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Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mastering the art of small talk

February 16, 2008

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— In today's hyper-tech world, we're increasingly conditioned to avoid small talk. Imagine your friend is late to meet you at a bar. Do you order a drink and look around? Hardly. Instead, you start furiously texting and rereading old messages. If you look busy, you're not forced to talk to the person next to you.

"People are getting more and more isolated," says Jeanne Martinet, author of "The Art of Mingling." "People's mingling muscles are atrophying even more."

That's right: mingling muscles. But how do you go about inserting yourself into conversation? Martinet offers a few tips.

¢ Eat and greet: The easiest way to acquaint yourself with fellow partygoers. If it's a party with passed-around hors d'oeuvres, watch the server. People typically step out of their conversation circles when the server comes by with pigs in blankets, offering you a good opportunity to insert yourself into the discussion. But there's one caveat, Martinet says: "Whatever you do, don't block the food."

¢ The honest approach: It sounds bold and brazen, but Martinet says it's effective. "You say, 'Hi, I don't know a single soul here,' and people want to help you." We've all been in this situation, and we've been grateful to those who helped us.

¢ The fade-in: You slowly move up to a group, listening to what's being said. Then you put in your two cents and - voila! - you're a part of the conversation. Martinet calls it the fade-in; others call it eavesdropping. Either way, at parties, anything is fair game. "The main thing is to get into the group," Martinet says.

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