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Save Face in 8 Awkward Holiday Situations

wine at holiday party social tips

December 3, 2017 | Categories:

The holidays are all about socializing as much as possible with your friends, family, colleagues, and your significant other. To help you prevent making mistakes (or know what to do if you’re in the midst of a disaster), I talked to Susan RoAne, keynote speaker and best-selling author of How To Work a Room: Silver Anniversary Edition. Here, she shares tips on common awkward situations you may come across this season—like getting rid of gabber at a holiday party, how to recover if you were “that guy” at the company party last night, what to do if someone bought you a gift and you didn’t get them one, and more

  1. You feel a little social anxiety before holiday parties.

If you occasionally feel “shy” in social gatherings, you’re not alone—researchers say near 50 percent of Americans identify as being shy. Before you attend any party, read the paper and brush up on what’s going on in your town, the country, and the world. Then, practice how you’re going to introduce yourself. “Tailor your introduction to every event to give others context of who you are, why you’re there, and what they could talk to you about,” says RoAnne. If someone asks you a question, give a short answer, then stop talking about yourself and say, “What about you?” Roane advises against asking, “What do you do for a living?” since people may don’t enjoy their jobs or want to talk about them. When you say “What about you?” it allows them to talk about what they’re interested in, which could be that they’re training for a triathalon or volunteering with a local sports team. Then, when someone talks about themselves, listen, advises RoAne. Don’t start daydreaming or thinking about what you’re doing for tomorrow’s workout.  Other fallback questions include, “Where are you originally from?” or “Where did you go to school?” Hopefully the questions lead into stories, laughter, and good conversation from there. (Here are some natural ways to reduce stress.)

2.  A stage-five clinger won’t leave your side at a party.

You want to schmooze and socialize at a company event but the new colleague you just met latched himself to your side and won’t let you work the room on your own. To exit the conversation, try one of RoAne’s How to Work a Room tactics. Try interrupting yourself while talking. In the middle of a sentence, put your hand out—because that handshake also signals that the conversation is over—and say, “It was great talking to you about [whatever you were conversing about].” This  shows you were listening to them. If you want their card, say, “Do you have a card?” or “May I offer you one of mine?”  Give people an easy way of getting in touch with you afterwards if you’re interested in connecting after the event.  Then, walk away from that person to another group or a person standing alone by walking laterally or straight ahead. Never turn your back on the person, advises RoAne. Another exit strategy is to smile and say, “I’m so enjoying talking to you that I could completely monopolize your time, but I know that you want to meet other people, and that they’ll want to meet you.”  While that line might not work for everyone, it’s a great way to let the other person know you’re there for mingling and not for the monopolizing. Here are some signs that you’re a terrible listener.

3. You show up empty-handed to a party.

Whether you received a late invite or completely blanked on the etiquette of bringing something, don’t worry fret or call attention to it. “If you walk in without a host gift, don’t mention that you didn’t bring one,” says RoAne. After the event,  make a donation in their name to a local food bank, including the donation card in the thank you note. “This is something you can do any time of year that will make your host feel so much better than the tchotchke you would have brought because you’re helping feed some people who haven’t been able to get some food,” says RoAne.

Whenever you go to a party, make sure you don’t bring the host a gift they have to do work for and attend to, like having to assemble food or finding a vase for flowers, suggests RoAne. Bring them something for the host for later, like fancy preserves in a gift box, or a box of chocolates they can enjoy themselves or choose to share with the guests.

Even though it may be considered an old-fashioned move, sending a “thank you” note in the mail after you’ve been invited to a party will be memorable, says RoAne.  But if that doesn’t work for you, at least send a thank you email within two days of the party.

4. You’re can’t get a word in edgewise.

If you’re stuck in a group where someone is going on and on with what seems like a never-ending story and you’re wondering when you’re going to get your time to talk, jump in as soon as that person takes a breath, suggests RoAne. Jump in with a line that begins like, “Oh, that reminds me of…” or, “Glad you said that, because that reminds me of…” and then come in with a story. If this is a business party, you may want to switch it to something that has something to do with your career, clients, and your business, like “That reminds me of when I was interviewing this person for a job and…” Or if you’re talking to someone, the conversation is going nowhere, and you can’t get away fast enough, look at them and say, “I hope you enjoy the rest of the party.” No need to say, “It was great talking to you,” if it wasn’t, says RoAne. It’s important not to be rude because you don’t know who that person is, what they do, who they work with, who they’re related to, and you might come across them again in business or your personal life in the near future.

5. You got wasted at the company party last night.

If you woke up Friday morning after the company party and can’t remember what happened, you might be panicking about whether you said or did anything that could put your career in jeopardy. First, check your phone for any embarrassing texts, calls, or photos. If there’s no collateral damage on your cell, text your best buddy at work and ask what happened and if he or she noticed you saying or doing anything questionable last night. Hopefully, your work buddy looked out for you and you were better behaved than you feared. And if you did get a little out of hand, find out what you said, did, and whom you might have to apologize to as soon as possible. (Here’s How to Prevent a Hangover.)

“The world is way too small to misbehave—if you’re at a holiday party sponsored by someone in your business life, remember that it’s business,” says RoAne. You may think that because there’s an open bar and festive decorations that it’s a party. “It’s a party, but it is a business party, so be mindful of your career, your goals, the etiquette, and what you want to be remembered for,” she says.

If you see one of your friends getting a little too drunk or acting inappropriately at an event, try to steer them away from the group for a few minutes and check in to make sure they’re okay. Even better, if you’re going to a work party with an open bar, talk to your friend ahead of time and suggest keeping an eye out for each other or putting a limit on the number of drinks you’ll have.

Don’t go to the party on an empty stomach, either. You’ll probably be presented with a few drinks before the food is served so having a snack about an hour before the party starts can help prevent you from getting too drunk in the first place.

Read the full article on MensFitness.com.

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