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Mix well for best results

How to break the ice when you're party-hopping solo

Going to a party where the only soul you know is the host could turn anyone into a social phobic. Here's how to make the most of a room full of strangers:

Do your homework. Before the event, ask your host about the occupations and interests of the other guests. Your new acquaintances will be delighted that you're primed for a talk.

Case the joint. When you arrive, pick out someone who's standing alone or looks friendly, and introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm Fred, and I haven't met a soul here. How do you know Kevin?"

Fade in. Sidle up to a group (but never two people talking intently), and listen for a couple of minutes, smiling at anyone who notices you. Then join the conversation when there's a lull or at an appropriate moment.

Offer a compliment. This works like a charm, as long as the compliment is honest, specific and starts with a form of the work you. Instead of commenting, "I like that tie," say, "Your tie is beautiful."

Give yourself a break. "You don't have to measure every word you say," says Jonathan Berent, author of Beyond Shyness. "People come to parties wanting to talk and interact with one another, not to critique your performance."

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