Sur­viv­ing the of­fice hol­i­day party and other sea­sonal so­cial tips

Easy con­ver­sa­tion starters and sur­vival tips for those who are dread­ing this most so­cial of sea­sons.


With in­vites for par­ties pour­ing in, the so­cial set—who revel in min­gling at shindigs—are in luck. But for those who strug­gle to chat up fam­ily, friends and strangers with ease, shmoozin’ around the Christ­mas tree comes hand in hand with anx­i­ety, dis­com­fort and the de­sire to be home with your sig­nif­i­cant other watch­ing your favourite fes­tive flick. Thank­fully, there are cop­ing strate­gies to carry you through those fêtes with­out break­ing a sweat. Here are some top tips for nav­i­gat­ing hol­i­day soirées with grace and con­fi­dence. You might even en­joy your­self! Cop­ing at the an­nual com­pany party

Hate to break it to you, but this one’s a must-at­tend. Your best bet is to look at this as an­other duty of your job. It’s to­tally OK to show up late and take off soon, but there are ad­van­tages to ar­riv­ing early: The crowd and ac­tiv­ity will be less in­tense, which will make it eas­ier to have con­ver­sa­tions. If you’re des­per­ate to bail, say you have a pre­vi­ous com­mit­ment, which is perfectly be­liev­able dur­ing the busy hol­i­day sea­son. But make sure you get face time with your man­ager to thank him or her for hav­ing you, then slip out.

Con­ver­sa­tion starters

•What are your plans for the hol­i­days? Are you trav­el­ling? •What projects are you look­ing for­ward to work­ing on next year? •What do you en­joy do­ing when you’re not at the of­fice?

Wel­com­ing ex­tra guests at friends-mas

So your friends have in­vited plus-ones to your tra­di­tion­ally in­ti­mate hol­i­day gath­er­ing. Try to adopt the “any friend of Jane is a friend of mine” at­ti­tude, if only for one night. Truth is, the plus-ones are prob­a­bly feel­ing out of place among all the girl­friends, so be in­clu­sive. Bring new folks into the mix by chat­ting about favourite movies, restau­rants and books, but keep in­side jokes and gos­sip out of it.

Con­ver­sa­tion starters

•Do you make New Year’s res­o­lu­tions? What are they? •What was your favourite part of the past year? •What movie did you last watch? Was it any good? •Tell us your hid­den tal­ent! •What job would you be

ter­ri­ble at?

Re­mem­ber: Peo­ple love to talk about them­selves, so ask them ques­tions and you can’t go wrong.

Deal­ing with a dreaded fam­ily din­ner guest

There’s al­ways that rel­a­tive ( judg­men­tal cousin, pas­siveag­gres­sive sis­ter-in-law, nosy un­cle) who makes these gath­er­ings, well, tax­ing. Be­fore you duck out due to a phoney headache, put the din­ner into con­text—it’s just a cou­ple of hours, and mak­ing the ef­fort to at­tend will mean a lot to some­one you love (your par­ents, part­ner, chil­dren). When you need a break, take one: Seek asy­lum in the re­stroom, go out­side to col­lect your thoughts or spend a bit of time play­ing with the kids.

Con­ver­sa­tion starters

•What’s the best ad­ven­ture you have ever been on? •What were your favourite hol­i­day tra­di­tions grow­ing up? •Tell me about a book that has had a huge in­flu­ence on you.

Be­ing a plus-one where you don’t know any­body

You may not think that you’ll know other guests, but odds are you’ve at least heard about a few of the par­ty­go­ers from the per­son you’re ac­com­pa­ny­ing. Take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to match faces with names and the sto­ries you’ve been told, and ask your sig­nif­i­cant other to in­tro­duce you to some of those guests. Worst-case sce­nario: You end up sur­rounded by a bunch of strangers—but that’s easy. Re­mem­ber: Peo­ple love to talk about them­selves, so ask ques­tions (noth­ing too per­sonal or pry­ing) and you can’t go wrong.

Con­ver­sa­tion starters

•What new apps have changed your life this year? •What are you ob­sessed with at the mo­ment? •What are your favourite things to do to re­lax?

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