There is nothing more challenging than going to a party alone and the only familiar face is that of the host’s cat that looks exactly like the one you had as a child.
Most people will know their host but that isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have someone to keep you company during the party. No decent host worth their cheese puffs would spend the whole time with one guest. So, how do you do, ‘How do you do?’ when you don’t know anyone?
First, go to the bar, get a drink and move around the room. Keep moving, don’t find a comfortable chair and own it for the rest of the party. If you catch someone’s eye, introduce yourself and whatever conversation follows, make it about them – “I love that color you’re wearing.” “You remind me of a friend of mine who comes from Boston, do you come from Boston by any chance?” Questions like these lead to conversations. Try and avoid the dull and common, “How do you know so and so?” This could be taken as, “How did you get invited here?” It can also be intrusive. What if a guest doesn’t want you to know that she and the host met at rehab? And whatever you do, don’t ask, “What you do?” What if they respond, “I sell copy paper?” Then what? It’s always much more interesting when you allow others to do the talking. It may never get around to what they do and that’s okay, you will have learned so much more.
Yvette loves art. If there’s one painting or photograph on the wall she’ll strike up a conversation with someone nearby and say something, “I like that painting.” She swears that it’s always a conversation starter. “Everyone likes to play critic,” Yvette said, “you’d be surprised how much people have to say.”
Go to the party and promise yourself a new friend, not as in girlfriend or boyfriend, just a new person. It’s usually the woman or man standing quietly away from the rest. Probably shy, they can usually turn out to be social treasures. They will most likely be smart, observant and ready for interesting conversation. And they’ll gladly come out of the corner with an offer of a drink at the bar or a promise of the best crab cakes on the other side of the room.
Once you’ve brought them into the fold, don’t turn your back on them. Introduce them and engage them in other conversations. You’ll be surprised, they weren’t the ‘losers’ of the party after all, they were the winners and now you’re one of them too.
this is one of your best pieces,
as you know so well, good etiquette is the grace of making others feel comfortable and respected, so what a wonderful topic and what usable advice!
Why the heck would someone standing alone in the corner "most likely be smart"? Most people are average, plain old middle of the bell curve. While it might be kind to pull a wallflower out and even helpful if you're floundering yourself, let's not get crazy and assume that quiet and shy equals "smart" cause you damn well better be ready for "boring" as well as anything else....
What a great post! I must says the mot enjoyable parties I've been too were with Yvonne. In fact, I think we met at a book party when she found me shyly sitting alone at a table...
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