Holiday parties mean that it’s time to make small talk and catch up with people that you don’t see very often. If you are like most people, these conversations can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable. Having a few topics that you enjoy talking about in your holiday party communication toolbox can be really helpful. Here are a few tips to remember as you step outside your comfort zone.
When adding topics to the list, it is always best to avoid topics that can get heated and lead to debate such as politics, religion, gossip, or anything depressing in nature.
Show genuine interest.
Show the other person that you are paying attention by nodding your head, responding appropriately, and asking related questions. It is important not to let them see that you are scanning the room for people you know, watching the food line, or planning your escape to move to the next mingling group.
Be aware of your body language.
To show someone that you are right there with them in the conversation you should face them, make eye contact, and/or lean forward a bit. Pay attention to your facial expressions and the position of your body. Having a blank expression and having your hips and toes pointed away from the person send the message that you are not interested and plan on moving away at the soonest opportunity.
Do your homework.
Plan on talking about a great movie you saw, a good book, plans for the holidays or your favorite vacation spots. These are topics that will make talking with people that you do not usually talk to on a daily basis much easier.
Many of us are way too busy talking about ourselves or thinking about what we will say next. How many times have you been in a conversation and realized you just asked a question that someone else asked only a few minutes earlier? A good rule is to listen 60 percent of the time and ask questions the other 40 percent of the time.
Asking questions shows the other person that you are interested. Although many people can go on and on with good stories or witty statements to amuse an audience, this does not help the discovery phase of conversation. Bonds are formed during this stage of conversation. If you know that the person has children, ask “how old are your children?”, “Do they play any sports?”, ”What do they want for Christmas this year?”
Team up with your guest.
If you take a date or friend with you, stay with them. While you should not stick to your guest like glue, you do not want to let them wonder around aimlessly not knowing anyone and feeling very uncomfortable. If your guest is a sports fan and you are not, they can help break the ice with a fellow sports fan. Remember to always introduce your guest and include them into the conversation.
Practice the art of excusing yourself.
Some people get caught up on a certain topic and are blissfully unaware of others’ discomfort. If you have been trapped in a conversation for too long you can gracefully exit by making a brief summarizing statement followed by your exit statement, for example, “sounds like you really struggled through that stomach illness, glad you are feeling better. If you’ll excuse me I think I need to freshen up my drink”.
Do talk about the holidays.
This can lead to many different discussions from holiday travel, gift buying, decorating, holiday activities, and holiday traditions. It is an appropriate conversation for the season.
Don’t talk about work.
Although work is the one thing you have in common at events such as office holiday parties, it is not the time to schedule a meeting or finalize project plans. It is okay to briefly mention work news and developments, but not okay to complain unpleasant things about work.
Say Thank you.
Before leaving the party be sure to thank your host. Remember to thank you guest for attending. It is a lot of planning and work to throw a holiday party, let everyone know that you appreciate their efforts.
Being able to communicate at holiday parties will give you the people skills that you need to successfully survive the event. The communication skills developed at these events are skills that you can use all year long in your career, social circles, and family events.