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Around The Valley

Power Schmoozing Puts Politeness in Past on Road to Success

September 30, 1993|SAM ENRIQUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three hours and $41 later, another sacred institution is trashed.

Make room in the cramped dustbin of history--there's a tiny pocket there between communism and public schools--for the latest abandoned ideal:

Good manners.

Forget what your mother told you about eavesdropping, bragging, interrupting, asking personal questions or even (gasp), the Golden Rule.

The new rule is: break the rules. The polite have nothing to lose but their chains.

This is Terri Mandell revealing to a half-dozen or so neophytes the secrets of still another new self-help philosophy. Getting love or money--what else is there? she asks--isn't all about good looks or brains.

It's about Power Schmoozing.

What's that? Think Power Lunching without the food.

Schmoozing is Yiddish for idle chatter, but Power Schmoozing is chatting with a purpose, she says. "Every person you meet is important, every event you attend is an investment, every connection you make is crucial," reveals her brochure.

Power Schmoozing sounds an awful lot like ingratiating, which according to Webster, is to "bring oneself into another's favor or good graces by conscious effort."

Mandell's students met in Van Nuys on a recent weeknight for what was advertised as "The Nationally-Acclaimed Seminar for Executives & Salespeople That Introduces a Radical New Approach to Making and Keeping Valuable Business and Social Contacts."

Success does not come to those who sit politely in a corner. Push your way into that circle of people and start talking, Mandell says.

Don't know what to say? Tell people your name and what you want. Comment on the food, anything immediate.

Keeping to yourself, not offending people, that's the domain of Power Schmoozing's anti-Christ, Miss Manners, according to Mandell. The rules that have governed polite society since about, oh, the Renaissance, make you a Social Cripple, she says.

All participants must give their names and tell what they want. Mandell is right. Everyone wants either a promotion, more business or a hot date.

"I'm interested in breaking away from my company and starting my own business," said a 40-year-old Encino man, who asked that his name not be used for fear of offending his boss.

A clinical social worker wants to find new clients and "nice men to have dinner with."

Marlene Clements of Burbank was direct: "I work for the city and I want a promotion."

Like most who are successful in this field, Mandell is mesmerizing. For a minute, it sounds easy.

But soon she sounds like the pretty and popular head cheerleader giving an orientation talk for college freshmen. We are the freshmen, asking the one question on everybody's mind: How do we become popular?

Take risks, tell the truth, talk to someone for no more than five minutes and move on to the next person. Work the room and be irreverent, she advises.

Sure, easy for you, Terri. Fear of rejection--number one on the list of party demons--makes our opening lines sound like, "Hi, I'm Ted Bundy and I'm trying to meet new friends with slender necks."

Be brave, Mandell repeats. Making human contact is the first step in making new business, making new friends, or finding a lover. "So, what's your story," is a line that always works for her, Mandell says.

"I'm unemployed, what can you do for me?" is also recommended, although it sounds like someone on the tenure track to a spot beside a freeway ramp with a hand-lettered sign.

She instructs her disciples to begin speaking up in elevators, that sacred place of silence.

"Have a one-minute conversation with a total stranger," Mandell said. "It's risk-free. You'll never see that person again."

Chatting up the guy next to you in line at a supermarket is the perfect rehearsal for introducing yourself to the gorgeous blonde or the handsome man in the Armani suit who you really want to meet.

Remember, "When someone is out in public, they're giving an implied consent to be approached," Mandell advises.

(Write to Terri, not me, if someone interprets your approach as implied consent to punch your lights out and scream for a cop.)

Women, learn golf. Lonely? Volunteer for nonprofit groups. Start throwing parties. For singles, she suggests "the Human Swap Meet" party.

Mandell tells about the great parties she throws, the fabulous people she's met, her handsome and successful husband, bouncy 3-year-old and the tony Studio City neighborhood where she lives.

She landed her husband with a Power Schmooze move. She met him at a party, talked for the requisite five minutes, exchanged cards and moved on.

But she could not forget him so she called him the next day. "I told him, 'I liked talking to you. You want to get together or not?' "

Seminars have become big business. But often, the change of lifestyle they promise fades after class like the afterglow of junior high school summer camp.

Mandell, a public relations specialist by profession, seems to have really started something. Her seminars are conducted at "corporations & educational institutions throughout the U.S.," according to her brochure. She also sells a book on Power Schmoozing for $10, passes out flyers for an upcoming book-signing and passes around a sign-up sheet for her mailing list.

Don't try Power Schmoozing her, though.

"When people ask me how to write a book or do seminars, I don't talk to them," Mandell said. "I don't have time."

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