With the holidays upon us, we find our calendar filled with work parties, family activities, seasonal festivities, and a whole list of other holiday events that have some of us weak at the knees just thinking about.
You’ll no doubt have ample opportunity to flex your small talk skills over the next several weeks, and while that might sound appealing to some, it brings on a cascade of nerves for others.
So how do you make holiday small talk? What are some pointers for getting through your next social event with smooth sailing? We’ve rounded up a few of the best tips and are sharing them here!
Bring a gift. There’s never a better conversation starter than a bottle of excellent pinot noir, especially if there’s a story behind it that you can use as an icebreaker. Arriving with a seasonal bouquet will warm your host’s heart and make conversation flow smoother. Or a platter of homemade cookies will, if nothing else, preoccupy mouths for a few minutes!
Lend a hand. If you’re not so great at coming up with something to talk about, offer your services. Instead of just standing around, you can make yourself busy, and busy hands usually mean a less anxious mind. You won’t feel quite as awkward waiting pointlessly by the hors d’oeuvres line, but will instead feel involved and helpful without having to say much at all. And your host will thank you!
Position yourself strategically. If you’re not big on talking, standing right in the entrance is the not the place for you. But you also don’t want to be the one person secluded in front of the TV, either. No one will ever come say “hi.” Make it a point to find a comfortable area that encourages conversation without forcing you to be the center of attention.
Use names. When meeting someone, repeat his or her name in conversation multiple times in order to commit it to memory. For instance, after asking someone what they do for a living or where they live, naturally interject their name. By doing so, you’ll be able to more easily pick up conversation again with them later on.
Initiate. Don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation yourself. Always add a tidbit of information that will spark further conversation. For instance, at a work party, you can introduce yourself by saying, “Hi, I’m Becky, and I work in the marketing department.” Or at a mutual friend’s party, you can begin with, “I’m Jim and I’ve known Steve since we were kids.” This gives the other person something to grab onto and continue the conversation.
Avoid landmines. Do not, and we repeat, do NOT open up conversations about politics, religion, or parenting opinions. These are just ticking time bombs waiting to go off. Instead, find neutral things to comment on, like a recent local sporting event or how great the food looks. Stay safe and play it cool.
Always remember to close the conversation. If you get pulled away from the conversation, always remember to close it up with a “Well, it was great meeting you,” or “I’ve got to check on the kids, but I’d love to hear more about your fascinating work!” This lets the other person know that you’re not running for the hills, thanking fate for a reason to leave the conversation.
In the end, holiday small talk is really just about being nice and friendly. And while that sounds easy, it comes more naturally for some than others. If all else fails, remember to keep a comfortable smile on your face, don’t hide yourself away, and make eye contact with other attendees and you’ll do just fine!
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