The holidays are a time for people to get together and the various gatherings are a wonderful place to meet new people, reconnect with acquaintances and catch up with old friends.
Often times the conversation flows easily but there are also those instances when you may find yourself at a loss for words as you stand face to face with someone you don’t know (the spouse of a colleague); share little to nothing in common and don’t see but once a year (the pre-teen daughter of your second cousin); or are bound by the rules of good manners to be courteous to despite the lack of reciprocity (the unfriendly neighbor down the street).
Have you ever approached someone and asked what was new in his/her life, only to be told “Oh, nothing much …”? A response like that will kill a conversation immediately! So when attending a holiday social event, come prepared to share some basic information.
You don’t have to be particularly bright, expansive or witty, but surely there is something about your existence you can share, even if it is only to say “We’ve been so busy these past few months / this past year, it’s nice to take a break and catch up with friends over the holidays.” Please notice that there are no complaints about what you have been busy or overextended with in this example; the words are light and non-committal, yet provide an answer to that age-old question.
The next step to interacting with others you don’t know or know well? Ask questions! Paying a genuine compliment is a good start, perhaps on a piece of jewelry, a tie or sweater — and then follow-up and ask if there is a story behind the item. Invite nostalgia — does the person have a favorite holiday memory or tradition? Are they planning a vacation or was a vacation recently enjoyed? What might be a favorite vacation spot?
Above all, act as if the person you are talking with is interesting; it will help to make him or her feel more comfortable and the conversation becomes easier. People enjoy talking about themselves and no matter how uncomfortable you may be when it comes to chatting with others, you will come off as a sparkling conversationalist because you asked a few questions and then listened to what was said.