When you’re a single looking to mingle, parties are golden opportunities: After all, where else can you find such a concentrated cluster of people looking to meet new people and have a good time? But if you tend to get tongue-tied or stuck in the corner talking to friends rather than scoping out fresh dating prospects, try some of these tricks below to expand your romantic opportunities — you’ll be swapping phone numbers in no time.
Enter the room with fanfare
Body language expert Patti Wood, M.A., C.S.P., author of Success Signals, says when you enter a room, you should go in slow motion. When you pause at the door, it frames you and attracts attention. Next, strike a pose: “Put your shoulders back,” Wood recommends. “Keep your head up and centered. Make eye contact with people in the room and smile.” She says when you smile and others smile back, this creates positive feedback that will energize you for the duration of the party.
Many partygoers end up talking to people who’ve approached them — but if you’re looking for love, you’re much better off having a say in who you talk to, don’t you think? So for starters, “never talk to someone before you ‘graze’ the party. This means looking around the room to see who’s looking back. Find the people who are interested in you,” advises R. Don Steele, author of Body Language Secrets: A Guide During Courtship and Dating. Then narrow your focus to the three people whom you’d like to get to know. Go up to them one by one and introduce yourself. When you shake hands, note how firm their handshakes are. Do they just offer the tips of the hands and give a weak grip? This means they’re not interested, according to Steele. “But if they cup the palm of your hand and give a genuine squeeze, this means they’re into you,” he says.
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Pass the chips
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Lissa Kelly, 35, of Honolulu, HI, definitely agrees. When she goes to a party, she always hangs where the snacks are. “Food is a great icebreaker for most people,” she says. “I’ll ask guys if they’ve tried a certain food, or ask them how the punch is — stuff like that. In fact, I met my last boyfriend by offering him a chocolate chip cookie at a party!”
Try flying solo for the night
Most people bring a pal to a party — but when you go alone, you’re forced to talk to people you don’t know. (If you feel self-conscious, remember that you do know the host, so there’ll be at least one friendly face in attendance!) Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life, says flying solo gives you the opportunity to use what she considers to be the perfect self-introduction: “I don’t really know anyone here, so I just thought I’d say hello.” After all, Puhn notes, “That’s such a sweet and benign line that anyone can use in any situation.” Still nervous? Give yourself a time limit, like vowing to stay one hour. Even if you’re not having the best time, 60 minutes will pass in a flash.
Split up from your friends for awhile
If you’re with some friends at a party, don’t be afraid to split off from the pack. After all, if you’re glued to chums the entire time, you won’t meet anyone new — and that should always be a top priority at a party. If they’re equally interested in meeting people, turn it into a game by saying, “OK, let’s disperse and only reconvene once we’ve each spoken to at least three new people.” That way it’s not like you’re abandoning each other for the entire night, you’re just egging each other on to get out there!
Stake out the entrance
Think about it: Everyone at that party has to come through the door at some point. That’s why Puhn recommends hanging by the door or even occasionally opening it for people and saying, “Hi! The host appointed me part of the welcoming committee.” Explains Puhn, “People will be impressed that you’re so comfortable with yourself and outgoing, and they’ll have a better time at the party because you’ve been so sweet.” Plus, you have a great opening line later: “Hey, remember me? I met you by the door!”
Talk to the wallflower(s)
There’s always one at every party; a loner hanging out in the corner, looking rather ill at ease. Most people’s natural instinct is to avoid wallflowers, but Puhn says it’s smart to make contact. Just because someone is shy doesn’t mean that person is not engaging, and a wallflower is bound to be grateful you’ve made the first move. Just say, “I saw you standing here and wanted to say hi.” If the conversation goes nowhere, simply use one of the getaway lines described below to make your escape.
Have a getaway line ready
Say you’re talking to someone who decides to go into a 30-minute play-by-play about a recent gall bladder surgery. Instead of standing there nodding with a fake smile plastered on your face, have a well-rehearsed “getaway line” you can whip out for just such an occasion. “Say you need to go check in with the host, get something to drink or a snack, or go to the bathroom,” Puhn says, “then politely excuse yourself.” Puhn says having go-to getaway lines ready will encourage you to approach more people — just knowing you have an escape hatch will give you the confidence and freedom to take more chances.
Do stretch the truth (just a little!)
Puhn says a fun way to break the ice is to concoct a wild and crazy story about how you met the host. For instance, you could say you were once first- and second-runners up in a yodeling contest — the more outrageous your story, the better! Then, when the other person says, “Are you serious?” you can ’fess up and say, “Oh, no, we’re just coworkers — but the other story is more fun, don’t you think?” That can be an unexpected way to get conversation flowing if you’re a person who’s comfortable with that kind of banter — try it and see.
Julie Taylor is a writer in Los Angeles who’s written for Redbook and other publications.