Holidays are busy times with social calendars filled to the edges. While some people can effortlessly engage in the endless amounts of small talk required of party-goers, others would rather walk the hot desert barefoot than have one more conversation with a stranger about the weather. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, these tips will help you enjoy chatting at the next office party or neighborhood potluck.
Start by doing some homework. For the office party make a quick mental list of what has been going in the lives of co-workers. Has someone traveled lately or recently had a child or a grandchild? Being prepared with some thoughtful questions is always a great way to start a conversation. If this is the first big company function you will be attending, ask someone what the normal protocol is for holiday parties.
If you will be attending a party in someone’s home, do a little research for a nice host gift. Maybe they have a favorite wine or a favorite bakery. It’s always nice to come bearing gifts, but to present the host with something they know you put thought into is always truly appreciated. Also, thoughtful doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.
Remembering people’s names can be one of the biggest challenges of any party-goer. Dr. Gary Small, author of The Memory Bible, suggests a technique he calls “Look, Snap and Connect.” First, make an effort to listen to the name as you hear it for the first time, seeing the name in your mind as you it is said. Next, make a mental snapshot of a defining feature on the person’s face, like blue eyes or curly red hair. Finally, make a connection between the name and the mental snapshot. For example, as you are introduced to Sally, picture the name in your mind along with Sally’s freckles to connect the name to a memorable feature.
Another helpful way to lock the name into your memory is by using someone’s name within the first few minutes of being introduced. After meeting Dave, make an effort to say something like, “How long have you been with the company, Dave?” Saying the name in conversation helps cement it into your immediate memory.
Keep conversations going by checking the latest headlines before the party. However, leave the gossip, politics and religion for conversations with your close friends and family. It may make for some lively conversation, but particularly for work related events save the politics for the pundits.
Another way to keep the party talk flowing is to be a good listener. Rather than thinking about what you are going to say next, really listen to what other people are saying. Remember, the party is not about you, but rather a time to enjoy the company of other people. Knowing you are not required to be the smartest or the funniest person in the room takes a little of the pressure off. If you are at ease the conversation will flow better and the people around you will relax, too.