Perhaps your hand automatically goes in your handbag or your pocket to grab your cell phone. Thank goodness for your little plastic friend! You immediately begin pressing buttons, checking email, checking the weather, checking FaceBook. Because when you are using your cell phone, you're not alone. But deep down you know it's true--you really are alone. That phone becomes a 2.5" x 4.5" wall between you and everyone in the room. Last Friday I was at a networking meeting where there were over one hundred business professionals, and saw a man sitting by himself at a table before the meeting started. I walked over to introduce myself to him, but as I grew closer, I noticed he was on his cell phone so I swiftly walked away.
Secondly, what about your facial expression? When we enter a room full of strangers, we tend to put on our "game face." That face that says we're a confident business professional, but also serious (almost frowning) because that's what our face does when we're ill-at-ease. What's missing is the warm smile that relays to others that you are approachable. You'd love to receive a smile from someone else, so why are you so reluctant to be the first one to give it?
A third social barrier is your physical space. Standing in a room full of strangers always feels awkward, so many people try to find a seat as soon as they can. By sitting, you've basically cut yourself off from all of the others who are mingling and moving around. The chances that someone else is going to approach you when you're sitting by yourself is a lot less likely than if you are standing. And when you remain standing, what is your body language communicating? Are your arms folded or hands clasped in front of you? You're probably not even aware you're doing it, but remember that people are drawn to those who have open body language rather than a guarded stance.
No matter how confident we are, it takes courage to walk into a room of strangers. The next time you do it, stand up tall, walk in with a smile, move around, and leave your cell phone in the car. It's scary, but I promise you'll have a much quicker and easier time connecting with others. And isn't that the reason you came in the first place?