As we seek to succeed in our careers, we take new jobs, join organizations, and, you know it—meet new people. They all sound equally exciting and daunting. Change can be good, but we don't want to make a fool of ourselves in front of potential contacts and ruin our chances of moving up altogether.
Keith Rollag is a leadership and organizational behavior professor and the author of What to Do When You're New, a guide to help people become more comfortable and confident in new situations. His essential tips, which he shared with Harvard Business Review, are: introduce yourself, remember people's names, and ask questions.
But those three are easier said than done, so Rollag expounds on them:
Don't miss the opportunity to introduce yourself. If you do, you'll possibly lose a potential contact or have to deal with awkward smiles and silences the next time you bump into each other at an event or in the office.
Make the other person feel respected. Ask what he does, and show genuine interest. This'll give you a good impression.
Listen. It's one thing to look like you're listening, and another to actually do it. Make sure you listen so you can converse well, too.
Repeat the name. When you ask people for their names, just waiting for them to say their names won't help you remember them. It could enter one ear and come out the other, or just be a short-term memory. Repeat the name so you, in a way, internalize it.
Test your recall during the chat. You can clarify if this person's name is what you think it is during a conversation. Doing so can make a person feel appreciated that you care or are polite enough to remember or want to remember his name. You can also do this before you part ways.
Be straightforward. For one, it makes you look collected when you ask one question (e.g., "Do you mind showing me how to work Excel?"), instead of saying so many unnecessary things about how you're having a hard time using a program.
Say thank you. It makes people feel good to have helped you, which makes them likely to help you again in the future without any negativity.