How to Politely Become Part of a Group

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I join a group of people?
  • What should I say when joining a group?
  • How do I help people notice me when I join a group?

We've talked about the importance of interpersonal skills before, with casts on handshakes and meal etiquette. While for many, they might not sound like managerial subjects, the fact is that career management skills are part of the modern manager's repertoire. And, as surely you've read, business gets done at dinner, at parties, at conferences, at conventions, at product launch events, at annual meetings, on the golf course, and at non-profit fund raisers.

So what do you when you walk into a party and you don't seem to know anyone there?

In this cast, we walk through a simple technique for introducing yourself into a small group in an unobtrusive, polite fashion. Everyone can do it...of course, the question is, will you? Are you willing to stand in the corner and have everyone think you painfully shy, and therefore surely not managerial or executive material?

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I hope a short form of this podcast was

I hope a short form of this podcast was available 10 - 15 years ago. It looks you describe mos of the "troubles' I faced back then. Thanks.

I downloaded this from itunes but it

I downloaded this from itunes but it ends abruptly after 26m37s saying "we help more and more managers learn how to be-"

You may wish to try deleting from

You may wish to try deleting from iTunes and download again. As far as I can tell (downloaded in iTunes and directly from website), the file appears ok.

Of course, I'm never willing to be my life on it ... if anyone else is having problems, please chime in!


Hi guys, could you provide a

Hi guys,

could you provide a approximate podcast lenght in the blog entry, for us who listen to it over the web browser.


Tibor, Great idea ... I've got it on


Great idea ... I've got it on my list!


These soft skills shows are among my

These soft skills shows are among my favorite MT podcasts, and I'd love to hear more of Mark's thoughts about personal space. The New York Times has an article about increasing issues with personal space: "But with the population in the United States climbing above 300 million, urban corridors becoming denser and people with wealth searching for new ways to separate themselves from the masses, interest in the issue of personal space — that invisible force field around your body — is intensifying."

Ok, hold the horses! This is the

Ok, hold the horses!

This is the first of these excellent podcasts that I have cringed over. I suspect it is just an issue of cultural difference (I am listening / writing from Ireland) but I struggled with the messages in this cast.

I have worked in the US from time to time and noticed how open and welcoming people are. People in Europe are welcoming too but not as "as in your face". I accept that at a large conference or event everyone wants to mingle and therefore some of the normal rules don't apply. However, I struggle to imagine walking up to complete strangers and tapping them on the shoulder blade; I believe the most likley outcome is that they would turn out of the group to face you (assuming you have some important information for them) and the net result is both of you are now separated from the group.

Another difference, and this one happened me!. At most business events in Europe English is the lingua franca but I walked up to a group and (too late) realised they were all speaking German. Forced to drop to their second language because I joined the group sure dried up the social chit chat.

99% of what is in these casts translates really well but I am not so sure on this one. I would love to see some comments from other listeners in UK / Ireland on this topic?

Sorry you don't think it translates!

Sorry you don't think it translates! Unfortunately, there's nothing one can do about someone speaking a foreign language if one doesn't know the language. If one limits oneself to native speakres, it's likely that many such gatherings will defeat the purpose. Imagine a room full of groups wanting to get to know one another... all speaking different languages, because everyone wants to use their native tongue.

We all would do well to learn a second and or third or fourth language.


Sorry about the post. The main issue

Sorry about the post. The main issue was not the language barrier - I agree you need to get over it. The point I was trying to make is that culturally approaching and introducing yourself to someone in a group may not work in Europe. I have always found that a more subtle entry with an acknowledgement of the other group members works much better. I know your comments would work in US situations (been there)

Can anyone else from Europe help me explain this?

I think it does translate; it just

I think it does translate; it just needs to be tweaked a bit depending on the country. As with any intercultural situation, a bit of keen observation is a good way to see what other people are doing, what seems appropriate and what doesn't in that particular context.

I live in France and have recently started experimenting with the techniques presented in the podcast. One thing that definitely resonates with me in dmg's post is the cringe factor involved with "tapping them on the shoulder blade" (although I think that even in the US it would be much more subtle than a tap--just a light touch with the fingertips). At a networking workshop I recently attended the (French) presenter recommended finding the "friendliest-looking" group, approaching the group and simply asking "may I join your group?". You would definitely *not* touch the person.

I am still in the early stages of experimenting with this, but I would be glad to report back if I discover anything new worth sharing.

Sara Freitas-Maltaverne

There are always cultural issues to

There are always cultural issues to consider when it comes to management, which is a highly individualistic endeavor. We have casts set up to talk about international issues, rest assured.

It's important to note that the experts disagree all the time about these issues. We have folks here saying that one shouldn't touch Western Europeans - only Americans would tolerate that.

And, we have the New York Times saying that Americans guard their space more than anyone else. ( I could have told them that).

I started using the shoulder blade technique in Central America, and have used it in America and Europe and Asia. Worked everywhere. It is possible that there was some private surprise about the technique, but I looked for it, and couldn't find it.

I think robust dialog about this and other managerial practices only makes us all better!


How strong do you come in with the

How strong do you come in with the shoulder blade touch?

Too soft feels like a limp fish handshake but too strong seems like it may look like you are forcing your way into the conversation.


Josh- Thought no one would ever


Thought no one would ever ask.

Pretend you have to hold up a piece of regular copy paper up between your fingers and their shoulder blade.

You can practice with a piece of paper on a wall in front of you. Works like a charm.



I knew you would have a good way to

I knew you would have a good way to practice without having to ask your cube mate.


Yes, let's not annoy our fellow cube

Yes, let's not annoy our fellow cube dwellers. ;-)


Hello, What, if any, modifications

What, if any, modifications would you make to this from a female perspective. Specifically referencing the touching.


Rita- Thanks for helping with this.


Thanks for helping with this. I would make no changes based om gender. A brief touch on the shoulder blade, with fingers only, no lingering, between any pairing of genders, is reasonable and appropriate.


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I thought this one was weird, but also

I thought this one was weird, but also because I am a very chatty person that usually had no trouble fitting into any gathering. I'm the guy you stick at a table at a wedding that you know can be relied on to talk to old Aunt Gertrude or the minister or whomever. So I navigate parties well, and have a series of inner cues, and I gotta say, Mark, I never touch anyone that way.

What I do, and this is just me, is walk up to a group - if I have to - and stand there listening, maybe offer a comment, and introduce myself when appropriate. Example, I walk up to a guy telling a funny golf story, stand, smile and listen, laugh at the punchline, and maybe follow up with, "Ever played Rackham over here by the freeway? No? Good course, but it's right by the Detroit Zoo, so you'll be putting and suddenly hear a lion roar or something." Hahaha. Puts hand out. "Hi, I'm..." blah blah.

But, you know, normally, I don't even do this. I find other people not in groups and start chatting them up - next thing you know, you have your own group, and you roll around the party like a Mongolian horde either adding to your group or slaying those that won't join you.... wait, what were we talking about again? :D