a work in progress

navigating holiday party conversations…when you have nothing to say

I dread putting myself in situations where I know I’m going to have to make small talk. I used to be fairly decent at it, but that was when making conversation was easy because I had something to say. Now, I find myself in a place where I either don’t have anything meaningful to share, or what I want to say isn’t considered “socially acceptable.” And while I don’t find myself in nearly as many opportunities for small talk as I used to, it still happens. And never does it happen more than it does during the holidays.

It’s not like I’m a great conversationalist or anything, but I’ve picked up a few strategies over the years. And, as a gift to you, I impart my extensive knowledge below.

The question : What have you been up to?

  • Deflecting answer :  Oh…you know, nothing too exciting. What about you?
  • Talking-to-your-elderly-aunt answer: I’m reading this great book lately! or Work / school has been so busy, but it’s going really well!

The question : Any fun holiday plans?

  • Deflecting answer :  I’m really looking forward to laying low. I’m thinking about starting a new TV show and would love some recommendations. Have you watched anything good recently?
  • Talking-to-your-elderly-aunt answer : Talk about what you’re doing with her side of the family…that’s all she wants to hear, anyway!

The question : Did you take any fun trips this year?

  • Deflecting answer : Nothing like you! I saw on Instagram you went on a big Europe trip! Tell me everything; it looked incredible!
  • Talking-to-your-elderly-aunt answer: You know, unfortunately, I didn’t get around to that this year. I’m hoping next year will be different, though. I’d love to visit {insert desired country / island here}.

The question : How has your health been?

  • Deflecting answer : I’ve had a few more downs than ups lately, but no big deal.
  • Talking-to-your-elderly-aunt answer : Still some challenges up ahead, but I feel like 2017 is going to be a great year!

The question : So, are you seeing anyone?

  • Deflecting answer : You know, I’m not, but I’ve done a fair amount of dating. Now let me tell you about this absolutely hysterical / ridiculous date I had.
  • Talking-to-your-elderly-aunt answer: I haven’t, but it’s only a matter of time!

Overarching Tips:

  • Answer each question as quickly as possible, then steer the conversation towards the other person.
    • Everyone loves to talk about themselves
  • Bring a buffer
    • If there’s someone there with you who knows your exact situation they can help by taking some of the heat off you when needed.
  • Ghosting is often the answer
    • When you’re out in a big group or at a crowded party there is no shame in quietly slipping out when you’ve had your fill.
  • Include extensive detail in the limited information you have to share
    • The more detail, the longer your answer. The longer your answer, the more it seems like you have a lot to say.
  • View each occasion as an opportunity rather than an obligation
    • If you’re miserable, it’s going to be pretty obvious. Try to use the hour or two you’re out as a much-needed break from your typically mundane schedule. Yes, you’re going to pay for it, but that’ll happen whether or not you’re having a good time…so you might as well make the most of it.

Now get out there and party on!

One Comment

  • linda maumus

    so- i would be your elderly aunt! and i don’t know how i became elderly, either. i would expect a nice conversation from you because you are a fun person. no talking down to elderly aunts! you have much to say and people to perhaps help due to your own circumstances.
    you are so correct in that steering a convo towards the other person is good. people DO like to talk about themselves-sometimes too much.
    just be yourself. ok-you have the pain issue which i wouldn’t wish on anyone, but because of it i think you can help others. there is help for you down the line, but for now just keep on dealing the best way you know how.
    taking your HONEY to lunch today. she told me how you order her makeup etc. and how helpful that is. want to join us? we’ll be at Audubon Golf Club at noon. xoxo- elderly aunt linda

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