Mixing and mingling have been on my mind.  Perhaps it is due to the bevy of stars who will flock to our fair city to schmooze at one of the highly coveted pre-Oscar and Oscar parties this week or possibly as a result of a recent tea party of mothers and daughters I attended in which we were all called upon to bring our most gregarious selves, but it has become abundantly clear how important it is to understand the fine art of socializing. 

Not that everyone needs to learn how to make an entrance and work a room like a Kardashian, but gaining a little knowledge into how to break the ice, keep the conversation flowing, and establish a connection, could benefit younger people and help them in a multitude of social situations as they grow into maturity.  Whether they are a shrinking violet or a social butterfly, there is a formula to feeling confident in social gatherings that is beneficial to everyone. 

Springtime is actually a perfect occasion to test the waters.  Spring dances and formals are plentiful and offer loads of opportunity for practice.  Having these etiquette tools in your child’s arsenal can make all the difference as to whether they will sit on the sidelines watching or be active participants engaged and enjoying themselves at the party. And, isn’t that all we really want for our kids regardless of their age?  Here are a few simple steps to maximize their people skills in any setting. 

Eat a Light Bite Beforehand.  Before attending any social event, eat a small amount of food so that you are satiated and will not be starving.  This will ensure that your focus is on mingling and meeting new people rather than on how much food or beverages you will consume.

Act as if You Belong.  There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of confidence when you enter a room.  Acting as if you belong allows you to internalize a warm feeling of welcome and exude outward self-assurance to others. 

Break the Ice.  When you enter the room, scan the crowd for key people you would like to make contact with. Smile warmly at anyone who meets your eye.  These may be friends in your class, your peers, or other people you may not know, but would like to meet.  Approach them slowly as if you have all the time in the world and nowhere else you’d rather be.

Shake Hands with Everyone.  Exchanging pleasant hellos and handshakes is a wonderful way to greet those you know and those you wish to meet. A handshake is a three part process that involves a friendly smile, direct eye contact, and a firm shake web-to-web.

Look for an Opening.  Start by approaching a small group of people who’ve left some physical space for newcomers. If they’re in the middle of an animated conversation, walk up and just listen for a while. Slowly add relevant comments of your own until you become an equal contributor to the conversation. 

Maintain Personal Space.  When conversing, you should stand at a distance of about 18 inches apart (an arm’s length) to allow others their sphere of personal space.  Just be sure to speak audibly so that people do not have to lean in to hear you. 

Be a Good Listener.  A good conversation begins with active listening. Ask considerate questions that prompt thoughtful answers. Asking questions is an excellent way to begin a conversation and conveys interest.  Stay present so that you are not showing signs of boredom or preparing what to say next in your head. 

Make Riveting Conversation. The key to riveting conversation is to be equal parts interesting and interested.  Brush up on current events, local culture and the latest in sports, weather, movies, books and music, prior to any social outing so that you may make conversation with anyone, anywhere. 

Work the Room. Social settings are meant to spend time with people we know, but also ideal occasions to make connections with as many new people as possible.  When working the room in smaller gatherings, it is best to circulate and engage in conversation with everyone. For larger gatherings, focus on a few key people and instigate conversation with them.

Give Em a Graceful Ending. A graceful ending is just as important as the conversation itself.  Before parting, take a moment to express how much you enjoyed meeting.  This is the time to exchange information if you would like to remain in contact, otherwise a cordial, “It was really nice meeting you” will always leave a positive impression.