Are you the person at your Company’s holiday party surrounded by awkward silence? Someone’s beside you, but you just don’t know what to say. So you both stand there in silence with the cheese and cracker tray as your only common interest. If you have trouble breaking the ice and starting conversations with people, here are three creative tips:
1. Ask your boss/colleague if there is anyone you should meet and ask him/her to introduce you.
If you are the person whining that you don’t know anyone, hiding by the punch bowl or sticking closely to a colleague, then this is a great tip for you. Stop whining and start meeting. Once introduced, try the next two tips to get that conversation going.
2. Take clichés and tack them together to build a relationship and a conversation.
Don’t be predictable – don’t state the obvious or the expected cliché. For instance, everyone tends to say things like: "Isn’t the weather awful today?" "Christmas is almost here." "Nice tie." Try combining two cliché-type statements together like this: "That’s a great Christmas tie you are wearing; it makes me smile and think about our family Christmas." These statements sound like you put some thought into them. You just handed out some praise (everyone likes praise), started to build a relationship and hopefully a conversation.
3. Use the power of three: Ask a question – state a fact – offer an opinion.
People need to warm up to you before they will engage in a meaningful conversation. Don’t expect a conversation to build from you shaking hands and saying, "Nice to meet you Abbas"; you will still be standing there in awkward silence. Try these three steps in succession to lay the groundwork.
- Ask a question. ("How long have you worked here?" or "How do you know my boss?")
- State a fact about yourself. ("I just started in my position last week." or "I work in the downtown office.")
- State an opinion. ("These shrimp are fantastic!" or "I think 2012 will be a great year.")
Conversation faux pas…
Now, if you want to be known as the person to avoid at the party, start conversations about politics, religion, money or sex. These topics should keep you standing alone at the cheese and cracker tray for the entire party!
One final thought…Silence can be golden – don’t be afraid of it.
This BLOG is adapted from the Hamilton Spectator article, “How to Break the Ice”, December 5, 2011.