Talking to a room full of strangers makes an introvert like me cringe at just the thought. I’m not shy or unable to talk to people, I just don’t like the idea of walking up to strangers and starting a conversation. What will I say, what will they ask, will there be awkward silence, do they even want to talk to me? As it turns out, I’m not alone with this kind of anxiety. Kimberly Weisul wrote an article on a technique that she said works.
Then one of my colleagues told me the trick he uses: When he walks into a room alone, he looks for pairs of people who are talking, and introduces himself to each person in the pair.
I thought you were supposed to approach people who were by themselves. If two people are talking already, why would you interrupt them?
Because everyone else is there to meet other people, too, he explained. So if you see a pair of people, the chances are that they arrived together and know they should be mingling. Or else they’ve just met and are, in the back of their minds, worried that they’re going to end up talking to this one person all night. (One of these people may be trying to get out of the conversation; you’ve just made it easier for them to exit.) Either way, they’re relieved to see you. And your chances of having a decent conversation are better, because now you’re talking to two people, not just one.
Consider the alternatives: Approaching one person makes it harder to eventually extricate yourself. And if you can find absolutely nothing in common with that one person, you’re sort of stuck, at least for a while. Plus, it’s becoming more awkward to go up to just one person, because self-conscious people who don’t have anyone to talk to will increasingly stare into their phones and give off the “I’m so busy” vibe — even if they want to mingle. Breaking into a knot of four or more people is really hard, at least for me.