The holiday season typically means great food, lively parties, and back-to-back entertainment choices. For introverts and others with social anxiety, though, this season also means endless hours of suffering through small talk.
Small talk: excruciating but necessary?
For some people, small talk means meaningless chitchat with people you barely know and will probably never see again. This is especially true for holiday parties where you’re the plus one of a friend, spouse, or relative and you’re in the midst of people you don’t really know.
Small talk is spontaneous; people often have no idea where it will go or how to even start. That is reason enough to feel anxious. However, research suggests that small talk can bring happiness and even introverted people can have fun engaging in it.
With that said, you might still not be ready to jump straight to chatting up a total stranger. But fret not. Below, we’ve laid out some pointers to help you survive small talk this holiday party season.
1. Use genuine compliments as ice breakers
Instead of being a wallflower, why not take the liberty of speaking up first by offering someone a genuine compliment? We understand it can be nerve-wracking, going up to someone and suddenly telling them you love their hair, their shoes, their shirt, or all of those. But, when you’re offering genuine compliments, chances are the other person will feel nice about the situation and talk to you.
On the other hand, if you dress nice, someone may walk up to you and compliment outfit. Shop online for contemporary women’s clothing or maybe get your hair done before a party. When someone compliments you, use it to segue into a more significant, possibly lengthier conversation.
2. Listen and ask follow-up questions
One important thing to remember: a conversation is what you make of it. So, a shallow start talking about the weather can turn into you getting to know your fellow party-goers better. The key is to show genuine interest in what the person you’re talking to is saying.
Being present and listening to what others are saying can make it a lot easier for you to connect with them. When you pay attention, you might discover things you both agree on and use that to segue to more topics.
Asking follow-up questions is another great small talk tactic. When you ask follow-up questions, not only to further the conversation but to also sate your genuine curiosity, the dialogue moves past small talk into engaging conversation.
3. Get out of the conversation politely
Sometimes, a conversation can go on and on, which is what makes small talk awkward. If you feel that the chitchat is about to go south, do everyone and yourself a favor and politely conclude the chat. Of course, you want to end the conversation on a positive note, so it’s a good idea to have a go-to exit line.
The “I see a friend I need to speak to” or “I should go check on my friend” is a polite enough way to get out of small talk. Then, add something generous like, “It’s been nice talking to you” to exit pleasantly.
Engaging in small talk at holiday parties—or any kind of social event—doesn’t have to make you wish for the ground to open up and swallow you. If you follow the pointers above and believe in your ability to talk to others, you’ll do just fine at your next social event.