Some people walk into a group and immediately feel energized – they're constantly surrounded by people, and not only enjoy, but also seek out social situations. I've never been one of these people. I see groups and immediately feel insecure (so "junior high" of me). But it's that room full of people where some of the biggest moments of your life tend to happen. It's in social situations where you make friends, get connected in your community, network to find jobs or get that promotion. Your whole life could change based on who you meet.
So, I've had to come up with a game plan. Here are a few wise things I keep in mind to help me not only "work a room" well, but to intentionally connect with the people there.
It sounds a little silly, but let me explain. When we feel insecure, we vary between two extremes – we tend to either shrink back or try to make ourselves sound impressive. Both reactions draw attention to ourselves rather than allowing another person to be seen and known.
Think of a conversation that you feel went well, or where you left feeling loved. Typically, it's because the other person was genuinely interested in getting to know you. They asked you questions that were deeper than just "how are you" or "what do you do" and they were interested to hear what you had to say. Instead of fearing what everyone else will think about you, see a room full of people as a room full of opportunities to learn about someone else. I've found when I do this that suddenly the pressure is off for me, because it's no longer about me.
When you're free to focus on drawing out the best qualities in other people and to put them at ease, something really special happens. People may not remember exactly what you talked about, but they will remember feeling safe and affirmed in your presence, and that forms a deep, trustworthy bond.
Interviewing involves investing yourself in the other person. There is no better feeling than feeling like you are the only person in the room when someone is talking to you. Providing this for others by maintaining eye contact and learning more about the person you are talking to sends a message that they matter and are worthy.
Here's a tip that feels a little backwards at first: Often when we're meeting someone new, we listen for something that we might know a little something about. Sometimes we even steer the conversation there ourselves, because we want to find a topic we're knowledgable about and comfortable with. Instead of listening for something comfortable, try listening for something that you actually know nothing about. To humbly say, "That seems like an interesting job. How does that work?" or "I've never heard of that perspective. Tell me more about that." opens the door for the other person to feel known and loved (and for you to learn something new!). You further that bond of trust.
Foster connections between others.
Once we've gotten our "game face" on, we often focus on making connections with other people and don’t spend enough time connecting other people with one another. While forming connections for ourselves is obviously good and important, people are appreciative when someone else is thoughtful enough to connect them with someone they may not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. You are opening the door for them, and that – again – builds trust. Making connections between others shows that you are paying attention and looking to be helpful in any way you can.
It sounds simple – and it is! – but remembering someone’s name can be surprisingly difficult to do. However, a person’s name may be the most important detail to recall because it sends the message that you remember who they are and will continue to recall meeting them moving forward. I once heard someone say "you're only bad at remembering names if you tell yourself you are." Make it a personal goal to remember their name. Repeat it to them after they introduce themselves and when you say goodbye (ex. "Hi, I'm Brian." "It's nice to meet you, Brian.") Repeat their name mentally as they're talking to you. More often than not, it works!
Remember your value (and where it comes from).
You might have noticed that most of these tips focus on making others feel important and special. This is certainly the case – and what we see Jesus continually do throughout the Gospel. As He met people, He gave them their humanity by seeing and knowing them.
However, the only way we will be successful in making others comfortable is if we approach a room self-assured, knowing that no matter who talks to us or what kind of connections we are able to make, our value remains the same. No conversation or connection has the power to make us more or less worthy than we already were when we entered the room. Do you know the names God calls you? Daughter. Son. Beloved. Mine. Worthy. Whole. Gladly bought with a great price.
Knowing and treasuring your own value will naturally translate to others feeling worthy in your presence, no matter who they are or what their story looks like. This is where true connection begins.
Anybody else out there afraid of big groups? Have you ever tried "interviewing" people? What are some tips and tricks you've used over the years?