#1. Have a get-out plan
The best bosses are efficient. Trapped listening to conversations about spreadsheets? Try 'mis-mirroring'. "If you're stuck with someone, step back and cross your arms," says psychologist Alan Redman. "It sends clear signals you're not interested." Done? Now make sure you're not sat next to them at the next office dinner.
#2. Get physical-ish
No, this isn't an HR issue waiting to happen; we're talking handshakes, not frisking. "Stimulating the skin's pressure receptors lowers stress hormones," says Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. "Plus, warm touch stimulates the 'cuddle hormone' oxytocin, which in turn enhances trust and attachment." A winning formula for making contacts.
#3. The Rule of Three
When standing in a group, adopt an 'open- two' or 'open-three' stance. "From above, an 'open two' looks like a 'V' shape and an 'open three' looks like a 'U'," explains Dr Ivan Misner, Founder of BNI, the world's largest business networking organisation. "That way, there's always an open spot for someone else to join the group." And the more people you speak to, the higher your chance of meeting the right person.
#4. Répétez, s'il vous plait...
A powerful technique to deepen your connection with new people is to repeat or summarise part of what they've said back to them. "People come away feeling understood," says Alan. It's also a great way to keep the conversation flowing, and filling those painful silences. Just don't fall into the trap of mimicking the other person's accent.
#5. Grin and bear it
This is one you can (and probably should) practice in the mirror at home first: the 'slow- onset smile'—one that unfolds slowly across your face. It sounds a bit creepy, but it actually has a positive effect on the people you meet. "People with slow-onset smiles are seen as more attractive and trustworthy, and less dominant," says social psychologist Dr Eva Krumhuber. Think Rachel McAdams in The Notebook, not the Joker in Batman.
#6. Get in gear
Joggers and Converse may be more forgiving than your tailored cigarette pants and heels, but research from the Northwestern University suggests that what you wear not only determines how you feel but also how you behave—it's called 'enclothed cognition'. So step away from the sportswear, luxe or otherwise; in work mode, it's all about looking, feeling, and getting the part. Comfort can wait.
#7. Shiny, happy people
Show the person you're speaking to a good time. "Inspire them or make them laugh," suggests business psychologist Dr Rob Yeung. Failing that, get them a chocolate canapé— dark chocolate contains a compound that releases the same endorphins triggered by sex, and increases the feelings of attraction between people. And happy people mean better connections.