How to Make Everyone in the Room Relax

Whether you're at lunch with coworkers or at a party with strangers, these tips can help lighten the mood and put your cohorts at ease.

An introvert

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Quiet types may not love social gatherings, but they're not always content to bury their heads in the sand, either. To help them feel more at ease in a group setting, match and mirror their voice volume and rate of speech, and stand beside, rather than in front, of them when you're chatting, suggests body language expert and author Patti Wood. And don't feel uncomfortable with "awkward" silences. "Research shows introverts may need as long as eight seconds of quiet before they respond," says Wood. Maintain eye contact and wait—chances are good that they'll come back with a thoughtful response.

An extrovert

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You may not think extroverts need help in social situations, but they sometimes feel pressured to keep the conversation going. Stoke their confidence and allow them to be in the spotlight by asking questions. "Your interest will spur them on," said Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Genius of Opposites. "I always ask about someone's shoes or jewelry," San Francisco investment advisor Anne-Marie Fowler told Real Simple. "Both make statements about a person, and that opens up a lot of other topics."

Your boss

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It may feel awkward to chat with your boss outside of office, but a social gathering is a good opportunity to deepen your relationship and improve your rapport with your manager, and that new level of comfort can make working together even easier.  First, resist the urge to talk shop, advises communication consultant and speech coach Bill Lampton. "Demonstrate that you have a interesting life outside of the corporation," he said. Before the gathering, remind yourself of what you know about your boss's personal life—does she have kids? Did she go to college nearby? Does a certain type of movie, art, or book interest her? Armed with this information, you can ask pertinent questions that put your boss as ease and showcase your listening skills.

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Your date

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"To help your date relax at a party or gathering, ask them ahead of time if there's something you can do to help them feel at ease," says Wood. "Some want you at their side the whole time, while others prefer to mingle on their own." When introducing a date to your co-workers, try to include information that inspire conversation. For example, say, "Sam, this is Paula. Paula is a geologist and loves foreign films. Paula, this is Sam. He and I were just talking about the latest Inarittu movie."

The host

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Be a perfect party guest (and put your host at ease), with these tips from Apartment Therapy: 1. RSVP! 2. Bring something you know she'll use, such as olive oil or a bottle of wine. 3. Chat with those you can tell don't know a lot of people at the party. 4. Be 15 minutes late (unless it's a dinner party). This window of time will give your host the opportunity for last-minute preparations out of view of guests.

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