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November 28, 2006 > Do's and Don'ts for holiday mingling

Do's and Don'ts for holiday mingling

by Debra Fine

If you’re dreading the holiday office party or attending one more open house and small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, consider creating your own “Do’s and Don’ts” cheat sheet, suggests Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a
Positive Impression! Save it in your blazer pocket or handbag. The cheat sheet
includes:

Don’t
Wait to be properly introduced. Are you waiting for your grandmother from St. Louis to arrive and make the “proper” introductions?
Do
Take the risk introduce yourself and be the first to say “Hello!” Act as if you’re the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.

Don’t
Be uncertain and wait for the other person to extend their hand.
Do
Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone unless they are prohibited by religion or culture.

Don’t
Rush through introductions
Do
Take your time! Make an extra effort to remember names, and use the names frequently in the conversation.

Don’t
Look around the room to see what is being served at the buffet table or who has just walked through the door.
Do
Maintain eye contact. People don’t feel listened to if you're not looking at them.

Don’t
Talk about yourself, your work, your kids or your upcoming vacation in the Alps for more than a few minutes.
Do
Show a genuine interest in others. Get somebody to talk about why they’re attending the event or what their connection to the host is and you’re on your way to engaging them in conversation. Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are special. Help people you talk to feel as if they’re the only person in the room.

Don’t
Get easily distracted by party noise and activities.
Do
Listen carefully for information that can keep the conversation going. Give verbal cues that you are following along: “That sounds interesting…” or “What happened next?”

Don’t
Give one word answers and fall into a conversation rut.
Do
Play the conversation “game.” When someone asks, “How’s are you?” or “What’s going on?” answer with more than: “Pretty good.” and “Not much.” Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you: “We just implanted flex time at our facility so it has been a huge adjustment.” Or “My son is joining me for winter break from his first year at college.”

Don’t
Put your foot in your mouth.
Do
Be careful with acquaintances. You wouldn't want to open a conversation with: “How’s your job at (fill in the blank)?” What if that person just got fired or laid off? Be careful when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s spouse or special friend: you could regret it.

Don’t
Become an F.B.I. agent. Questions like: “What do you do?” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” and “Where are you from?” lead to dead end conversations.
Do
Use open ended questions such as: “Tell me about your holiday plans.” or “What got you interested in architecture?”

Don’t
Exhibit negative body language
Do
Pay heed to your body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease people make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not. Appear approachable by standing up straight and smiling.

Don’t
Enter an open house, party or get together unprepared.
Do
Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event preparing to talk easily about three topics. Remind yourself what you already know about the people you expect to interact with. This will come in handy when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward moment...or seated at a table of eight where people are playing with their food.

Don’t
Melt away from conversation.
Do
Show appreciation and exit gracefully. Make a positive impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as you leave.

Every conversation is an opportunity for success. If you keep take the risk to meet and show an interest in new people you will gain new relationships, enjoy lively conversations, and just possibly come away with some new business.

 
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