Print

Your Career >> Browse Articles >> On The Job/Office Politics

+3

Breaking Into a Conversation Gracefully

Breaking Into a Conversation Gracefully

Jodi Glickman Brown | Great On the Job

Last week, I wrote a post about exiting a conversation gracefully that generated some buzz. Beyond commenting on the strategies and tips to help you get out of those awkward moments, many of you rightfully pointed out that breaking into conversations was just as perplexing, especially at networking events, conferences and other forced-conversation forums.

There are two strategies, however, that I recommend to ease in and out of group conversations effortlessly.
Both strategies begin with a polite interruption followed by a quick retreat. The first one takes some chutzpah, aiming itself at the whole group while the second strategy targets a single person first before gaining an entrée into the larger group soon thereafter. Both can give you the opening you need to break the barrier of closed-circle groups and save you from a night of eating alone at the bar during a conference or event.

Let’s take a closer look:

The Group Tackle

The group tackle involves a brief introduction followed by an immediate retreat—an emphatic statement that the group continue the conversation without further ado.

Last summer, I attended a Mediabistro conference with headliner Tim Ferriss. I was dying to meet Tim so I stuck around after his keynote to introduce myself. Not surprisingly, nearly a dozen people had beaten me to the punch. Tim was holding court at the periphery of the auditorium with a rapt audience. Undeterred, I approached the group assertively, waited for Tim to see me and said the following:

1. Hi Tim, I’m Jodi Glickman Brown with Great on the Job, I didn’t     want to interrupt but I’m fascinated to hear about what you do.
2. Please, continue and I’ll just listen in.

By not engaging in further conversation other than my quick intro, I made it explicitly clear that I didn’t intend to take over the conversation or change the natural direction or momentum of the dialogue.

After lobbing in your quick intro, the next step is to go into “listen mode” for several minutes before venturing into the conversation again. Get a sense of the context and players around you. Then, once you’ve got your footing, feel free to chime in after the others know who you are and see that you’ve been listening respectfully to the dialogue going on around you.

After listening to Tim and the group for several minutes, I lobbed in a question related to Great on the Job and my own book deal with St. Martins’ Press. I will never forget Tim’s gracious response and his practical advice, and I’d be willing to bet both were to some degree due to the way I handled my entrance.

The Single Sideliner

For those who are intimidated by the group approach, there’s also a way to gain access to the group incrementally. Stand nearby a member of the group until you make eye-contact and then politely and unobtrusively introduce yourself to that person. After a one-line introduction, throw in a soft-sell about how you’d love an introduction to the broader group at the appropriate moment. It goes something like this:

1. Hi, I’m Jodi Glickman Brown with Great on the Job, how are you? I don’t want to interrupt but I just     wanted to listen in to the conversation…
2. I’d love an introduction to your colleagues at some point if you don’t mind.

Then, if and when you do get that introduction to the broader group, follow up with a “so nice to meet you all” and then go back immediately into listen mode until you feel comfortable that you have something of value to add to the conversation. Alternatively, you now have the opening you need to follow up individually with any other members of the group once the gang has dispersed or there is a natural lull in the conversation.

In both of these approaches, you join the group as a voyeur, but a voyeur with a free pass—because you’ve made the cursory personal introduction without stealing anyone’s thunder or rattling any feathers and you’ve explained your benign intentions—you’re just here to listen and learn. From that point of entry, you can then come from a position of strength to follow up with your newfound friends/colleagues/potential clients to begin a lasting and meaningful conversation.

This article was originally published on Harvard Business Review.



Related Reads:


Excelle School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use Excelle's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.


* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

Photo_user_blank_big
Ldam222 received the quiz result of "ESTJ", almost 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
mlzrvc received the quiz result of "ISTJ", almost 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
schucb received the quiz result of "ESTJ", almost 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
dkk_florida received the quiz result of "ESFJ", about 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
lexcelle received the quiz result of "Seattle", about 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
Burntnana received the quiz result of "You Kind of Love your job", about 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
Burntnana received the quiz result of "Healthy Person", about 2 years ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
Burntnana received the quiz result of "<b>You Just Need a Vacation</b>", about 2 years ago.
Apples-635240_1280_max30
Margaritta commented on: "Margaret Jefferson", about 2 years ago.