The holidays have arrived and with it, lots of “parties”. While for some this is the most magical, wonderful time of year, for others it is full of anxiety. Dreaded obligations to turn up and talk with people; people they may not know well, feel comfortable talking to, or even know at all. We have all been to a party like that; butterflies in the belly wondering how you will ever meet anyone, or how you are going to make an impression on your boss with the short, valuable face time, or the anxiety of what kind of impression you will make on your new in-laws? After speaking with a friend about exactly this, we wanted to give you an easy ‘how to’ to relieve any party anxiety you may have so you can successfully connect with others and actually enjoy yourself this holiday season.
Whether you are in a social situation with your colleagues, your friends, or your family, these simple 5 steps will help.
1. ASK OPEN QUESTIONS: The easiest way to start a conversation is by asking open questions. “How do you know (____)?” “What do you do at (_____)?” “What do you think of (______)?” “Tell me more about (______)”. The quickest way to engage someone is to ask an open question. It is also the easiest way to learn something about a person. Be genuinely curious. What about this person do you want to know more of?
People love to tell their stories and open questions are a perfect way to find out what their story is. Learning about people and their stories builds a connection, creates and strengthens a relationship, allows you to learn their perspective, and makes them feel seen, heard, and understood (ultimately what we all want in the end!). Open questions are questions that begin with who, what, where, when, and how. Tell me more is also a great way to get the dialogue started.
2. LISTEN: I know, I know, we talk about it all the time, and there is a reason! It’s really THAT important when communicating and forming relationships (informal and formal), and we have learned that people really struggle with doing it well. Take the time to really listen by giving the speaker your full attention. Body language is a huge part of listening. Notice how you are standing – are your arms closed off in front of you or open by your side? Are you making eye contact or looking over their shoulder wondering who the next person is that will walk into the room? What’s your face doing? Is it relaxed or tense? Notice the same cues in the speaker. This is part of listening. People love to be heard, and people love people who take the time to hear them! It is hard to ask questions when you aren’t listening to the speaker. Notice how much you can learn from a person in a short time just by listening, and how that affects your relationships.
3. QUIET THE CHATTER IN YOUR HEAD: In order to really listen to someone we need to quiet the chatter in our heads so we can actually HEAR what they have to say. Often we find ourselves thinking about and listening to our own head chatter about the next food we want to eat, the next drink we want to have or the next person we want to speak to, all while NOT listening to the person who is speaking to us. And it is noticeable! Try to turn off your head chatter at the door and give yourself permission to enjoy the moment when you are in it. You will have plenty of time to eat, drink and talk to the people you want to talk to. Take the time to listen to others, ask questions and learn about them.
4. WATCH YOUR INTERUPTIONS: The most disrespectful thing you can do is to interrupt someone. It messages that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say (ie they don’t have value), not the best way to start or build upon a relationship. Think for a minute what it’s like for you when someone interrupts you? How does it feel? Many have said that they interrupt because they are worried they will forget what they are going to say, or a point theyneed to make. What would it be like to enter a conversation where there isn’t a wrong or right? Where the conversation and discussion can be open to all perspectives respectfully? If you have something to say, by all means it is important to say it. However, wait until the speaker is done before raising your point or concern while being open to hearing their response.
5. BE IN THE MOMENT: When you are in the moment, not worried or thinking about what’s already happened or what’s to come, you will find it much easier to do all of the above. When arriving at the party let go of any preconceived notions of what to expect or what people may or may not be like. We invite you to be open and in the moment taking it all in, allowing you to listen, be curious, and ask questions without interrupting. Try focusing on the person who is speaking to you and let it be about them. So much of our pre-party anxiety can come with the thought of it being about us! What am I going to say? What if I am not funny? What if I don’t come across as smart? Let go of that anxiety and let the focus be on the speaker. We invite you to see, heard and seek to understand them, promising an enjoyable party experience.
We want to hear your successful party conversation strategies, what works and what doesn’t? How are you making the most of this holiday season?
Property of coaching culutre®, founded by Katherine Taberner and Kirsten Siggins. http://www.coachingculture.ca