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For a long time, I hated house parties – it always seemed a bit too loud, a bit too crowded, and I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself. But over the years, I’ve found one easy way to take advantage of house parties, and turn them into fun, social events. All you have to do is make a few simple observations.
1. Pick a location that becomes your base
You don’t have to be in the center of the room to be making friends and being social. Quite the opposite – most of the genuine conversations that people have at parties happen away from the noise. This is really the key to mingling at a house party: picking your locations.
There are usually a number of rooms at a house party. Generally, it’s loudest and busiest where the music is – a living room or basement, usually. This is where the crowd usually is, as well – but it’s not where the socializing happens.
Mingling isn’t about diving in where the most people are. It’s really just about finding the right people to talk to. This involves finding locations where you can actually talk.
One of the best places for this is the kitchen. First of all, that’s where the drinks usually are, which can give you an excuse to jump into a conversation or introduce yourself. It also provides a topic of conversation that you’re both just about guaranteed to relate to – drink preferences.
If you strike up a conversation with someone while you’re both making drinks, you already have two social advantages: something to do, and something to say. You don’t have to march up to someone out of the blue and come up with the perfect topic of conversation. All you have to do is get yourself a drink and be observant. This leads me to the second step of this process – using the location itself to strike up a conversation.
2. Use the location as an opener
The great thing about a house party is that the locations themselves always contain something you can comment on to get a conversation started – all you have to do is look around, and make a comment about something nearby, or the location itself. Think of the room or area you’re in as a built-in opener – literally.
At a recent party, I had said hello to the friends who invited me and decided to wander over to the kitchen for a drink. There were a couple of other people in the room, also pouring drinks for themselves. I asked if they saw any gin.
It’s a simple interaction. You’re in the kitchen for a drink – something natural, which you might be doing regardless of if there was anyone in the room already. But it also gives you a perfect conversation starter.
I asked if they saw any gin, and the girl said she hadn’t seen any. She told me they were drinking vodka and orange juice, and there was more. Without really thinking about it, a conversation was already started.
I lightheartedly told her I didn’t usually like to drink rubbing alcohol, but maybe I’d give it a shot (I don’t love vodka). She said she had felt the same way for years, but developed a taste for screwdrivers on a cruise. Then we talked about Mexico, and the places we had visited, and on from there. Her friend jumped in as well, and we were able to talk. The conversation could have gone anywhere – all it takes is starting. At a house party, the locations you pick can be the conversation-starters.
One thing to note about this kind of interaction is that it’s mainly facilitated by getting away from the center. You don’t have to shout over loud music or charge into a large group to be social at a party – you just have to find the best places to talk.
Often, a patio or backyard will serve a similar purpose. There might be a game going on, which you can comment on to other observers. Or, there might be chairs, which put you in a natural position for chatting.
Just the act of sitting down in a chair can start a conversation. Sitting next to someone is a social act in itself, and party-goers understand that taking your drink outside, sitting down, getting away from the craziness – these are all social moves in their way. They’re probably there for the same reason.
3. Use your observation to find common ground
Just commenting on drinks or an ongoing game can get a great conversation started. But often, you can use the location to take your conversation a step further and find common ground not just in where you are, but in who you are. This works because the locations you pick are already on the periphery of the party, which gives you a starting point for anyone you find there. The people you talk to are also there for a reason. And you can use that!
By finding people in the quieter places, on the periphery of the party, you have a given conversation-starter, just as in the kitchen. You can comment on the party itself – you know that you’re both getting away from the noise, and you can just say that. Comment on the music, the noise, the people – breathe a sigh of relief and take a breath of fresh air, and let that help you find common ground with someone. These observations don’t have to be deeply insightful, and it doesn’t require you to make any assumptions about the people there – all you have to do is find something about your setting to comment on.
The key to mingling is not having all the right conversation-starters or somehow making yourself the most interesting person in the room. It’s simply about finding the right places, and thus the right people, to actually talk to.
4. Put It Into Practice
Next time you’re at a house party, try this: pick three peripheral locations, where things are somewhat calm. Then just cycle through them – get yourself a drink in the kitchen, and have a conversation. When that conversation ends, take your drink to a patio or room away from the speakers, and find a seat. Have your drink, and chat about the party or the music there. Stand by the beer pong table, and comment on the game to someone else watching (or whatever activities people are engaged in – there’s always something to observe and comment on at a party!).
Now you’ve already had three conversations – maybe more. After that, you can just rinse and repeat. Get yourself a ginger ale or a water – not drinking can start a conversation just as well as drinking. Comment on another activity. Sit in a different chair. Go where you feel comfortable, and use that as an anchor for conversations.
You don’t have to force yourself into uncomfortable situations to socialize at a house party – all you have to do is find the right places, and use the party as a natural guide for conversation.