By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
Whether you have ten parties on your calendar or just one or two, Christmas is in full swing, and now’s the time you’re meeting and mingling with new people: friends of family members, friends of friends at social gatherings, and people important to your career success and the company, product, or organization you represent at work-related soirees.
Last week our blog post focused on 5 Things NOT to say at a Christmas Party, or Any Party.
Now that we know how to avoid stepping out on the wrong foot, let’s find out the best way to start conversations that leave others with a great opinion of you, keep the door open for future conversations, and help you exchange any conversation self-doubt (which is oh so common) for self-confidence in your ability to be at ease while imparting the gift of putting those you’re talking with at ease, too.
Me Too! Moments
And feeling at ease is the one BEST way to connect with others — feeling as if the other person has things in common with you despite any differences in age, gender, race, social-economic status, or anything else.
When you’re having a conversation with someone and the two of you find yourselves saying “Me too!”, you know you’re hitting home runs straight to that person’s heart.
The ability to do that (which is easily learned) will win you more friends and admirers than just about anything else you do.
“You watch that TV show every week?”
Or “You have two boys?”
Or “You moved to Wichita earlier this year?”
Want to make a positive, lasting impression, enjoy a great conversation, and make new friends? Search out as many “Me too!” moments as you can, and you’re sure to succeed!
The 5 Manners of Christmas Party Conversations
Here are five great ways to start conversations that will help you find your way to “Me too!” moments!
1. How do you know the host(s)? I know, I know, almost everyone knows this one, but I had to include it. And I listed it first because it’s just naturally the best way to get the conversation started.
Why? Because it’s the one thing that you already know you have in common: you both know the host(s). It’s a “Me too!” moment wrapped up with a bow and placed in your hands.
It also opens the door to 100 other conversation topics. If they went to high school or college together, you can ask about school. If they attend the same church, you can find out about church. If they work at the same company, you can inquire about work. If their daughters take dance class together, you can ask to hear all about dance class and their daughters. See! Easy peasy. I love this one!
2. Where are you from originally? People are almost always happy to talk about their hometown. Don’t mention that they sound like they have an accent — Southern, Boston, Minnesota, British — because it draws attention to a difference the two of you have. Differences are fine in already-developed friendships, but not in first meetings. Remember, we’re looking for things in common. Now, you can talk about anyone you know that’s also from the same place or nearby. “My sister-in-law is also from a suburb of Chicago!” or “You’re from a small town? Me too!”
CAUTION: Some people ask instead, “What brought you to our city?” The downside of this question is that sometimes the answer isn’t a pleasant one. They could have moved due to divorce, a death in the family, to take care of a seriously ill relative, a job loss, or such. If they’ve moved to your current town for a reason they want to share, nine times out of ten they’ll bring it up in conversation: “…then we moved to Atlanta in 2011 when Devon took her current job at the home office of Coca-Cola.”
3. What’s your favorite _________________? Fill in the blank with something to do with popular culture or something equally easy. You don’t want someone to feel embarrassed if they don’t have a ready answer. So instead of “Who’s your favorite Time Magazine person of the year of the last decade?”, make it more along the lines of “What’s your favorite TV show of all time?”
Friday evening, Kent and I had the great pleasure of attending an open house at the home of Janie Upchurch, a dear, dear lady (and a wonderful cook and hostess) who is also, as Heaven would have it, a reader of this blog and is part of our Facebook Manners Mentor family page. That’s how we met. We were strangers until we discovered that our homes are just a few miles apart. Now I have the honor of calling this precious lady a friend and mentor.
She has the nicest friends, one of whom gave us a “Me too!” moment of movies. As we sat around the large dining table in the family room of Janie and Eddie (her equally gracious husband), their friend asked, “What movies would make up your perfect movie library?” As we went around the table, there were a lot of “Me too!” moments, and we all also found out about some movies we’d never heard of and now have added to our watch lists.
On a side note: Men and women sure put different movies in their imaginary libraries. Quite a few of the movies mentioned were Jane Austin books made into movies, like Sense and Sensibility, and just as many Bourne Identity movies. Any guesses as to which gender picked the Jane Austin movies and which gender picked the Jason Bourne action flicks?!
4. Do you have any special holiday traditions? This is better than asking about their holiday plans, because while one person might be flying off to Barbados the day after Christmas for a week-long vacation, the other person might be right back to work the next day. However, almost everyone has something they do each holiday season. It might be baking cookies, reading stories each night by the Christmas tree, driving through local neighborhoods to enjoy the Christmas lights, building a gingerbread house, hosting a New Year’s Eve get-together, or volunteering to help those less fortunate. It’s in talking about our traditions that you’re more likely to touch on a “Me too” moment.
5. What’s your best Christmas memory ever? Asking the question like this allows people to include something that may have happened just last year. And this way, even if they had a difficult childhood, or their twenties were spent in poverty, or they’ve suffered loss at Christmas, or anything else, they can focus on at least one Christmas that stands out as a good memory.
Maybe it was giving to someone in need. Maybe it was a gift given by a grandparent. Maybe it was something they did as a family when they were young before their parents divorced. And when you get people to recall good memories, they transfer that good feeling onto their impression of you!
Words shape lives. Through them we make ourselves known to others. The words we choose to say shape (over time) our hearts, minds, values, and character. When we use the Gold Standard we talked about in last week’s post as our everyday standard, we’ll find ourselves changing — not into something different than we are, but into who we were always meant to be. You’ll become you at your best! And as you do, all those who come into contact with you will be better for it, too.
In the comments, share a question you like to ask to get conversations started with people you’re meeting for the first time.
PS: You all always blow me away! Thank you for being YOU! Again last week, our blog post went etiquette viral! We had over 350 Facebook shares, people were Tweeting and Retweeting it, Pinning it, and the popular Lukus and Tracy Show on B98 FM in Wichita (Hello, Wichita!) came across it, talked about it on air, and placed two of my most recent posts on their popular Morning Show page! An interview I gave about Christmas tipping that goes along with this post has shown up in newspapers across the nation. I found this one in the Idaho Mountain Express and Guide (Hello, Idaho!), and I was told that it’s in at least 50-plus other newspapers.
PPS: And, guess what????
Sales of my book Manners That Matter for Moms increased six-fold last week!!!!
Thank you to everyone who ordered a copy of the book from their favorite on-line bookseller either in paperback or for your e-reader. While the title of the book might be misleading (in retrospect, I wish it had a different title and cover to better convey the book’s message!), it’s really 100-plus tips for raising already great kids to become inspiring adults by discovering and using the Gold Standard of parenting and social skills.
It’s unlike any other manners book!
There’s no boring list of dos and don’ts.
It’s fun, best-friend, mom-to-mom sharing of how we get our kids from Point A to Point B in the short amount of time we have before they turn 18 and are off to college.
Those 18 years go by fast (I’m finding this to be true with my boys), and as moms we have a lot they need us to share with them about the most important skill they possess: their ability to get along well with, to be viewed favorably by, and to make great impressions on others. (In other words, their manners.)
My book doesn’t set out to try to change our children’s personalities. God gave those to our children, and He likes their personalities! Also, what you’ll be teaching them will become reflections of their TRUE character, not any type of window dressing.
All of it is doable! I show you how!
If you want the best for your child, join the mom-olution to return to a standard of treating one another well. Buy your copy of The Gracious Mom’s Guide to Manners: Essential Skills for Raising Courteous, Authentic, Kind Kids. It will change the trajectory of your family today and your child forever!
(The book is foremost for adults, and if you like this post, you’ll love Chapter 7 of the book! It’s all about conversation, with information on: Speaking Without Words, The Number One Conversation Tip, How to Teach Your Child to Be a Great Conversationalist…Even if You’re Not, How to Bring Out the Best in Others, Top Conversation Habits, Ending Conversations on a High Note, and more.)
Until next week, I pray you experience sweet Christmas moments and breathe in every one of them!
Hugs and blessings,