How do you do yours? If you experience awkwardness in the company of people you see once a year, you are not alone. The, “are you all set?” question can be too much for some - begging for an answer delivered with the same level of enthusiasm as the question is asked. Some of you may find it difficult to pick up with people where you left off at the same time last year. And, as a result “the annual chat” can feature mildly inappropriate quips that may unintentionally offend. During one such chat, a friend of mine asked a couple trying for a baby when they were due. None of the three people in this conversation walked away feeling positive. They would have been better off if they simply exchanged Christmas pleasantries and kept walking.
During Christmas conversations if you find yourself like my friend, out of control, words tripping from your mouth in quick succession, fear not. The heart-warming reason you may behave like this in casual conversation is in an attempt to build a meaningful connection and relate to another. However, the problem applying this style of relating to “the annual chat” is unrealistic. How can you expect to build a meaningful connection from once a year meetings and limited knowledge on the other person’s life? If you are someone who likes to engage in meaningful conversations, do so with your friends or people that you have established relationships with. Become aware of the ways in which you relate to acquaintances and prepare to avoid awkward conversations by remembering the following list of do's and don't during your “annual chats” this year.
- Use “small talk”. If, like me you don’t like it or you are not very good at it, remember to draw on common ground and prepare some Christmas related conversation starters. You can be as original and creative as you like!
- Do not expect to know if the person you are talking to has a partner, who that person may be, where they live, what they work at, how many children they have, or any personal information like this. And, do not feel the need to play a guessing game to find out the answers. You may not arrive at the correct answer, which can lead to even more awkwardness.
- Exercise caution if you choose to bring up sensitive or personal matters. Chances are high that alcohol will be involved and may reduce your ability to be sensitive to the subject and give it the amount of time it deserves.
- Identify social occasions and individuals that bring you discomfort. Consider giving the occasions a wide berth or go with a plan. If you decide to speak to that person you dread seeing, do so once you feel comfortable in your surroundings. To ensure that you feel more in control of the situation, plan in advance what you may talk to them about.
- If you discover that a conversation is not going how you would like it to, slow the pace down and stop rapid fire questioning. Give the person you are in conversation with a chance to ask you a question or share. Alternatively, you can reclaim your power and control by graciously exiting the conversation and wishing the other person a Merry Christmas.
- Feel free to interrupt. If you have spent an inordinate amount of time listening to another on a topic that does not interest you, it is perfectly fine to either, politely change the subject or make your excuses and exit the conversation.
- Last but not least, remember that a concoction of nervousness, excitement and alcohol do not mix well so consider with whom you want to be around when you are drinking. Become aware of your relationship with alcohol. Do you know; how you respond to it in general, how many drinks are enough for you (by your standards) and which drinks do and do not agree with you?
And above all else, have fun!! I would like to wish all my clients and readers a very happy Christmas and I look forward to all that 2017 has in store for us.