Avoiding holiday party chit chat hell

December 15, 2009 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There’s always that awkward moment after an introduction at a party when you’ve already covered where you’re from, what you do, and how you know the host. Then silence.

Now what? Filling the conversation void is a delicate dance, one where I’m often stepping on other people’s toes. But a healthy dose of press junket cocktail parties in my past career has taught me make reasonably interesting small talk with almost anyone, without resorting to telling embarrassing stories about the host to break the ice (sorry guys!).

Talk about sports, as long as it’s not about Tiger. Sports is one of those universal bonding activities that rarely offend. You would be surprised how much mileage you can get out of this topic and how many people you can incorporate when you reminisce about the two football games you attended in college. It’s almost foolproof, except when it’s about to Tiger Woods, which is hard, because every third news article is about Tiger Woods or one of side dishes. But bringing up Tiger is the same as talking about dead relatives, jilted ex-lovers, and prostitution (fun, but maybe not at a cocktail party?) — it’s not polite conversation because you never know what dirt the conversation might dig up or who you’re going to offend. Just stick to the Heisman award ceremony and whatever you saw on SportsCenter at the bar.

Talk about pets, but know when to shut up (Hint: it’s right before you’re about to show them pictures of your adorable puppy or cutesy kitten on your iPhone). Talking about pets is a lovely, non-threatening, and very socially acceptable conversation topic, and we welcome your funny pet tales and will commiserate about having to walk dogs in the rain. Really, we do! But the second you pull out your mobile phone or digital camera, you’ve gone too far. You’ve put your conversation mate the awkward position of having to feign interest in your child-substitute and pretend to gush over your it as much as you do. It’s sabotage. However, if someone pulls this move on you, it is then your right to return fire with your own pocket stash of puppy videos and kitty stills.

Talk about reality TV, but maybe not about the Jersey Shore. Gushing about reality TV has saved me from many a boring night with strangers that I know nothing about and have little income with because love it or hate it, everyone has an opinion on reality TV. But while most adults have heard about The Real World, The Hills, and My Super Sweet 16, no adult really watches MTV these days. Bringing up Jersey Shore is not in your best interested because 1) no one will know what you’re talking about, 2) you’ve just outed yourself as demographically immature and falling in to the 16-21 market, and 3) risks bringing up racial stereotypes of Italian-American immigrants, which is always followed by, “my family is Italian.” Awkward!

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