Note: This will be the last post for 2014 – enjoy it, enjoy your holidays, and I’ll see you again in January!
Welcome to the most stressful small-talk time of the year! If you are among those who are biting their nails down to the quick with worry over how you are going to survive this year’s enforced get-togethers, fear not. I’ve created this quick guide to surviving holiday party small talk, whether you are trapped at a mandatory office party or white-knuckling it through a family feast.
1) Be a social butterfly
With the exception of very small parties (six people or fewer), you won’t be able to talk to everyone for a very long time. Use this to your advantage! While flitting from conversation to conversation may sound exhausting, it gives you the unparalleled opportunity to say as little as possible to as many people as possible. You’ll come across as friendly and welcoming without needing to say anything of substance.
2) Avoid controversial topics unless you are 100% positive that the other person agrees with you
This is a golden rule of peaceable conversations. Don’t get into an argument about religion with your cousin. Don’t get into a debate about opposing political views with your co-worker. Don’t get into the merits vs. faults of the Keystone oil pipeline with your brother-in-law. If you don’t know that the other person shares the same opinion as you, just don’t bring it up. Holiday parties are not the time to demonstrate your well-thought out views and opinions. The level of controversy in any conversations should not exceed that of what makes for a good interior paint colour or whether or not Malbec lives up to its hype.
Speaking of wine…
3) Moderate your booze intake
One drink takes away the edge. Four drinks take away the filters. Don’t take away your filters – they will do you more good than the buzz you’ll get from whatever mediocre wine is being served. I cut myself off after one glass.
4) Don’t gossip about anyone at the party
This is perhaps the most difficult rule to follow, but it returns dividends. Gossiping about people present at the same holiday festivity means you need to be constantly watching to see if they are coming near. It also leads to the sudden adoption of phony politeness when the gossipee finally does show up. Don’t kid yourself – people know when you’ve been talking about them, and nothing breeds awkwardness and hostility faster than an obvious and rapid shift in a conversation.
5) Embrace blandness
This is related to rule #2. Make blandness your friend. The goal here is to survive the party, not to be the most interesting person there. Being the most interesting person usually comes with a side-dish of regret and fighting. Instead, make blandness your ally. Do a bit of pre-planning and come up with a raft of the dullest, most canned conversations on which you may safely float. Talk about the weather. Talk about the health benefits of walking. Muse over gas prices, local craft markets, or whether pineapple or strawberries are the superior fruit on the party platter. Be polite, sip your diluted cocktail, and smile smugly with the knowledge that people will quickly drift off to more interesting conversations, leaving you to count down the minutes to your escape in relative peace.
Follow these five simple rules, and you’ll be able to coast through nearly any holiday gathering unscathed and with your reputation and sanity intact. They’ll make the fun, raucous conversations you will have later with your closest friends that much more enjoyable!
What are your holiday party survival tips? Share them in the comments below!
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