How to ‘work the room’ and be 100% comfortable in any group situation
It couldn’t have been a more perfect night.
I was in downtown Austin right after the ACL Festival, surrounded by a ton of people. It was my boyfriend’s birthday, and everyone was having a great time.
So why was I freezing up?
Oddly, I felt like I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do in this large group of people, despite the fact I’ve been in large groups many times before. This certainly wasn’t my first rodeo.
But I felt like I couldn’t be ‘myself’. I even felt like I was trying too hard. Then I felt like I couldn’t find my groove. And I kept thinking: I’m the one person who always knows what to say. Why is that failing me now?
It’s moments like this in my life where I like to deconstruct and understand what’s ‘going on under the rug’, especially because this proves the point that even the most socially skilled people you know have their moments of doubt. And especially because I get a ton of emails asking me this specific question:
“Why is it that I’m great 1:1…but in groups I feel like I don’t recognize myself?”
Which brings me back to this particular night in Austin.
What do you think happened?
When I actually sat down to think about it, I spotted the problem immediately. And it had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t have a perfect ‘script’ or the ‘right thing’ to say. It had nothing to do with the people there. But it had everything to do with how I thought about group situations.
Here’s what I mean:
I know that one of my strengths is 1:1 conversations, just like I know many of you do, if you identify with being more introverted. You like to get to the meat of the conversation fast, and hate wasting frivolous time with small talk about the weather.
And I found that in the past, when I was in group situations, all I wanted to do was find that 1 person I could get into that meat with, because I viewed the group as being more superficial. Not enough time for connection! Are we really getting to know each other?
But after this night in Austin, I had an epiphany.
I realized that I was trying to force how I thought group situations SHOULD be onto other people. And when that wasn’t happening, I thought I was the one with a ‘social flaw’ that should be fixed.
But instead of telling myself: “I’m just not as good in groups”, I decided to create a ‘hack’ that would allow me to handle any group situation with ease, so I could feel comfortable in my own skin and not worry about if I was doing it ‘right’ or feel that urge to find a 1:1 conversation.
And I want to share this ‘hack’ with you today
Because there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like how people are seeing you in a certain situation is not who you actually are. It’s a weird flavor of being misunderstood, and it can be maddening to try and figure out what to do about it.
And more than that, why waste time blaming yourself or chalking it up to not ‘fitting in’? There’s a better way. And today, I’ll show you how:
How to ‘Work The Room’ and Be 100% Comfortable In Any Group Situation
Step 1: Let’s face facts. Group situations ARE different than 1:1 conversations. A reader of mine described them as ‘wild’ and more ‘unpredictable’. Everyone’s talking, people are talking over each other, and you might all be connecting on one topic at once.
But instead of thinking: “I wish we could have a more meaningful conversation”, accept the fact that this is what group situations are. Now, the pressure is off of you to try and find that ‘deep connection’ or lead the conversation where you want it to go. You go into it knowing exactly what to expect.
Step 2: Now that you know what to expect, why not prepare for it with the ‘Read, Watch, Do’ technique?
This is a technique I tested out with private clients and in my course, Be Magnetic, that guarantees you’ll always have interesting topics to talk about. All you have to do before any group situation is think about (and write down) 1 interesting article you’ve read, 1 movie/video/or TV show you’ve watched that caught your attention, and 1 activity you did that you loved–or even hated!–that week.
Think about the dynamic of a group. For the most part, it’s a rapid fire discussion, people are feeding off of each other’s ideas, and there’s no singular direction. The benefit of having a few nuggets of interesting news in your back pocket is highly valuable because you don’t have to sit there and rack your brain for what to say.
Here’s a perfect example:
Let’s say you’re in a group situation and people start talking about what’s going on in baseball. For the record, I know zilch about sports and if I try to engage in a conversation about it, I have absolutely no value to offer. These are the facts.
I DO know that if the group starts talking about sports, I can certainly make the effort to connect what they’re talking about to a book I read that talked about baseball, or even a documentary or TV show I happened to watch. Or, I might have gone to a fabulous new restaurant that week and when I was there, I remember seeing the game on. What a perfect segue for me to mention that, and then recommend this restaurant I think everyone should try.
Because the problem is that most people give up once the group starts talking about topics you know nothing about. They go: “Oh, well! I’m an acupuncturist, they’re talking about football, we are obviously from different planets”. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The ‘Read, Watch, Do’ technique is staggeringly simple. If remembering 1 of each of those seems like a stretch, just think about ONE of them you think might be great for conversation. And before you think “What if it’s not interesting and no one cares?” the only way to know is to actually test it in real life. Remember, I bomb just as much as you do (and to boot, I tell the WORST jokes on the planet so add that to it), but it’s worth knowing what hits with people, and what doesn’t. Or to put it another way, the more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be.
Step 3: After you’ve faced facts and done your preparation, set up a timeframe for yourself. I’ll explain what I mean in a moment, but let me first say that using timeframes are one of THE most powerful tools you can use because it immediately puts you in control of the situation instead of being at the whims of others.
Here’s what I mean:
Most people go into group situations without thinking how long they’ll be talking in that group for. Most of the time, it feels like this indefinite stretch of time and can last forever if you find yourself freezing up in that situation.
But what if you chose AHEAD of time, how long you choose to be in that conversation for?
As an example, let’s say you’re at a get-together or dinner party where there are groups galore. Can feel pretty intimidating, right?
But what if instead you said to yourself: “I’ll stay and talk to this group for 5 minutes. Then, I’ll go and get a drink, get some food, or take a 1 minute break from talking to people.”
Obviously, you’re not going to keep looking at your phone during the conversation and then say, Okay, time’s up, guys! What’s important is that you decide to do this ahead of time because A) It takes an incredible amount of pressure off of you B) It gives you an ‘out’ before you have to come up with an excuse in real-time and C) It gives you a chance to breathe and recharge (introverts, rejoice!)
And even better? If the conversation is great and you feel comfortable, you can stay! If not, you already decided how long you were going to stay in it and you can always go back to another group and set a similar timeframe for yourself. The best part is that instead of waiting around for the conversation to go stale, you leave the group before you can be left.
Recap of the ‘How to Hack Group Situations’ Mental Model
1: Face facts. Groups are different than 1:1, so don’t try to force them into what they’re not.
2: Prepare. Use the ‘Read, Watch, Do’ Technique or find your own way of preparing for these situations so you have nuggets of interesting conversation topics to fall back on.
3: Set a timeframe. Takes the pressure off, and gives you a definite goal so you don’t feel like you’re in a vortex of indefinite time.
What to Do Today
Just try ONE part of the ‘How to Hack Group Situations’ mental model. THEN, you can add on the other steps. Better to start small and get momentum, then you try and cram all three and get stuck. I’d personally recommend starting with step 1, but you test what you want.
Then, comment below and tell me how it went: Which step did you start with? And what were the results?