It is the party season. Instead of avoiding or stressing about parties, take a new tact: RSVP yes and prepare just a little. Attending parties is a skill like any other and can be learned. Preparation and a dose of common sense is all you need.
Holiday parties come in three varieties:
Each has its special considerations. But they all have one thing in common. Their highest and best purpose is to reaffirm personal connections. Some people go to parties for other reasons, for example to impress, drink, or hook up. But these are not the highest and best purposes of a holiday party.
Social connections in families, among friends, or coworkers are endlessly complex. Challenges and problems among people are inevitable and natural. There are times and places for working on these issues. A holiday party is not one of them. Parties should be easygoing and enjoyable.
How is this accomplished ?
Be prepared to be sociable, i.e. positive, interactive. Get enough sleep, don’t be rushed, and eat something healthy before you go so you are not “ hangry” or sluggish. Eating something before hand will help you avoid binging on lesser quality party foods.
Know who you are likely to meet and be prepared to be cordial to them, no matter who they are, i.e. your ex, your hostile co-worker. I would say think up some topics for conversation, but that seems too contrived. Instead ask them about their holiday plans, or something that you know interests them. Here’s the secret:
The key to feeling comfortable at a party
is making other people feel comfortable.
Try to be inclusive of those who seem shy. Do not monopolize the host or any high profile guests. In conversation, take a moderate approach, avoiding both awkward silences or talking above everyone.
Do not introduce controversial topics such as politics. If such a conversation takes place, and you notice some uneasiness, try to smooth it over or change the topic. You may also excuse yourself from the conversation.
Make the rounds. Try to touch base with most everyone you know. If you are with someone at a party, touch base with them periodically. You are not obliged to be glued at the hip. Do however, look out for their comfort.
Be liberal with introductions. Be quick with eye contact, a firm handshake and your name. You will put people at ease. Some may be taken aback and you may have to gently ask them their name.
Come with a gift for the host. Wine is cliché unless you and the host are wine aficionados. Flowers die. Consider a small indoor plant, or better yet some potted culinary herbs. If your gift is modest and personal, it will be appreciated. A ribbon, some raffia or a brief note will show forethought.
Love your outfit if you possibly can. Consider black, because…black. Go festive, as this shows an admirable enthusiasm. Do not, however, conduct fashion experiments at an office party. Do not go overboard on risqué or glitzy. You want to maintain your professional reputation.
A social party is different. There you may show more flair and more skin. However, do not assume you will be as comfortable in your dressing room at home as you will be under the lights at a party. Some people will be taller than you are, and even with heels, they can look right down that cleavage. You will realize this at just the wrong moment and there will be nothing you can do. Remember too, that you may want to dance. Hopefully your sequined sheath and your platforms will permit this.
Do not under any circumstances drink to excess. In fact, As a physician, I suggest club soda with a wedge of lime. It looks just as sparkly in your hand, and gives an air of restrained elegance. Why ? Because it is restrained, and it is elegant. If you drink, limit yourself to one beer, one glass of wine, or one glass of champagne. Social interactions are complex and challenging. You will want to be within your full faculties at parties.
Do not overeat. It’s not even fun. Take small portions of just the best things. Hydrate with your elegant soda.
If you are asked to bring a dish, you must. Do your best and present it well. Consult liberally with the host beforehand to be sure you are getting it right. If it is a DIY kind of casual party, and it seems appropriate, offer to help clean up.
Do not bring extra people with you unless you have the host’s encouragement beforehand. Do not come early and do not come too late. Do not stay too late. Better that the host should ask you to stay rather than ask you to leave.
So many rules ! Yes and no. Most of this is just plain old common sense. But, I daresay, common sense is not exactly common these days.
So, pick a gift, pick an outfit, stand up straight and enjoy the parties of the season.