Don’ts for Holiday Mingling
By Debra Fine
If you’re dreading
the holiday office party or attending one more open
house and small talk doesn’t come naturally
to you, consider creating your own “Do’s
and Don’ts” cheat sheet. Save it in
your blazer pocket or handbag. The cheat sheet includes:
Wait to be properly introduced. Are you waiting
for your grandmother from St. Louis to arrive and
make the “proper” introductions?
Take the risk introduce yourself and be the first
to say “Hello!” Act as if you’re
the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational
partner or partners.
Be uncertain and wait for the other person to extend
Smile first and always shake hands when you meet
anyone unless they are prohibited by religion or
Rush through introductions
Take your time! Make an extra effort to remember
names, and use the names frequently in the conversation.
Look around the room to see what is being served
at the buffet table or who has just walked through
Maintain eye contact. People don’t feel listened
to if you're not looking at them.
Talk about yourself, your work, your kids or your
upcoming vacation in the Alps for more than a few
Show a genuine interest in others. Get somebody
to talk about why they’re attending the event
or what their connection to the host is and you’re
on your way to engaging them in conversation. Remember:
People want to be with people who make them feel
special, not people who are special. Help people
you talk to feel as if they’re the only person
in the room.
Get easily distracted by party noise and activities.
Listen carefully for information that can keep the
conversation going. Give verbal cues that you are
following along: “That sounds interesting…”
or “What happened next?”
Give one word answers and fall into a conversation
Play the conversation “game.” When someone
asks, “How’s are you?” or “What’s
going on?” answer with more than: “Pretty
good.” and “Not much.”
Tell more about yourself so that others can learn
more about you: “We just implanted flex time
at our facility so it has been a huge adjustment.”
Or “My son is joining me for winter break
from his first year at college.”
Put your foot in your mouth.
Be careful with acquaintances. You wouldn't want
to open a conversation with: “How’s
your job at (fill in the blank)?” What if
that person just got fired or laid off? Be careful
when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s
spouse or special friend: you could regret it.
Become an FBI agent. Questions like: “What
do you do?” “Are you married?”
“Do you have children?” and “Where
are you from?” lead to dead end conversations.
Use open-ended questions such as: “Tell me
about your holiday plans.”
or “What got you interested in architecture?”
Exhibit negative body language
Pay heed to your body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease
people make others uncomfortable. Act confident
and comfortable, even when you’re not. Appear
approachable by standing up straight and smiling.
Enter an open house, party or get together unprepared.
Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event
preparing to talk easily about three topics. Remind
yourself what you already know about the people
you expect to interact with. This will come in handy
when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward
moment...or seated at a table of eight where people
are playing with their food.
Melt away from conversation.
Show appreciation and exit gracefully. Make a positive
impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as
Every conversation is an opportunity for success.
If you keep take the risk to meet and show an interest
in new people you will gain new relationships, enjoy
lively conversations, and just possibly come away
with some new business.
(Debra Fine lives in Denver and works nationwide
as a speaker and trainer. She is the author of The
Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion). For additional
tips and information visit her web site at www.DebraFine.com