What to say and what not to say at your company’s Christmas party

Yes, it is that time of year again, when companies around the world become more festive than ever, with Christmas music throughout the buildings, dazzling decorations, and of course a huge party to celebrate the season.

During these holidays, you will surely participate in conversations with your colleagues. What an opportunity this gives you to bond with newcomers and enrich long-standing labor associations!

You don’t want to do these conversations, of course, because they would appear artificial and robotic. However, it helps to keep a few guidelines in mind that will make the evening more enjoyable for everyone you associate with, and will be remembered more favorably by your teammates. So I suggest you consider these four tips for chatting at your club’s annual party.

FIRST: Get away from politics. Because many of us stay informed by watching the news, we get saturated with interviews and comments about who are the good guys and who are the women and who are the bad guys. Most of us hope that when we go to our corporate party, we will not be bombarded again with conversations about accusations, betrayal, accusations, lawsuits, resignations, firings, inappropriate comments, misuse of email, and other distressing topics.

Not only are you and your colleagues tired of listening to political experts who seem to be paid by the word, there is another fact to consider: In most cases, talking about politics is not going to change anyone’s mind. Neither yours nor theirs. Instead, what happens is that very stubborn people will become frustrated, angry, and even hostile.

The recent funeral of President George HW Bush reminded me of his call for a “kinder and gentler nation.” Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Too many fanatics rage when more moderate individuals question their judgment.

SECOND: Stay very positive. This is not a time for sadness and doom. We get a lot of that the rest of the year. For a couple of hours, we all want to relax and stay upbeat. Examples:

We may be tempted to say, “The service at our table seems especially slow. That table over there is enjoying dessert, while our main course hasn’t even arrived.”

Instead of that negative approach, you might comment, “Well, I noticed another table got their dessert before we got our food. But congratulations to those food service professionals, they have a great job serving so many meals at once. Amazing how well they do it!

– Again, we may be tempted to say: “Aren’t you shaking? Outside below zero, and here it feels like that too.” It’s much better to stand up and say, “I’m going to ask our host if he can adjust this thermostat. I think we’d be more comfortable with a couple more degrees of heat.”

It reminds me of one of the times my wife and I went on a cruise. Every night we ate with the same two couples. One couple was jovial, optimistic, and positive. The other couple spent the entire dinner talking about everything that had gone wrong that day. Guess which partner we fondly remember and would like to have dinner with again.

THIRD: For tip number three, be very careful about your off-the-cuff jokes and comments. Headlines throughout the year have confirmed this new reality: previously tolerated language has become unacceptable, offensive, and in extreme cases leads to highly undesirable publicity and even legal action.

Naturally, we can still congratulate another partygoer on how they look and how good they dance. Tastefully expressed compliments are welcome. Good judgment tells us the borders of the language that we should not cross.

FOURTH: My fourth tip is also very important for the conversation. A long time ago I read this advice somewhere: “When you have a conversation, be sure to drop it every now and then.”

Think for a minute about the men and women you enjoy being with the most. You will most likely not name the gentleman or lady who tells many endless stories that dominate time with you. Quite the opposite …

Have high regard for the acquaintance who makes comments like these:

“Very interesting … tell me more … then what happened?”

When you become the most attentive listener at your club party, you can easily become the most memorable conversationalist.

In closing, I recommend putting these conversation tips into practice at your company holiday party. You’ll be glad you did, as will everyone associated with the event.

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