Be a Small Talk Survivor this Holiday Party Season!
By Debra Fine
Does the thought of attending one more open house, business event, or social gathering this holiday season make you want to throw yourself overboard? You are not alone. Many people become nervous or apprehensive when meeting new people and starting new conversations. It can be difficult to enter a room and be ambushed by new faces everywhere you turn. Meeting all these new faces and engaging in conversation can be exhausting. But it does not have to be this way.
Become a small talk survivor. Small talk survivors turn these situations into opportunities for success. These holiday events all have the potential to become great networking possibilities.
Whether you are at a business meet and greet or a neighbor’s holiday get together, you can use conversational skills as a tool with which to build new connections, while avoiding awkward pauses and uncomfortable conversations. After all, any relationship starts with small talk.
The first step in becoming a small talk survivor is realizing just how important conversational skills are. Mastering the art of small talk is not only essential in forming new relationships, but also in creating lasting impressions. With the right approach and preparation anyone can become a skilled conversationalist. Great small talkers are made, not born.
The next time you find yourself at a holiday function, try one of these top ten icebreakers:
- “How do you know the host/hostess”?
- “What are some of your family holiday traditions?”
- “Since we have last gotten together, what is new with your family/work?”
- “Tell me about your plans for this holiday season…”
- “What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? Why?”
- “Bring me up to date on what you have coming up/planned for the upcoming year?”
- “Describe your typical holiday festivities…”
- “What special gifts do you have planned to give this year?”
- “What was the best gift you ever received? Why?”
- “How does the holiday season impact your work/industry?”
Once you have broken the ice, follow these important tips to ensure your small talk success:
- Don’t rush through conversations. Take your time and be sure to remember names and use them frequently during conversations.
- Show an interest in every person you meet. By showing an interest you are creating a favorable impression of yourself.
- Be prepared. Before entering an event, take a couple minutes and think of at least three conversation points or topics. If you happen to encounter an uncomfortable silence, these conversation points will always come in handy.
- Always maintain eye contact. Eye contact is an easy way to make others feel comfortable, important, and special.
- Act confident through your body language, even if you are not. Nervous body language can make others uncomfortable and anxious. Try to be aware of your body language throughout conversations.
- Be a careful listener. By listening intently to what others are saying, you are not only making them feel important, but you can use information you gather to keep the conversation going.
- Make people feel special. People, even shy ones, like to talk about themselves, so let them.
- Don’t steal the show, and don’t let others steal the show either. Try to give everyone in an interaction the opportunity to speak and let their opinions be heard. If someone else is monopolizing a conversation, wait until a pause or that person takes a breath and then makes a comment that can steer the conversation in a new direction. Or include someone who has not been heard from or is new to the conversation by asking, “What is your opinion on this?” or “What are your views on this issue?”
- Be appropriate. In certain settings some topics may not be suitable. And be careful when asking about spouses or relationships, you may end up regretting it.
- Don’t interrogate a conversational partner. Questions like: “Where are you from?” “Are you married?” and “What do you do for a living?” can stop a conversation before it ever really starts.
- Be respectful of the opinions of others. Not everyone agrees on things, and friendly disagreements can be a gateway to a great conversation.
- Have exit lines prepared. You will probably want to mingle with several people around the room.
- This holiday season every new face is a new opportunity for conversational success. Don’t find yourself voted off the island, use the tips provided here to help guarantee you will be a small talk survivor!