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Ease into the situation by relying on tried-and-true ice-breaking methods that date back centuries: Walk up to someone, thrust out your hand, smile and say, "Hello, I'm _____ , how are you?" Etiquette was not designed as torture; it's a ritual that helps you and everyone else survive these awful, awkward, terrifying social encounters.
A few conversation sparkers will help you cruise the room; but understand that enthusiasm for life is the magnetic force that attracts others, not your résumé, your expensive new possessions or your encyclopedic knowledge about an obscure topic. No one is impressed by a been-there, done-that, know-it-all, hate-it-all or have-it-all. Just know a few things about a few things and keep them at the ready in your pocket.
Share intriguing observations as a start: "I just went to a baseball game last week, and I'm wondering why the viewing area is called the stands when you actually sit in them." Even better, issue a question: "I'm taking a straw poll. Was learning cursive in school really necessary?"
Last, always remember you're not the only mingle-phobe in the room. At your next get-together, make yourself useful by swooping in and giving aid and comfort to the other guests who are having blatantly rocky starts.
Know how to play