You are at a trade show, conference, or party. The room is filled with people you don’t know. Self-introductions can be intimidating. Who do you approach and what do you say? The solution can be as simple as looking at people’s feet. Observing feet positions offers clues as to which group will accept a new member.
Members of a large group who form a semi-circle with their feet pointing toward the open side of the circle are signaling that they are willing to accept new members. Members of a larger group who form a closed circle are signaling that they are not willing to accept new members.
Two people who are facing each other with their feet pointing toward the other person are telegraphing the message that their conversation is private. Stay away. They do not want outsiders to interrupt. If two people are facing each but are standing askance leaving a space are telegraphing that they are willing to accept a new member to their group.
When three people face each other and their feet are pointed inward forming a closed circle, they are sending the message that they are not willing to accept new members. Conversely, when three people face each other and assume a wider circle opening up space, they are sending the message that they are willing to accept new members.
Identify groups that are open to new members and make your approach. Purposefully walk toward the group and display friend signals. Our brains constantly scan the environment for friend or foe cues. If foe cues are present, people tend to go "shields up" to defend themselves against a threat or possible threat. The three primary friend cues are the eyebrow flash, the smile, and the head tilt. Consciously display friend signals as you approach the group. For more information on friend and foe signals refer to a previous PT blog How to Get anyone to Like You Instantly – Guaranteed. Confidently step into the empty space. Confident people are more liked than people who are not self-assured. Even if you don’t feel confident, fake it. A fine line exists between confidence and arrogance. As you stand in the once empty space, listen to the conversation thread and wait for a pause before saying anything. While you are listening, you should slightly nod your head up and down. Head nodding signals approval and interest and sends the message that you are confident not arrogant. Arrogant people are typically not good listeners. The group may be willing to accept new members but no one likes a newcomer who rudely interrupts an ongoing conversation. When a natural pause in the conversation occurs, this is your cue to introduce yourself or add to the ongoing conversation.
Look for common ground with the other members of the group. Finding common ground is the quickest way to develop rapport. If you are at a trade show or conference, you have instant common ground because everybody at the trade show or conference shares common interests or they would not have attended the event. If common ground cannot be readily established, default to the topic of music. Everybody likes music. Even if people do not like the same music the similarities and differences between music genres can foster lively conversations.
When you see these people later in the event call them by their names. People like to be remembered. Remembering a person’s name assigns value and recognition. Things remembered are things cherished. Additionally, use a conversational bridge back. Conversational bridge backs refer back to elements of your first discussion with that person or group. Conversational bridge backs can be comments, jokes, gestures, or other things unique to the previous conversation. Using a conversational bridge back sends the subtle message that you are not a new comer to the person’s set. You are a familiar person with mutual interests. Conversational bridge backs also allow you to pick up the rapport building process where it left off at the end of the first conversation. You don’t have to start building rapport from scratch.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the feet are the gateway to friendship.