Sarah and William were at a social event, enjoying a conversation about their respective jobs, when Ursula came by and joined them. Ursula quickly chimed in, talking in detail about her company and what it was like to work there. It wasn’t long before Sarah and William both moved on.
Ursula was moving around and mingling, which is expected at social events. She was upbeat and positive with her comments. Still, her behavior ended the conversation.
Social events are opportunities to get to know a little about others. When people mingle, they make an effort to greet people they know and meet the ones they don’t know. They congregate in small groups and find a subject of common interest. The subject then typically becomes a dialogue, with all parties participating. Sometimes one person will have a story to tell and be the center of attention for a period, and then someone else takes a turn.
When mingling, it is always polite to greet the people already in the group when you arrive, and then listen to the conversation before joining in. Show interest in the others’ comments and get a feel for the direction of the conversation. No one should monopolize the conversation with a lengthy monologue.
Ursula might have been having a good time, or been nervous. Whatever her motivation, she made three mistakes:
- She chimed in too quickly. She didn’t show interest in what Sarah and William were discussing. She simply entered the group and took control.
- Sarah and William were talking about what they did, not their companies. Because Ursula didn’t listen long enough before chiming in, she changed their topic of conversation. As soon as she started talking it was about the qualities of her company, not her specific job.
- She then proceeded to monopolize the conversation, shutting Sarah and William out. It might have been a little more palatable had she asked about their companies and kept them engaged, but she didn’t.
This experience did not endear Ursula to Sarah or William. She left a negative impression; she came across as domineering and egotistical. Her behavior did not serve her well as it can be hard to overcome bad first impressions.
When entering a group, it is always a good idea to greet them, introduce yourself if necessary, and then listen. Ask clarifying questions. The group members will engage with you soon, and in the interim you will learn something.
I hope everyone has a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.