep coming back to the person so it’s not really obviously that you’re scoping out the room, but you can while you’re talking look over quickly here and there to see what’s going on, but never while the other person is talking.
Brett McKay: Got you. Let’s say you get the opening line and it went smoothly, but then the other thing people are afraid of is okay, how do I keep this thing going? Because there’s always that moment of awkward silence where you’re like, “Well, okay.” So what’s your advice there?
Jeanne Martinet: Well, just remember that the best mingling is playful and by that I mean that making observations often allows for more organic conversation than just keeping questions going. Also it helps you if you’re lost. You just look around and try and focus on what’s going on and observe. So saying something like, “I can’t believe how grown up Julie’s daughter has become” might be a better way to go than, “Have you read the news today?” Or, “What part of the city do you live in?” I mean, you can do that too but I’ve found that the observations, because then when you make an observation it allows people to respond with more creativity. That person could say, “Yeah, boy. That happened with my children. My children had grown up before I knew about it.” It just opens up stuff, whereas if you ask people questions you can get staccato yes and no answers and then you’re no further along, and it’s also more threatening so when you make an observation instead of asking a question it just allows people to relax more I’ve found.
Brett McKay: And as you mention in the book, the observation should be kept positive. Most of the time should be kept positive.
Jeanne Martinet: Yeah. No bad gossip. No, “Isn’t that a funny hat the hostess is wearing?” I mean, unless it’s meant to be funny that’s fine, but yes. Definitely positive. No gossip.
Brett McKay: One of the things in this updated version of the book, you talk about how you’re supposed to keep it light. Observations, talk about the weather, talk about what’s going on in the party, but as you highlighted in the book in today’s political climate, everything seems politicized and an innocuous observation about, “Oh, my health. I had to go to the doctor.” That can turn into this heated debate about healthcare. How do you manage that?
Jeanne Martinet: Even the weather, which used to be the safest conversation as quoted in all Victorian books on conversation. There were two safe topics. The weather and your health were the things that they taught you as a polite person to talk about, and both of those lead right into politics now, or can, so I do have a section in the book on how to deal with that ranging from trying to figure out … When you enter the area there are some test questions that are kind of tricky that you can use to find out if someone’s a fanatic, but mainly you don’t want to even go there but if you fall into the conversation and you realize that you’re about to have an argument or it’s about to get tense, there are ways to defuse and escape.
You either just change the subject or you can actually just say, “Well, my mother always said I shouldn’t talk to strangers. Now I know why.” Or something like that. That’s actually not. That would be only if they were actually getting mad at you. The better line would be to say something like, “Well, I guess we can’t solve the world’s problems in one night. Let’s go get a drink.” Or, “Let’s go get some more food.”
You basically make a changing conversation line and then you move to another area, or you can say, “Well I guess we better either talk about something else or step outside.” Try to make a joke about it, and if it doesn’t work then you just have to escape. You don’t want to get into an argument when you’re at a party. My favorite one to do is just to say suddenly if someone says, “What do you mean? Do you believe in blah blah blah?” I’ll go, “Well, I don’t know about that but there’s one thing I know about. I’m starving. Will you excuse me?” And then you just go off to the food table. Sometimes you can have a conversation. It’s not always the choice to escape. Sometimes it can be interesting to have a conversation with someone who’s on the other political side, but not if they’re going to get angry so you have to read the book but there are complicated ways that you can actually tell whether somebody is a fanatic or not.
Brett McKay: Got you. Mingling is, as we said earlier, you’re there for 5-15 minutes, so that means you have to get out of these conversations at some point, and that’s another fear I think people have. So the fear is okay, starting the conversation, keeping it going, now how do I end this without looking like a jerk? What are your favorite tactics for ending mingling sessions so you can start another one?
Jeanne Martinet: Actually it’s such a big subject I realized after I published the first edition that this was the main thing people wanted to talk about because everyone’s really scared and doesn’t know how to escape, so I have a whole chapter on escape. Escape techniques. The most common one that everybody knows about which I have dubbed “the buffet bye-bye and other handy excuses,” and that of course is when you say, “Oh, excuse me. I really need to go get a drink,” or, “I need to get some food,” et cetera. Now, of course the problem with that one is if you’ve really got someone who’s glommed onto you, they may follow you and so one of those excuses. The only one that really works is to say, “I have to make a phone call.” Even in today’s age of smartphones, everyone knows that if you’re at a party you can’t just whip out your phone right there so they know you have to go off by yourself, so that’s a way. Then you actually have to go off and look like you’re making a phone call for a second, then go to another group.
But there are many other escape techniques that work. One of them which seems to be most people’s favorite has a very cruel name. It’s called the human sacrifice. In the human sacrifice, what you do is you wait until someone you’ve met or you know is walking by close enough to you. You reach out and you kind of grab them and you introduce them to the person you have been talking to, and as soon as they basically say hello to each other, there really is about a 5 second period, 5 or 10 seconds, when you can just leave. It’s based on one of the five laws of survival which is, change equals movement. Movement equals change. Once that group shifts, that conversation is broken, basically you got to get out fast but you can leave as soon as that person. It’s kind of like changing dance partners. You’ve given that person somebody else to dance with. Now you can go.
There’s also another one that’s pretty common that I like to do. I like to talk about anyway. It’s called the counterfeit search, and that is when you find a pause hopefully to interrupt and you say, “I’m so sorry, but someone just walked in the room that I’m supposed to talk to because my boss made me to or my girlfriend said I had to,” or some excuse like that. So it’s like you have a mission and you’re so sorry but you have to go.
Brett McKay: My favorite one was also similar to the opening. Just be honest with people. Say, “Hey, I’m here to mingle. It was great talking to you. I’m going to go mingle some more.”
Jeanne Martinet: Yes, that’s a good one. The honest approach in reverse. That’s actually a very good one.
Brett McKay: You mentioned someone gloms onto you. This has happened to me. I went to a cocktail hour, and I was there to mingle but I got stuck with this one person, and I would try different things sort of intuitively and it didn’t work. They just followed me and followed. What do you do about it? How do you escape someone who’s glommed onto you like that?
Jeanne Martinet: That’s when I think the human sacrifice is the only thing to do. There’s also something, I think it’s called the manager that I have in the book, and that is when you actually take the person. “I need you to meet somebody.” That’s the stronger version of the human sacrifice. And you walk them over to someone you know, and I mean all fair in love and mingling. You might think, “Well I can’t do this to a friend,” but if there’s no other way to do it, you walk that person over to someone you know. You introduce them, and you say, “So-and-so has just been telling me about such-and-such.” So you give them their first topic of conversation so that it’ll stick basically, and then you walk away. That’s probably the most you can do.
Brett McKay: Sacrifices must be made.
Jeanne Martinet: Yes.
Brett McKay: You talked about this a little bit earlier. Let’s say you try to fade into a group, you try to enter into a group conversation but you’re rejected. How do you handle that? Do you just move on and just cut your losses and not make a big deal about it?
Jeanne Martinet: Yes, you can. Basically most of the time if you’re rejected it’s not going to be in a very overt way but in a subtle way, and you just have to take a deep breath, maybe go back into one of the survival fantasies again like your best friend is with you, and remember that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure, so it’s not really personal. It may be that you’re just not their cup of tea, so try not to all of a sudden say, “Oh my god, everyone hates me.”
But if someone insults you, there are some lines in the book that might suit someone. Not all these lines suit everyone, but I think as I mentioned before, this is a line. “My mother always told me not to talk to strangers. Now I know why” is one of the ones you can say to people if someone’s just rude to you. It might make you feel better to actually have a comeback like that rather than just skulk away or slink away, but if you make a bad faux pas and it’s that kind of thing then there are also other different kinds of recovery techniques for that. But if someone’s just rejecting you, that’s rare really. People think that’s going to happen but it doesn’t usually happen. Mostly it’s just they don’t talk to you or they escape from you really quickly and you just move on.
Brett McKay: Right. Don’t take it personally.
Jeanne Martinet: Don’t take it personally. Who knows what that person’s got in their head? Maybe they’ve got some super goal for the party and you just don’t fit them, or whatever.
Brett McKay: What do you do about the situations at a party that you get there and you’re one of the first ones there? That’s another fear that people have. That’s why everyone shows up late to parties, an hour late. So how do you manage that if there’s just a few people there and everyone’s in their own corner and just really keeping to themselves, and of course they’re on their phone acting like they’re doing something important?
Jeanne Martinet: That is a challenge, because in the old days the phones were not … And you could just easily corral those few people. So if you’re in that empty room situation, the best thing to do is to offer to help the host or the hostess. If there’s not anybody there yet, the host is probably still running around doing things and you can offer to help. Then the only other thing to do is to just go up to one of those people. Pick the one that seems like the most … My father always had this thing. He had a thing that I call judging a book by its cover, and when in doubt, pick the person who’s dressed most like you. He was a musician, and he used to go to a party and at a loss, he would look around and he’d find the one person who wasn’t in a suit and tie and he would go talk to that person, and it always worked for him. Because he was also not a suit and tie person because he was a musician.
So you just find somebody, and then you just have to interrupt them if they’re on their phone and say, “Excuse me. Hi.” And just use one of the opening lines, but helping the host is always a good thing to do. In that case, if three people are there and they’re all on their phones, you could get out your phone too but that’s a last resort. I really recommend we’ve got to get rid of this. This is a bad thing. People should be talking to each other.
Brett McKay: In the book you also highlight that mingling isn’t just for parties or social events. That you could do this throughout the day in public, and as you said I think Americans have this fear. We like to keep to ourselves. So how do you overcome that fear and how do you mingle in public without it being weird?
Jeanne Martinet: Well, it’s funny. I’m a New Yorker and this is one of the things that I think that it’s wonderful about being in New York because we are not in our cars. We are almost always on the street, in a bus, or in a subway, so it’s a lot easier because people are … But still even in New York City people are still on their phones and they’re around all these people, and again I encourage people to talk to strangers whenever possible and safe to do so because you can have a conversation with a stranger on the subway, on the bus, in the shopping mall, while waiting in line for something that really does make your day better. It doesn’t happen every time certainly, because not everybody is going to like everybody else, but just observation again is the key.
When you’re standing in line you can talk about the line. You can ask how long you’ve been in line. You can start talking about the venue that you’re waiting for. When you’re on the bus you can look out the window. You can observe what’s going on on the bus. You’re on the subway. You see somebody who has the same theater program that you have. You ask, “Didn’t you like the play?” Once you get into the habit, and all it really takes is being aware of your surroundings, and putting your phone away and just looking at people and being curious. And the rest follows. It’s kind of like a muscle. Once you start talking to people and you get good reactions and people smile at you and you have a nice little interlude in your day that you wouldn’t have had before, it makes your day different. It actually really can be wonderful.
Brett McKay: Let’s say you’ve done some mingling, and you can do it just for its own sake. It’s energizing in and of itself, but let’s say you meet somebody that you’re like, “This could be a deeper relationship, a better connection.” How do you do followup with mingling? Because I’m sure when you’re mingling the person you think, “I want to follow up with them,” they’ve mingled with lots of people so they might not remember you, so how do you do it in a way where they remember, “Aha, yeah. I remember this conversation.”
Jeanne Martinet: First of all, not everybody has business cards these days but what I do is when you’re at the party and when you’ve gotten to the end of your fascinating 15 minute conversation, I will hand them my card and then hopefully they will offer me their card, but one of my tips is, it may sound like old fashioned etiquette, but don’t ask for their card. You should offer your card and let them offer theirs, because it’s a little bit too intrusive to ask for their card. I mean in certain business situations that’s different, if you’re in the same industry, but in general.
If you have their card when you get home you can send them an email and remind them of something that you talked about if you had an interesting conversation. Always refer to something in the conversation so that they can remember who you are. If you don’t have a card you can find them on Facebook and direct message them. Usually it’s pretty to do that obviously because you can find them through the hostess’s friend list probably, or if you have their name hopefully you can, but don’t immediately Facebook friend them until you’ve written them a message first and you have some response.
After meeting somebody once for 15 minutes I don’t think it’s appropriate to Facebook friend them. Again, people who are 20 years old might have a different rule. It depends on your circle, but that’s what I say. And again, always refer to something that you’ve talked about at the party and just say how nice it was to meet them and you’d love to see them again or you’d love to have coffee or something, and then see if they respond before actually proposing a date. That allows the person the space to not respond, and it keeps you from feeling rejected if they don’t want to. Do you know what I mean? It’s more like a great to meet you message than anything else.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I think it’s good to put that caveat. Like, “If you can, I’d love to. If not, no worries.”
Jeanne Martinet: Right.
Brett McKay: It takes some of the pressure off.
Jeanne Martinet: And also just focusing on how nice it was to talk to them and how much you enjoyed the conversation.
Brett McKay: Well Jeanne, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Jeanne Martinet: People can go to my website, JeanneMartinet.com, and also my books are available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well Jeanne Martinet, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Jeanne Martinet: Thank you so much for having me, Brett.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Jeanne Martinet. She’s the author of the book The Art of Mingling. It’s available on Amazon.com. You can also find out more information about her work at her website JeanneMartinet.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/mingle, where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at ArtOfManliness.com. If you enjoyed the show and got something out of it, I’d appreciate it if you take one minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you and share the show with some friends. That’s how we get the word out about the show. As always, thank you for your continued support and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: January 18, 2018