How to Make Small Talk—Just in Time for the Cocktail Party Frenzy
Having a full social calendar is a blast, but at times, especially during the stressful holiday season, it can get more than a little dry sharing the same sound-bite form of your life story with near strangers. That's why we've put together a clever list of ways to keep your holiday party circuit chitchat entertaining all season long. Here's how to make small talk without relying on the weather as a fallback topic (yes, it's possible). Below are 11 ways you can rock the small-talk game at a holiday party or any occasion throughout the year.
1. Practice makes perfect. Whether it's your Uber driver, your doorman, or the gentleman waiting in line behind you at Starbucks, see everyone you meet as a potential conversation partner. You'll soon find yourself getting much more out of people than with your regular "I'm good. How are you?"
2. Asking your fellow party guest about their passions, not what they do, is an easy way to make small talk more stimulating.
3. Test the waters. Not all party guests are fortunate enough to have exceptional conversational skills. Test the waters with party guests by asking a simple follow-up question for making meaningful small talk. For instance, if you ask where someone is from and it's a different city than where they live now, you can ask if they want to eventually move back to their hometown. If your conversation counterpart gives you a meaty answer, you may be in for an interesting conversation.
4. Listen to the person who is speaking. We're prone to prepping our next comment while our conversation partner is still speaking. Slow down your mind, and let the conversation direct the flow of discussion, not your premeditated small-talk plan.
5. Pay attention to nonverbal communication. You can learn a lot about a person from what they don't say. If you pick up on nonverbal cues from your counterpart, you'll be able to make them feel more comfortable and, hopefully, more likely to participate in a meaningful conversation.
6. Try to learn something from the person you're speaking with. This way, you're not just wasting time. You're expanding your knowledge and maybe even making a friend in the process.
7. Remember that not all small talk needs to be big. Sometimes you're not going to jibe with a party guest. It may be someone you've never met or it may be the same person you see every year and never have much to talk about. Regardless, be polite, and then excuse yourself by saying, "I'm going to go find my friend, but it was great chatting with you."
8. Keep a pulse on current events. Tragic or wonderful, current events are always fodder for cocktail-party chatter. Stay on top of the news so you're always ready to offer your take on the subject at hand.
9. Talk about travel. Everyone has been somewhere cool or made a travel bucket list they're dying to start fulfilling. Navigate your conversation to travel, and it will surely take you somewhere interesting. It also distracts from the typical job, family, and personal life questions that you may not want to get into detail about.
10. Relax. If you're stressed or anxious about sounding impressive doing the holiday rounds, you'll come off as such. What's worse? You probably won't enjoy yourself. Do yourself a favor by taking a couple of deep breaths, and remember: You're just there to have a little fun. It's not a job interview.
11. Talk about pop culture. Or you could get the conversation going by talking about your favorite holiday movies. Shop some of our favorites below.
This story was originally published on December 16, 2015, and has since been updated.
Do you have any holiday party small-talk tips? Share them with us in the comments.