The holidays are now officially upon us, and doubtless you will be attending at least one party where you need to make "small-talk" with people you don't know, or don't know well. We've all had those moments when you're at a work party or a neighborhood gathering, and you are all of sudden facing the task of starting a conversation. Fear of party chitchat can wreck your enjoyment of the party (it IS a party, after all!), and lead to future avoidance of social situations that can benefit you socially, and career-wise. I have a few simple tricks that can help make these holiday gatherings easier:
1. When talking to others, don't think of yourself. Focus on the other person. Think of yourself as Merv Griffin (now I'm really aging myself!). Merv was a true conversational connoisseur. He made others open up to him and feel at ease because he was genuinely interested in them. This is very flattering to most people when another person shows an true interest in what they have to say.
2. Find commonalities. You can find something you have in common with almost anyone. It's true. And when in doubt, discuss the weather, the local highway construction, how they know the host of the party, when did they move to the area, ..... Stay away from obvious topics of possible contention. Example - politics!
3. If the other person seems uneasy - don't take it personally. It almost always has nothing to do with you. Maybe they are shy. Maybe they are uneasy starting a conversation. Perceive of yourself as someone who is helping them feel more at ease.
4. Smile. Smile. And smile. People automatically react more positively to individuals who smile.
5. Be helpful. Offer to get the other person another glass of wine when you get yours. Tell them what hors d'oeuvres are especially good.
6. Talk about yourself, but not too much. Be open, yet be aware of the other person and keep tip #1 in mind.
7. Remember, starting conversations is like riding a bicycle - the more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes!
8. ENJOY YOURSELF! Life is for living and for joy. Don't waste your precious time with unnecessary worries!