Are you the life of a party? The kind of person that the party doesn’t start until you arrive and it will end when you leave?
Or are you one of the crowd? You come, you eat and you may speak with one person, preferably someone other than the one who transported you in the car.
Personally I think the “Good time Charlie’s” are in the minority. They are only prevalent in movies and country songs. Although, I do have a fair number of acquaintances who are really good at small talk. They can spend just enough time with a person to spread bon sentiment and can delicately extricate themselves from the conversation without slighting the other person.
However, I think the majority of us find parties to be difficult: either the extroverted ones are disappointed because they don’t get a chance to speak to everyone and the introverted ones find the entire small talk socialization to be exhausting.
Last week I heard some good advice (thank you, Carla Hall) about how to try and socialize a little bit more at parties.
If you find yourself struggling to talk to people, try this: Say to yourself that you will try and speak to everyone in the room who is wearing a red sweater. Or blue pants. Or…. pick something. It gives you a purpose for your conversation (although you might be the only one who knows what the “it” is). In your head, you might limit your time with each person knowing that you want to speak to all those “who wear glasses”.
It might not be that effective but it may help you move beyond your comfort zone at a party.
I know that I am not the most comfortable with small talk. I find that I am too curious about others’ lives, spent too much time with a new acquaintance and have a tendency to remember the smallest details of people. It can be off-putting. Also, I have not learned the skill to gracefully exit a conversation. I find it so awkward when speaking with a person, another one comes up (whom I might not know) and he/she really wants to speak with the same person. I will try to ask if anyone wants more to drink and leave that way but generally the two start in with the talking that I don’t want to interrupt nor do I want to rudely leave. Awkward.
One time, my husband and I were staying at a bed and breakfast. In the evenings they offered wine and cheese before dinner. We went down to the common room and found ourselves talking to some of the other guests. One couple in particular was quite chatty and very interesting. I kept thinking of more questions, not to fill in the time per se but to hear more about their story. At one point in the conversation the husband stopped. Looked at me and said, “Are you a reporter or something?” Gosh, I guess I had asked too many questions.
In one of the childhood books my son enjoyed, the author based his character on his growing up in New England in the 1930’s. One of the lessons his mom imparted on him was the art of conversation. In conversation, one should answer a question and then ask one. Similarly to catching and throwing a ball.
In his story, the author recounted the story of the school nurse going around and asking each of the children if they had had a bowel movement recently. (Being a former school nurse, I can tell you that times have changed!) When the nurse came to the author, he remembered his mother’s words of tossing the conversation back and forth. After the nurse asked her question, the boy answered and then said, “And you?”
While that specific type of conversation tossing is not recommended at holiday get-togethers, here are some conversation starters. (Some of these I would probably not use unless I were with people I knew and wanted to ask something more engaging or I wanted to have a deeper dinner party conversation.) Hopefully these can get you thinking of some questions to get the ball rolling:
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read lately?
What’s a fact about you that’s not on the internet?
Do you listen to any podcasts? Which ones?
If you were in charge of the playlist, which song would you play next?
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
What’s your favorite part about living in [city]? Least favorite?
Great [shoes/haircut/shirt]! Where’d you get it?
I’m trying to plan my next trip -- have you traveled anywhere interesting lately?
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
If you could ask for a miracle, what would it be?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
What would your ideal life look like?
If someone gave you an envelope with your death date inside of it, would you open it?
When have you been the most happy?
Do you know anyone who is living their life to the fullest?
What is your idea of the perfect day?
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
What book had a big influence on you?
Do you think your priorities have changed since you were younger?
What is the most memorable lesson you learned from your parents?
What does success mean to you?
What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?
What scares you most about your future?
What keeps you up at night?
How long can you go without checking your phone?
Have you ever really kept a New Year’s resolution?
What bad habits do you wish you could stop?
Do you have a morning ritual?
Can you tell when someone is lying?
Do you prefer polaroid or digital cameras?
If someone offered to tell you your future, would you accept it?
Who’s your biggest hero?
Have you ever stolen anything?
If you were to remove one social media app from your phone, which would it be and why?
If you could have tea with a fictional character, who would that be?
What is your most embarrassing moment?
If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
If you could sit down with your 13-year old self, what would you say?
If you could only pack one thing for a trip (besides clothing) what would it be?
What makes you really angry?
What is your spirit animal?
What would be the title of your memoire?
What’s your guilty pleasure?
What would your theme song be if you had your own show?
What bores you?
What would you do if you were home alone and the power went out?
What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?
If your plane was going down, who would you would call?
What would your rock band group be called?
What about you? Are you dreading holiday get-togethers or are you relishing the time with others? Hopefully this season you may get to know someone a little bit better and at least feel that you “conquered” the party.