Take a Half Step In

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I never thought I’d get valuable tips from a book on how to have more success picking up women. One, I’m a woman myself and happily married, and two, success with women in that context) has almost nothing in common with success in business, right? Turns out, the principles are very transferable. Stay with me.

Nick Sparks is a dating coach and the author Of As You Are: Ignite Your Charisma, Reclaim Your Confidence, Unleash Your Masculinity. Even if you’re not in need of unleashing your masculinity, Sparks offers basic tips that will help you be more confident in networking situations.

In chapter one, he gives advice on how to move into a group to start conversations with new people. I’ve written before about zones of interpersonal space, one of which is The Social Zone. I described it this way:

The social zone is four to twelve feet apart.  This is the space used for public and casual social conversations.  It allows others to enter into the group.  It can be fascinating to watch people conversing in a group; they resemble fish in a school as they move in and out to make a comfortable space for new entries.

Sparks writes about coaching a friend who was struggling with entering groups when he met new people. “… whenever he tried to enter a conversation with a group of people, he still felt like the odd man out. This fear was confirmed as they physically shut him out of the group time and time again. Watching him, though, it was clear that they weren’t making him the odd man out — he was doing it to himself with nothing more than a half-step.”

Sparks goes on: “Everyone else in the group held a similar distance from each other — a friendly distance that we normally take when interacting with people with whom we’re comfortable. When Mateo approached though, he was keeping himself about a half-step farther away from everyone else.” This tiny half step felt safer to Mateo, but it allowed others to view him as an outsider and eventually, close ranks and push him gently out of the circle. They didn’t intend to slight him; the group was instinctively reading his body language and responding with their own unconscious movement.

Sparks advised Mateo to move in a half step – probably just six inches further into the circle – and the results were immediate. “Although the intimacy brought on by the added closeness felt scary as all heck to Mateo at first, it quickly became comfortable — not in the same “safe” way that it was before, but in the way it felt when he was with friends. He no longer got shut out because he no longer invited people to shut him out.”

Meeting new people is challenging, even scary, for many of us. We worry about acceptance, no matter how socially confident we appear to be on the outside. Our hesitance, hedging our bets against rejection, is actually causing the very rejection we fear.

Next time you’re working your way into a group conversation at a social or networking event, try stepping in just a few inches closer. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to connect with people.

If you try this, let me know how it felt – and how it worked.

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