Christmas is here again and with it the social events that I don’t understand why people leave till the end of the year to have. Weddings, housewarmings, more weddings, Christmas parties (that one is self-explanatory) and so on. If you’re anything like me, who finds it difficult talking to strangers, you might be tempted to dodge these events.
If you don’t want to be the lone one standing by the corner (which is absolutely fine) or spend the entire party thinking about your warm bed, here’s an article that could help.
Most of us find the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers daunting. Instead of thinking, “Who will I have to talk to tonight?” say to yourself, “I wonder who I’m going to get to meet tonight.”
There’s a phrase I like to use: “The roof is an introduction”, which means that if you’re in the same place, you always have something in common. Remember that most people in any room feel uncomfortable. If we can be aware of that, and think, “What can I do to make other people feel comfortable with me?” that’s not just a great strategy for socialising – it’s a kindness.
I often borrow stories. I’m not a dog person, but if someone else wants to talk about dogs, that’s fine. I just mention something my friend Jim told me about his dogs. I don’t pretend it’s my story, but just mentioning that I have a friend who loves dogs helps us to relate.
Remember that most people in any room feel uncomfortable
The number one question people ask me is, “How do I exit a conversation?” And it’s a good point: you’re not there to monopolise one person all night long. If the other person is getting a little squirmy, they’re ready to move on. Interrupt yourself, not them: “It’s been so nice talking to you. I so enjoyed talking about…” and there you can let them know you’ve been listening to what they’re saying. Then don’t just turn your back on them – it’s too abrupt. Instead, walk a quarter-length of the room away to another group or, better still, to someone standing alone.
Ask people how they know the host, or how they got there, or what they think of the food (just about everyone likes talking about food).
Watch out for conversation-killers, especially one-upmanship. If someone says they just lost 10lb, don’t tell them how you lost 20.
Borrow stories. If you don’t have children but you’re talking to a new parent, can you share an anecdote that a friend has told you?