When you are out socializing in your community, you need to be at your best. Whether you are volunteering for your favorite nonprofit or a guest at a gala dinner, these are the social fumbles to avoid. Plus conversational pointers you can use to begin creating lasting relationships!

Everyone you meet has the potential to become your best client or to refer you to your next big client. Sometimes both. When I was an advisor, I made a connection through my college alumni association that grew from an initial account with my fellow alum to accounts for his parents and eventually neighbors. Regardless of where the initial social relationship might lead, it needs to start with you coming across as likeable.

Passion is important

When you walk into a crowded room it’s human nature to make judgments about what you see. A high-net-worth (HNW) individual is rarely seen dancing on a table wearing a lampshade as a hat. Very often, they are quietly on the sidelines, especially if they are older. Bear in mind anyone can be the most interesting person in the room once you get them talking about what’s most important to them. In other words, their passion.

Turnoffs: Why are people avoiding me?

Developing social relationships is like fly fishing. It requires patience. Sure, you can catch fish by throwing dynamite in the water, but it doesn’t endear you to the other people who are also on the river. The following are the behaviors you must avoid because they will stop relationships before they even get started.

Moving in too quickly. People can tell then they are being hustled. If you try too hard, people assume you have an ulterior motive. In dating, you might have met someone who comes on too strong. How did you like them?

Failing to make eye contact. Who knows when the first book on body language was written? But in it, there was probably a line saying that if you do not look someone in the eyes, you come across as shifty. Too much of a good thing is bad, too. If you lock eyes with someone, seemingly challenging them to see who blinks first, you can come across as…unbalanced. You need to look them in the eyes and glance away as well, being relaxed. If this seems difficult, try looking at their nose. That’s close.

Cozying up to people you just met. This can come up in a few ways. Physical contact is a good example. People are aware of maintaining their personal space; in the U.S., 18 inches is the minimum. Get any closer and people think: “She is getting into my face.”

Also, don’t touch people in the U.S. Putting your hand on their shoulder or hugging someone you just met usually puts them on guard.

Cozying up to someone can also mean claiming the same beliefs as them when very little information has been shared. You come across as a phony, or at least as a person without any opinions of their own. Neither one is appealing.

Displaying a hurried or distracted manner. Have you ever talked with someone who keeps looking over your shoulder as if waiting for someone? You get the feeling they are killing time talking with you until the main event happens. It’s disrespectful and people can tell when you are trying to get away from them for “something better.”


Addressing needs prematurely. You might make the assumption that people at certain stages of life have certain needs. You could be right, but people don’t want to be treated as a “type.” A bank president I interviewed wondered why people thought they could “address his needs” shortly after meeting him when they really knew nothing about him. This feels presumptuous and gives the impression you are just interested in making a sale.

Being self-involved. You have met people who always redirect the conversation toward themselves. They want to be the star! They think they are the smartest person in the room. These people come across as arrogant. They are easy to dislike.

Exhibiting bad personal habits. Have you ever had a houseguest who drank too much at a party and fell asleep on your sofa? They went home the next day. Although you never mentioned it to them, you remembered this event forever. Your other guests did, too. They talked about it among themselves. If you do something that isn’t done in polite society, it becomes one of your defining characteristics when your name comes up in conversation.

Displaying poor table manners. This is not about knowing which fork to use, although that is good to know. (Hint: Always start on the outside, working in towards the dinner plate.) It’s about basics: piling your plate high at the buffet, starting to eat at a dinner party before everyone else has been served, or talking with your mouth full. These kind of gaffes in considerate behavior deliver one message loud and clear: “You are not one of us.”

You want to be likeable. That’s how you make friends. It’s easy to know what to do and which mistakes to avoid. Be gracious. Be thoughtful. Be sincere and considerate. Be a good listener.

Establishing common ground

Assuming you are not alienating people by displaying the bad habits discussed above, then developing a connection with a stranger involves three phases: Meeting them, identifying shared interests and establishing the rationale for keeping in touch. How do you establish common ground in conversation?

Establish your value. How will they benefit from knowing you? Years ago, a local property developer who was excellent at social prospecting explained: “Everyone needs help with something.” Even if they are fabulously rich and a collector, they need someone to talk about their collection, someone who understands the terminology. As a wine fan, I take this in another direction. I know how to find stuff, often at a very reasonable price. Going wine shopping together means they will probably get some bargains. HNW individuals are rich, but most love getting a good deal. They won’t announce it publicly, but they enjoy finding them privately.


Allow time to balance the relationship. Wealthy people love to be cultivated. They get taken out to lunch or dinner. They get invitations to exclusive events. People make them feel important. You might feel you are doing the giving and someone is doing the taking, but this should eventually even out as they get comfortable with you. Generally speaking, if you go out to dinner with them, they split the bill. There are exceptions.


Find friends in common. Your chances of being accepted increase when you know some of the same people. They reach out to them, quiz them about you and make the decision if they will proceed further. Wealthy people continue to make new friends. Naming a few people you both know sounds like name-dropping (which it is) but if done when the moment is right, it delivers the message you travel in the same circles.


Commit to a cause. Very often, you are building new relationships by meeting people through nonprofit events. Some people are involved to see and be seen. They are seeking to raise their public profile, too. Others are attending because the cause is very important to them. Wealthy older people often fit into this category. If you genuinely share the same passion, this can accelerate the development of a friendship.

If you are out and about in your community and pursuing your genuine interests, you will have opportunities to meet your next great client. Be sincere and friendly. You don’t have to force it. When the right prospect crosses your path, you will be doing everything right, as you always do. It will happen.

Written By Bryce Sanders 2023 – president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.