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Holiday Etiquette: How To Make Holiday Table Conversation

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


By now you're either all talked out or wondering how your conversational skills are stacking up this busy holiday season. Whether you're trapped in office holiday party chitchat by your least favorite gossip, or you've latched onto your friend's dazzling sister, there's no reason to be tongue-tied this season.  

Best tried-and-true tips for making conversation

Do be an awesome listener: Listening is the easiest way to get someone talking. Being a good listener is key to being a good conversationalist. To initiate conversation, listen for questions to ask. It makes sense that we're more receptive to people who are paying attention to what we're saying. 

Don't talk too long: Over-talking bores people and they tune out. Get to the point. Explain less. Be tuned into whether they've tuned you out. You needn't tell people everything you're thinking. When you do, their eyes will start to wander.

Do read your audience: When he's checking his cellphone, he's not listening. If he's looking over your shoulder, he's figuring out how to escape. When he fiddles with his ear, he doesn't like what he's hearing - - so change the subject. 

Do be curious: When you've lost the person's attention, ask questions to find out what they want to talk about. If you've been listening, you have a vague idea what interests him. When you can't think of a question, take the last topic he brought up and say, "What do you think about .....?" For instance, if he was talking about the weather, ask him what he thinks about Global Warming.

Do keep up on current events to make conversation more interesting: It's amazing, because when you know a bit about what a person likes to talk about, it makes it easier to connect in conversation. Even if you just say, "What do you think?" 

Do have a couple of timely topics to discuss that you can preface with a question to deflect the conversation to the other person: Climate change, the movie Lincoln, Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, your favorite new CD, sports bar or restaurant; or local issues such as beach erosion, roundabouts, zoning, bike paths, open space. Of course, at a business event, you would be on topic with your industry. 

Don't worry: If you're stuck grappling for a question, you can always ask the person "How do you know our host?" "How did you get into the industry?" "How did you meet your husband (partner)?" Because they're extraordinarily comfortable answering all of them.

Didi Lorillard researches shifting etiquette at NewportManners.com by answering questions on relationship dilemmas, codes of behavior, wedding etiquette, business etiquette, entertaining, dress codes and manners. Or find Didi on Facebook,TwitterLinkedIn, or Pinterest after reading her earlier GoLocal columns, some of which are listed below.



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