From left: Steve Rubell, Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol, with Halston holding a hand to his face, at Studio 54’s first anniversary party, April 1978, photographed by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Raise your hand if any of the following applies: You detest small talk. You’d rather walk over hot coals than schmooze. Networking is a maddening chore. When it comes to social taxonomy, you belong to genus Wallflower not genus Social Butterfly.

If your arm is upright, congratulations, you are a minglephobe. And you are not alone. According to author Jeanne Martinet, 90 percent of the world suffers from the same get-me-out-of-this-room-of-strangers panic. Good news, introverts: she has the antidote — and, no, it does not involve loosening up with booze, or other stuff. In her bestseller, The Art of Mingling: Fun and Proven Techniques for Mastering Any Room (St. Martin’s Griffin), Martinet shares tips on how to navigate all sorts of social land mines. Some sample chapter titles: “Negotiating Tough Rooms,” “Dealing with Faux Pas,” “Ahoy Polloi: Mingling in Public Places,” and — for the Tinder adverse — IRL “Mingling for Love.”

As we continue with our special issue dedicated to all things cocktail, from dressing to music, we couldn’t not include a few lessons to up your cocktail-banter game. After all, the holiday party season is just around the corner…


Martinet has a handy mnemonic device when you’re at a loss for words, “when you’re standing there with nothing but a blank computer screen in your mind. . . . where 10 seconds of silence can seem like an hour.” Just remember this one word, which will be a cinch considering the topic at hand: M.I.N.G.L.E. Martinet breaks it down below, while noting that her examples are merely sample lines — “you can adapt the topics to your own sensibility,” she writes. “Or you may prefer to substitute some of your own topics — ones that are easily accessible to you.”

M stands for Meeting
“It’s so nice to meet new people.” “So lovely to meet so many of [name of host]’s friends!” “I feel as though we’ve met before. Have we?” “Where did you first meet the hostess?”

I stands for Internet
“Did you see that piece about the recent bitcoin scam that was trending on Twitter?” “I just heard that Amazon bought another start-up for a billion dollars!”

N stands for Nearby Places
“I haven’t been to this area for a while. I can’t believe how much it has changed/hasn’t changed.” “I envy [name of host] for living so close to [name of restaurant].”

G stands for Go
“Are you going away for the holidays?” “Are you going to the morning conference meeting [hospitality suite] tomorrow?” “I don’t often go to big parties held at bars, but this is really fun.”

L stands for Likes and Dislikes
“I really like this cheese.” “I love it when Janet has these parties.” “I hate being so late, what did I miss?”

E stands for Events
“Have you been following the Olympics?” “Have you been to see the Matisse show that’s at the museum now? I hear it’s fantastic.”


Starting the conversation is only one hurdle, though. Ending it can be a whole other version of hell. We’ve all been there. You’re trapped, mind wandering and eyes glazing from mundane chit-chat. Or worse yet, you’re engaged in a one-way “conversation” and all attempts to wrap things up — short of feigning a heart attack — prove futile. Martinet has recs for this, too, as she details in a section called “The Getaway: 12 Exit Maneuvers.” Here, a handful of those life savers.

The Buffet Bye-Bye & Other Handy Excuses
“Without question, this is the most commonly used escape technique, especially among men (there are, in fact, some extremely fascinating gender differences in mingling). What you do here is wait for any sort of lull in the conversation, then deliver any of the following excuses: ‘Excuse me, I’ve got to get some food.’ ‘I’m going to get something to drink.’ ‘Excuse me, I have got to locate my husband [wife/boyfriend/fiancé/roommate].’ ‘Pardon me, but I simply must sit down.’”

Celling Out
“When you are trying to meet and bond with new people, phones should basically stay in your pocket or your purse. Used in moderation, however, cell phones do provide an excellent ruse for extricating yourself from hard-to-leave fellow guests. . . . Your cell-phoniness can double as an exit from the party itself, should you find that you are desperate to leave before it is particularly polite to do so. If you do decide to leave the party, you can fabricate any number of believable, even intriguing stories about who contacted you and why you have to leave. Or you can just be cryptic: Wave your phone in the air dramatically and say, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll explain later, but I must leave right away,’ and dash out in a flurry.”

The Changing of the Guard
“As soon as a new person, or new energy, enters the circle, a readjustment of some kind, no matter how subtle, automatically occurs. It’s as though the new person has kicked up psychic dust, and while everyone is waiting for the dust to settle, people can slip away. . . . The drawback is obvious: To use the Changing of the Guard, you have to wait until someone new arrives. And it could be a very long wait.”

The Smooth Escape
“When you can pull this off, it makes you feel great — like a champion of minglers. It does, however, require a bit of fancy footwork. What the Smooth Escape has going for it is that it works in drastic situations and, when done well, it’s so subtle and natural that no one realizes they’ve just been handled. The three steps of the Smooth Escape are: 1.) Take control of the conversation. 2.) Change the subject. 3. Exit. . . . The Smooth Escape can be a bit tricky, but keep the following in mind: If you act as if the conversation has been brought to its natural close, and that you’ve had a lovely time talking to Showy Joey but the dance is over now, you behavior won’t come off as rude.”

The Human Sacrifice
“Most people are too ashamed to admit that they use this device to escape from undesirable mingling partners, but I see it done at almost every gathering I attend. . . . Look around you and locate someone you either know or have just met. Proximity is important; you are going to have to be able to reach out and shanghai this third person. . . . As soon as their eyes meet, leave immediately. You must fade out of the conversation within 30 seconds or this conversational change of partners will not work.”