The good news: You got invited to several holiday parties.
The other news: Gulp—you’ll have to converse!
Some people, myself not included, have no problem rattling off witticisms and interesting factoids to enthralled listeners. But the rest of us spend our party time thinking of what we’ll say next if the talker ever pauses to take a breath. You’ve heard all the clichés: “An interesting person is interested; be a good listener.” How do you do that?
However cleverly they disguise it, most people want to talk about themselves. As the instigator of the chat, it’s up to you to get them to that state of being where they actually believe you want to hear about their kids’ academic brilliance, their new house, the killing they made on technology stocks. You do this with your:
Eye Contact and Physical Demeanor
First, ready your face. Smile. What might begin as a grimace will turn into a sincere smile once you make headway with your new-found social prowess.
Tackle the easy prey first: the loner standing there, looking bereft. It’s best to do this first step with someone of the same sex; the last thing you need is to be mistaken for a suitor. The easiest conversation starter is:
• “Hi, my name is ____, how do you know the hostess?” The object of your inquiry may
grimace smile and succinctly reply, I am the hostess. But remember: the point of this exercise is to make inviting you appear to have been a good decision. So to diffuse the situation you babble on about how silly it was of you to mistake the escargot for pizza rolls (which you corrected halfway through one), and, since she’s the hostess, perhaps she can introduce you to another loner.
• Repeat the first sentence in the paragraph above. If the grateful object of your inquiry appears to need some encouragement, cock your head to the side, keep smiling, and furrow your brow just a little, to show that you’re engaged. When a smile is not appropriate (for instance, her husband said he’d be fired if they both didn’t show up for this party), frown and go back to the grimace. Don’t stare. Let your eyes drift down—past her chest, but not behind her which would be interpreted as searching for your next chatee.
Remember, unless you’re discussing the theory of relativity or why there had to be volumes two and three (or one) of Fifty Shades of Gray, ten minutes is the max this exchange should last. After that, you’re in danger of getting into taboo topics (your “ex,” surgeries, the weather—don’t ever bring up the weather). So what can you talk about? THEM!
Further Admonitions Regarding Selection of Co-Communicators
If you’re an unattached female, don’t chat up a man whose significant other has obviously had lots of plastic surgery, even if she’s not nearby. She has radar. Your warmth will not dispel the chill that will emanate from the corner she’s chosen from which to survey the entire room for alien craft.
If you see a couple who brought their children and you didn’t, move on. They will be totally focused on the kids and the food table, which they have strategically placed themselves between. If they brought teenagers—the drink table.
Other people, seeing that you are outgoing and able to bond with strangers, will begin to approach you to tell you about their interesting lives. This will, in turn, make you a more interesting person because you will have broadened your experiences, albeit vicariously, and will be able to discuss many new topics. Why, after a recent holiday party, I am now conversant in how to make it through an IRS audit of charitable donations; how to not make a mortgage payment for three years on investments consisting of a hotel, an apartment building, and two residences and then get the bank to forgive all that debt and modify the loans based on one’s declared income (versus, well, you know…); and that fat is the new black. I garnered all this helpful information by just cocking my head, raising my eyebrows, and repeating, “Really?” How easy is that?
Ending the Conversation
At some point, your mind will be exploding with so much new information that you’ll just need to refresh your drink. To your partner you say, “Oh, I see your plate/glass/mind is empty, shall we reload?” or something to that effect. Which gives him/her the opportunity to seek another person with conversational skills to practice.
Will I You Still Love Me in the Morning?
It’s the day after the party. You’re remembering all the things you wish you hadn’t said/done, induced by that “truth serum.” Just don’t go there! Think about the goodwill you spread by being the most entertaining guest at the party!
Please share your holiday advice with the needy at www.ALittleBitOff.net!
Artwork credit: Some e-cards.com