I was in my new Christmas sweater with a glass of punch in one hand and a small plate of Christmas cookies in the other. My favorite Christmas tune started to play, bringing a smile to my face. Everything was going great … then it happened.

I got locked into an awkward conversation.

If you don’t like social gatherings, there is a good chance it’s partly because of these awkward conversations that can torpedo Christmas cheer faster than coal in your stocking.

The good news is there are some easy ways to weather these tricky conversations that don’t involve faking an injury for the third year in a row.

1. Ask Good Questions

The right questions can improve even the most awkward small talk. Ask about hobbies, interests, experiences and dreams. Ask follow-up questions and see how long you can keep them talking about themselves.

Some of my favorite questions:

  • Tell me about the last great book/show/movie you enjoyed?
  • How has your life improved in the last week/month/year?
  • If someone gave you an all-expense paid vacation, where would you go and what would you do?
  • If someone made a movie about your life, who would play you and what would the title be?
  • If you were to write a book, what would you write about?

The objective of all these questions is to make them feel good about themselves. All healthy relationships are built upon this skill.

2. Find Common Ground

Conversations get awkward when we don’t care about the things people are saying. Intentionally direct the conversation toward things you do care about and you’ll find it becomes much more interesting. See if you can find a common interest with the person you’re talking to, whether it’s the type of music you listen to, a place you’ve visited or where you grew up.

3. Be An Active Listener

Distraction can subtly ruin a good conversation. If you are distracted by your phone or something else going on in the room, practice the discipline of focused, active listening. Try to shut out the rest of the room and focus only on the person you are talking to. Listen carefully to what they are saying and you might find that you’re actually interested in the conversation.

4. Learn to Graciously Excuse Yourself

Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just have to get out of a conversation. When you are ready to talk to someone else, let them know you’ve enjoyed catching up with them and graciously excuse yourself. You might say, “It’s great to hear how you are doing, I’m going to go get something to eat.” Also, repeat something they told you, “Thanks for telling me about your trip to Hawaii. I’d love to go sometime.” Remember, even as you’re exiting the conversation, try to make them feel great about themselves.

Awkward conversations are a part of life. But the wise man or woman is prepared to make the most of them before graciously exiting. Here’s to a merry (and hopefully not-too-awkward) holiday season of Christmas parties!

You may also be interested in 4 Ways To Build A Community Of Friends In A New Place

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