Ready for another round of parties this festive season? Here are some hot tips and conversation starters to get you through your next social engagements.
The festive season can be a continual revolving door of social situation after social situation. When it comes to the work environment not only do you have to deal with your own office but often those within your customer or supply network as well.
Making small talk and being stuck in social situations is even harder when your energy is low and you’ve had enough of people. What makes it hard for us to engage in conversations and why should you care?
Fear of Being Rejected?
A University of Chicago study by Nick Epley has revealed the biggest reason people don’t want to engage in conversation or small talk is a fear of rejection. This causes the brain to assign a high degree of risk in the concept of talking to strangers or making small talk.
There has been a further study that has proven this assumption to be incorrect, where no initiator of small talk was rejected.
Armed with cold hard scientific facts doesn’t make the situation any easier but at least you know that most people are willing and receptive to talking. Here are five conversation starters to get you taking that all important first step.
1. Check the attendees and do research
Look up who is attending and what projects that they have recently completed. This can work for internal office parties and for your customers or suppliers. Work related topics are the safest, but make sure you keep it light.
2. How to deal with hierarchy
There have been a few occasions when fate has left me a few drinks in standing with the CEO. Don’t be silent susan. Management are human to, stick with safe topics like plans for the holidays. If you’re feeling really jazzy ask them what their biggest success or challenge was in the past year.
3. Common ground
If you’ve exhausted all your “go to’s” then try to think of some common situations where you may be able to relate to each other. Start simple with “are you more into podcasts, books or movies? What’s your favourite?”.
A Harvard University study has found that asking people about themselves can cause a change in the brain that naturally enhances their mood. The trick is to make it general enough that it doesn’t seem intrusive.
4. Do the twist
Flip the script a bit. We all get stuck with the usual silence fillers of “what are you doing for your break?”.
Tweak things slightly and ask “what are you most looking forward to over the holiday season?”. You’ll make the person think and it will provide opportunity for light, but genuine, conversation.
5. The naughty list
It’s good to keep in mind things that are a no go zone. If these things are executed exceptionally badly, they may prove to be career limiting moves.
- Don’t get wasted. Monitor your drink intake and make sure you eat!
- Don’t participate in gossip. You’ll get such a cringe when you next see the people in the sober (fluorescent) light of day
- Don’t cross the personal communication line. It’s probably not a good look to leave voice notes over messenger or create an IG story of your new bestie.
- Don’t discuss work in depth. It’s amazing what you can hear on public transport or out and about, let alone at an office party. If you are representing your company at a customer or supplier event then don’t be drawn in to talking about the competition or your organisation. You’re still logged on.
By applying the first five tips and avoiding the naughty list you’ll be sure to be on top form this festive season. No ragrets! Regerts! Oh, you know what we mean…
This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.