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What to Say and Not Say at Your Company’s Holiday Party
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when businesses around the world become more festive than ever – with holiday music playing throughout the buildings, spectacular decorations and of course a big party to celebrate the season.
At these parties, you are sure to engage in conversation with your peers. What an opportunity it gives you to make connections with new immigrants, and enrich long partnerships in the workplace!
You don’t want to make these calls, of course, because they will seem artificial and robotic. However, it’s helpful to keep a few guidelines in mind that will make the evening more pleasant for everyone you associate with—and will prompt your teammates to remember you more fondly. So I suggest you consider these four tips for chit chat at your club’s annual party.
First: stay away from politics. Since many of us stay informed by watching the news, we are saturated with interviews and commentary about who the good guys and ladies are as well as who the bad guys are. Most of us hope that when we go to our corporate party, we won’t again be bombarded with conversation about indictments, infidelity, accusations, lawsuits, resignations, firings, inappropriate comments, e-mail abuse, and other troubling topics.
Not only are you and your colleagues tired of hearing from political critics who seem to be paid lip service, there’s another fact to consider: In most cases, talking about politics won’t change anyone’s mind—not yours or theirs. What happens instead is that highly opinionated people become disappointed, angry and even hostile.
President George W. Bush’s recent funeral reminded me of his call for a “kinder and gentler nation.” Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Too many bigots are shocked when more moderate people question their judgment.
Second: Stay extremely positive. This is no time for gloom and doom. We get so much of it the rest of the year. For a few hours, we all want to relax and stay upbeat. Examples:
–We might be tempted to say, “The service at our table seems especially slow. That table over there is enjoying desserts, while our main course hasn’t even arrived.”
Instead of this negative attitude, you can respond: “Well, I noticed that another table got their dessert earlier than we got our food. But I commend the food service professionals – they have a big job serving so many meals at once. It’s amazing how successful they are!
–Again, we may be tempted to say, “Aren’t you shivering? It’s freezing outside, and it feels like that here, too”? Much better to stand up and say, “I’m going to ask our host if he can adjust this thermostat. I think we’d be more comfortable with a few more degrees of heat.”
Reminds me of one of the times my wife and I went on a cruise. Every evening we ate with the same two couples. One couple was cheerful, optimistic and positive. The other couple spent the entire dinner talking about everything that went wrong that day. Guess which couple we remember fondly and would like to dine with again.
Third: For tip number three, be very careful with your jokes and off-the-cuff comments. Headlines throughout the year confirmed this new reality: language that might have been tolerated in the past has become unacceptable, offensive and in extreme cases leads to highly unwanted publicity and even legal action.
Naturally, we can still compliment another visitor on how they look and how well they dance. Tastefully expressed compliments are welcome. Good judgment tells us the limits of language that we must not cross.
The fourth: My fourth tip is also very important for conversation. A long time ago I read this advice somewhere: “When having a conversation, be sure to let it go every now and then.”
Think for a moment about the men and women you enjoy being with the most. Chances are you won’t name the gentlemen or lady who tell a lot of long-winded stories dominating time with you. Just the opposite… you will
An acquaintance who makes comments like these is greatly appreciated:
“Very interesting… tell me more… so what happened?”
When you become the most enthusiastic listener at your club’s party, you can easily become the most memorable conversationalist.
In closing, I recommend applying these speaking tips to your company’s holiday party. You’ll be glad you did, and so will everyone you associate with at the event.
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