December 7, 2005

Mastering Small Talk

Making small talk at parties is my nightmare. I'm fine with business speak but when it comes to chatting it up I only know how to end the conversation. Today's Morning Edition on NPR provided some excellent tips for how to survive small talk at the company party.

I disagree with #5 on Conversation Killers to avoid. Most of my best conversations are when my inside voice speaks out. Or maybe I would rather hang with people who are amused by my inside voice. Hay, if they're fake, she wants you to talk about them. You now understand why I need this list.

On the other hand Icebreaker #7 is of no interest to me. Sounds like the opening to a therapy session. Can you imagine the responses. "I get the winter blues. It reminds me of when my grandfather passed away. I don't make enough to buy presents. We don't have heat in our house. I just robbed a bank."

Top 10 Icebreakers
1. "What is your connection to the host/hostess or event?"
2. "What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?"
3. "Describe how this season of the year impacts your work?"
4. "Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we got together..."
5. "Tell me about your plans for the holidays..."
6. "Describe your favorite holiday tradition..."
7. "What challenges do you encounter at this time of year?"
8. "Tell me about a special gift you have given or received?"
9. "What is your favorite holiday? Why?"
10. "What have you got going on during the coming year?"

Conversation Killers to Avoid
1. "Are you married?" or "Do you have any kids?" Where are you going with either one of these if the response is "No"?
2. "How's your job at Boeing, United Airlines, Martha Stewart Enterprises (fill in the blank)?" Unless you know a person well, assume nothing! Don't put them on the spot like that. Instead ask: "What's been going on with work?"
3. "How's your wife?" (She left, took all the money, the kids and got the house!)
4. "Merry Christmas!" "What are your Christmas plans?" Not all of us celebrate Christmas.
5. At all costs avoid "Is that real?" "Are those real?"