If you are one of those confident people who can walk into a roomful of strangers and strike up a conversation without hesitation, awkwardness or a hint of self-consciousness, consider yourself lucky. Too many of us experience discomfort or anxiety and find ourselves in a corner fiddling with our phones. Or if we find a familiar face, we stick with that person, forfeiting the opportunity to make a new friend, contact or business opportunity.
Researcher and Babson College associate professor of management Keith Rollag has studied newcomer success for 20 years, interviewing people from all walks of life to understand what they do to fit comfortably into new social settings, groups and workplaces. What he concluded isn’t revelatory; you’ll recognize five basic steps: Introduce yourself, learn and remember names, ask questions, seek out and start new relationships, and perform new things in front of others.
In What to Do When You’re New, Rollag excels at explaining the self-imposed obstacles that prevent us from taking those steps. He has found that what we fear is failing to make a good impression, saying something stupid or asking a question that will make us look bad. As he points out, many of us waste time searching for information on Google instead of picking up a phone, asking the person next to us or raising our hand at a conference. “Reluctance to ask questions affects even the best and the brightest,” he writes. Rollag explains the genesis of these social fears and offers a variety of self-directed approaches to help readers overcome their awkwardness and expand their comfort zones.
by Keith Rollag, Ph.D.
September; AMACOM; $18