Definition of mingle
1: to bring or mix together or with something else usually without fundamental loss of identity: INTERMIX: The story mingles fact with fiction.
At first inspection, the word “mingle,” as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary — trusted since 1828, don’t you know — seems dry and clinical.
But it’s not — at least when you define mingle as it’s applied to human interaction. When living, breathing beings are involved, mingling — when appropriately conducted — is more of a nuanced art. Practiced minglers make it look effortless as they seamlessly move from one group to the next. Never overstaying their welcome and almost always exiting on a high note, leaving their audience wistfully bidding them adieu.
They’re able to segue from one conversation to the next, smoothly navigating the ticking-bomb topics that arise like the rocks along a treacherous stretch of shoreline. They weave in, out, and around, making the rounds of an event with tactical precision. People who truly know how to mingle are really quite a marvel to those of us who aren’t.
So, maybe you can’t be exactly like the Dos Equis man: the life of parties you’ve never even been to.
You can still get better at mingling. It’s just a matter of inserting yourself into the mix and interacting with your peers. But not everyone is up for the challenge.
The Fear of Mingling
For some, the thought of having to meet new people solo is akin to making a speech in front of thousands.
But you can hone your skills, and you ought to if you’re back in the dating scene. Whether you’re rusty or starting from scratch, mastering the art of mingling is in your best interest for both your work and social life. Each of which is vital for a happy, well-rounded existence.
We’re going to explore the different ways to improve your level of ability concerning face-to-face communications in group social settings. We’ll also cover some ground on the signs someone finds you attractive or interesting. Ready, set, go!
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Learning to Mingle
Once you arrive at your destination, take a moment to survey your surroundings. You want to size-up the group and search for familiar faces with whom to begin a dialogue. The key to successful mingling is relaxing and trying to be yourself. When people are nervous, they tend to make foolish remarks, clam up, talk excessively, and/or exhibit awkward tics or habits.
And that’s just for starters.
There’s a whole host of other unflattering behavior that’s difficult to get past, too. That’s why, if you have the option, hanging out with a few friendly faces first is recommended to take the edge off.
If you don’t recognize anyone or your current conversation is petering out, it’s time to wade in and meet the rest of the crowd. Remember, you can do this. Stand up straight, draw your shoulders back, try to assume a confident yet nonchalant attitude, and start working the room.
If you act confident, people will believe you are. Assuming an inviting smile probably won’t hurt your cause, either. Now, one foot in front of the other!
While navigating your way through the gathering, if you catch snippets of discussions you know something about, chime in. But avoid abruptly interrupting anyone and appearing awkward or obtrusive. It’s about casually adding something meaningful to the conversation, no matter how brief the input.
The Graceful Mingler
It’s also about not taking the bait and getting entangled in controversial topics that can quickly become heated. If you find yourself in a situation like this, extricate yourself from it gracefully and move on.
Another thing to bear in mind when working the crowd is not crowding the crowd. Be respectful of other people’s private space. It’s never acceptable to surge in or press your fellow minglers. Hovering on the edges of a conversation half in and half out is considered kind of creepy, too.
The Confident Mingler
No one likes a side-liner or hoverer lurking on the fringes. Commit yourself and make your introductions instead. You’ll come across as a lot more legit to the other members, rather than “Who is this guy or woman?”
One other suggestion is to try hosting your own gatherings with mixed crowds first. Since the event will be under your direct control in an environment of your choosing, it should take some of the strain off of you. As far as guests, select people from various backgrounds and job descriptions and include people you don’t know very well.
They can be a neighbor, coworker, fellow commuter or gym member, or even a familiar store clerk or bank teller. The worst that can happen is that you’ll make new friends and expand your social set. You just need to get your feet wet before venturing out in public.
The Art of Mingling
Just as you’d expect, there are countless books on the subject of successful mingling techniques, and many of them are entitled “The Art of Mingling.” Reading up on the matter with your own pocket hand guide could make your efforts at mastering these techniques much simpler. Some authors have penned multiple books on the topic if further help is necessary.
Take writer Jeanne Martinet. In addition to “The Art of Mingling: Easy, Fun, and Proven Techniques for Mastering Any Room,” the author has written several more guides wallflowers will find useful.
Released through St. Martin’s Griffin and an assortment of other publishing houses, they include but are not limited to:
- “Getting Beyond Hello: Miss Mingle’s Guide to Social Success”
- “Life Is Friends: A Complete Guide to the Lost Art of Connecting in Person”
- “Etiquette for the End of the World”
- “The Faux Pas Survival Guide: The Fine Art of Removing Your Foot from Your Mouth”
- “Come-Ons, Comebacks, and Kiss-Offs: Date Lines Every Woman Needs to Survive Her Search for the Holy Male”
- “Artful Dodging: Painless Techniques for Avoiding Anyone, Anytime”
An Inside Look at Mingling
For Martinet’s “Mingling,” the introduction reads:
“Does the idea of going to a large party make your mouth go dry? Are you more comfortable on Facebook than face-to-face? You’re not alone: Ninety percent of the world suffers from minglephobia. Jeanne Martinet has developed a cure — a sure-fire system for overcoming fears and having a great time at any type of business or social gathering.
Filled with simple techniques, tricks, tips, lines, and maneuvers, and illustrated with entertaining examples, The Art of Mingling teaches you:
- Basic survival strategies for the Truly Terrified
- Opening lines and gambits that really work
- Tools and rules for keeping the conversation going in the right direction
- The all-important etiquette of escape
- Faux pas recovery techniques
- How to avoid the dumb use of smartphones
- The secret to being a good listener
- The right way to follow up online
- and much, much more!”
In addition to being noted for her wit throughout her books, editorial reviews have been positive.
- “Ms. Martinet believes in mingling the way some people believe in yoga. To her, it is a discipline and form of exercise to be practiced on a regular basis.” ―The New York Times
- “Jeanne Martinet’s amusing guide contains nifty ideas designed to get the flower off the wall and into circulation.” ―Letitia Baldridge
- “The Art of Mingling takes the intimidation out of party scenes, whether they are business-related or social.” ―Publishers Weekly
- “Jeanne Martinet is an expert at navigating parties.” ―New York Daily News
- “Martinet has developed techniques for working any event with ease.” ―Chicago Tribune
So, what’s in these tomes that will help you conquer disquieting social situations?
The first thing she recommends is “fake it ‘til you make it” as a tactic for surviving the initial discomfort party-goers may feel when mingling with a roomful of strangers. Martinet instructs those who are struggling to,
“Just try to relax and say to yourself, I’m going to fake it till I make it. Believe it or not, this simple affirmation is an effective, almost magical, way to transform party terror into a positive outlook. Just pretend to be happy to be wherever you are; make believe you are confident; simulate self-assurance–even for ten minutes–and an amazing thing will start to happen: You’ll actually begin to feel that way, partially because of the response you receive from other people.”
Give Yourself A Pep Talk
So, a lot of it is about outlook and psyching yourself up. Approach each new gathering with a positive view. Don’t allow the gnawing voice of fear to paralyze you. Work on your mindset. But if all else fails, fall back on faking it, because what you project during the first few moments in a new social situation carries more weight than whatever you’re feeling inside. Translation: put on a brave face and smile.
Once you get the hang of mingling, it’s actually a lot of fun in the right setting.
Top Tips for Casual Mingling
- If you know absolutely no one there other than the hosts, start with the most approachable person or persons in the room. It doesn’t matter if it’s the caterers or some other poor schlub who looks as miserable as you. You need to break the ice and get a conversation rolling. Since this is a dress rehearsal, you can try out your social banter with these folks first.
- Learn to read body language. Earlier, we spoke of sizing the room up. Scan your surroundings for people displaying open behavior. Two or three people standing in a loose group surveying the party, in general, are open to newcomers.
- The larger the group, the easier it is to breach. You won’t stand out so much, and you can always turn to someone else if you find the person next to you boring or intimidating. In other words, there’s safety in numbers.
- Look for someone with a similar style as your own or one you can appreciate. Finding someone with similar interests can make all the difference in the world when it comes to mingling. Break the ice with a clothes or style question/comment to get started.
For crippling shyness or anxiety, Martinet suggests what she calls “survival fantasies.” They involve immersing yourself in imaginary scenarios and/or role-playing. By creating an alternate reality and replacing yourself with a character, you can emotionally remove yourself from the equation. This can help the truly terrified get through some pretty excruciating social situations.
While it may sound extreme, according to the author, it can be scads of fun. In fact, she admitted she often likes to assume the persona of screen legend Bette Davis. Of course, she does not introduce herself as the actress and doesn’t let anyone else in on what she’s up to.
But the confidence the role gives her is enough to propel her through the most challenging fetes.
Here are a few of the ideas she suggests for beating stage fright:
1. The Invisible Man (or Woman)
This strategy is a fantasy where the player pretends to be invisible, and as such, no one is looking at them because no one can see them. Being invisible, you’re free to explore the room, the décor, and the people in it with total anonymity allowing you to relax. The other guests’ eyes aren’t on you. They’re looking through and beyond you.
2. The Buddy System
This tactic is where a novice mingler mentally conjures up the image of his or her best bud accompanying them on their rounds. Their imaginary friend stays a pace or two behind and just a step to the right or left. In other words, your security blanket wing person has your back in absentia.
3. The Naked Room
This method is an oldie-but-goodie in terms of effective mingling strategy. This is where the speaker or individual suffering from social anxiety imagines that everyone in the room is either naked or stripped down to nothing but their undies and their shoes. The second image is the far more entertaining of the two. Try it sometime.
4. Pros and Icons
Lastly, Pros and Icons is the game Martinet invokes when she’s donning the identities of movie stars and other celebs. And it doesn’t have to be anyone famous. Choose someone whose poise, personality, and charm you admire if you prefer. A person whose confidence you’d like to emulate is all that matters.
The author does stress that these last rather extreme measures (survival fantasies) are “designed for initial courage; to get you to take that first step.” Use these strategies only as long as you need them, whether it’s a matter of minutes or the first several mingle scenarios you expose yourself to. Before long, you won’t need them anymore.
If you stumbled upon this page and you’re reading it in hopes of upping your dating game versus your networking skills, then you might want to forge ahead for some insights into body-language cues as well. Getting better at deciphering these nonverbal signals while mingling can give you a clearer idea of who’s flirting and who’s not. According to PsychologyToday.com, there are eight distinct signs displayed when someone finds you attractive in a manner extending beyond friendship.
Here’s what to look for:
- A prolonged gaze where eye contact is held longer than usual is conveying the message there’s a desire to connect on a more personal level.
- Frequent smiling beyond the norm is another surefire sign you’re being flirted with, especially if their eyes are lit up or sparkling.
- An increase in lip moistening by licking them sometimes occurs with sexual attraction. If it’s slow and deliberate, it’s pretty obvious it’s intentional.
- Exaggerated agreement demonstrated by vigorous head nodding or physical animation is a sign they’re into you — assuming they’re not on anything or skipping their meds.
- An open body position is indicative of being receptive. This refers to the way they face you head-on, arms relaxed in an open position, eyes open wide, and possibly leaning forward or toward you.
- Accidental touching where two people brush up against one another that sometimes isn’t so accidental is another subtle cue. If the touches are lingering, it’s a good sign.
- Prolonged glances or ogling — like frequent or exaggerated lip-licking — is pretty in-your-face, especially if they do the “full-body scan” or slow once over.
- Lightly brushing the fingertips over areas like the lips or breasts are self-touching cues signifying interest as well, either consciously or subconsciously.
With all of this information, you should be able to formulate a suitable plan for overcoming any mingle jitters you may have and improve your social interactions. These new or improved skills can help you in your personal and professional life, so it’s a win-win for daters and networkers alike.