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Mingle All the Way Through Holiday Parties

Dec 8, 2006 (Morning Edition)

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'Tis the season for parties. For many they're a joyful occasion. But for some they're a terrifying experience. You walk into the room. Then what? Have no fear.

Jeanne Martinet, author of The Art of Mingling, offers insights for joining a conversation, making your way through the party — and even extracting yourself from the clutches of someone talking your ear off.

To get things started, the mingling maven suggests the "honest approach" — introduce yourself and admit you don't know anyone at the party. At a pretend party, she walks up to another woman and compliments her on her jewelry. ("Those earrings are so fabulous. Where'd you get those?")

Time to move along? Try what Martinet calls "an observation" — walk up to a group and ask, "Is it cold in here or is it just me?"

But asking questions is only part of successful mingling, Martinet says. "That's not all there is to it. You also have to give back."

And you have to know how to get away. It's just as important to know how to get out of a conversation as how to get in.

"Your goal at this party is to circulate," Martinet says. "If you find the love of your life or something, then of course, you can sit as long as you like. But while you're mingling, you have to keep moving."

And she has techniques for getting out of a mingle, including one she calls "the human sacrifice." That's where you escape a boring conversation by grabbing some other poor guest and throwing him into the conversation in your place.

Or you can try the "smooth escape." It involves three steps: Take control of the conversation, change the subject, then make your break.

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