My husband, a very good chatter, simply walks up to a stranger at a cocktail party, introduces himself and asks, “So how do you know the host?” This works like a charm.
My husband, however, is the same guy who invited me to a party at his apartment and proceeded to introduce me to the group as “Shirley.” Which leads me to my next two discoveries:
One: I was always so afraid of getting someone’s name wrong that I’d be afraid to use it even if I was fairly sure of it. However, I am never offended when someone gets my name wrong, so why was I so worried?
Two: People talk having trouble remembering names but in my experience, the problem isn’t remembering, it’s knowing the person’s name correctly in the first place. So, when I first meet someone, I immediately repeat their name to make sure I’ve got it right. And if they correct me, I keep repeating it until I’m saying it to their satisfaction.
Once I’ve got someone’s name, I use it -- a lot – in that first conversation.
Speaking of conversations, I’ve discovered that listeners are a lot more rare than talkers. So, instead of thinking about what I might say, I try to focus on getting the other person to talk. That can be tricky because you are working in real time, formulating a question based on what they’ve just said. But it can be a fun challenge.
Some people are more challenging than others, though. I still have to work out the last part of successful cocktail-party chit-chat: moving on when it’s not working.