From the office Christmas party to holiday dinners, you’ll likely be visiting with close friends, family you have not seen for a while and even fellow guests who may be perfect strangers. You will get more out of all of these encounters by brushing up on the art of conversation. It’s a misconception that good conversation just “happens.” To appear confident and composed, practice and preparation are important skills.
Here are five tips for Holiday conversation to help you get ready to mix and mingle at your next event.
1. Remember the 60/40 rule. Good conversation is about showing an interest in the other person. Do this by asking questions and showing a genuine interest in the answers. A good guideline: in any conversation, listen 60 percent of the time and ask questions the other 40 percent of the time. Remember that good conversation is not a monologue, where one person holds the floor and the other person captive. Rather, it is a two-way street with input from everyone involved.
2. Be an active listener. This is truly the secret to dazzling others with your conversational skills. So often we are focused on what we’re going to say next. Active listening is paying attention and showing sincere interest in what the other person is saying.
3. Have an inquiring mind. Few things are more flattering than having someone ask you questions about yourself. Showing interest in the other person is the grease that turns the wheels of conversation. By asking questions, you can identify common areas of interest and keep a dialogue going, and before you know it, you have a connection. However, don’t ask a question as a springboard to immediately turn the focus back to yourself: “Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I have spent days looking for toys for my kids…”
4. Keep the topics merry and bright. Come up with a few topics that you can bring up to almost anyone. It’s not the time to share your opinions on politics, religion or other touchy subjects. Good neutral topics include movies, food and sports. Stay positive; no one wants to hear complaints about your health, your boss or the slumping economy.
5. Watch your body language. Show your interest in the conversation by making eye contact, facing the person you’re talking with and leaning in slightly. Folded arms and eyes that dart around the room to see what everyone else is doing sends the message that you would rather be elsewhere. Imagine your belly button facing the other person’s belly button – now you are facing in the right direction.
With a little effort, you’ll be ready to make the most of your holiday get-togethers by being ready to converse with just about anyone in the room. Happy holidays!