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.
If you haven’t read this post:
then now’s a great time to do so, because this post builds on it.
Now that you 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.
Really?! You Too!
When you’re having a conversation with someone and the two of you find yourselves saying “Really?! You too!”, or anything similar to it, 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.
Someone casually says, “I watch that TV show every week.”
And you say, “Really?! You too!”
You’ve just hit on a point of connection that will propel your conversation further. And a person goes from stranger to acquaintance to friend by layering on one connection point after another.
Want to make a positive, lasting impression, enjoy a great conversation, and make new friends? Search out as many “Really?! You 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 quickly find your way to multiple connection points!
1. How do you know the host(s)? I know, I know, almost everyone already 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 connection point 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.
When you’ve both shared where you’re from, you can now talk about anyone you know who’s also from the same place or nearby. “My sister-in-law is also from a suburb of Chicago!” or “You’re from a town of less than 1500 people? Really?! You too!”
Grace Note: 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 2016 when Devon took her current job.”
3. What’s your favorite _________________? Fill in the blank with something to do with popular culture or something equally easy. You don’t want them to feel embarrassed if they don’t have a ready answer. So instead of “Who do you think should be this year’s Time Magazine person of the year?”, make it more along the lines of “What’s your favorite TV show currently streaming?” or “What’s your favorite Christmas movie?”.
Once you know a little more about the person, you’ll know the “level” of question you can ask and some subjects you’ll both be interested in talking about.
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. It’s not going to be a connection point for the two people.
However, almost everyone has something special 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, or hosting a New Year’s Eve get-together. It’s in talking about our traditions that we’re more likely to touch on a meaningful connection point.
5. What’s your best Christmas memory? 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 what stands out as a favorite 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.
Until next week, I pray you experience sweet Christmas moments and breathe in every one of them!
Hugs and blessings,