Awkward silences this Christmas

Eight people crammed in a small liftChristmas is upon us once again, which I love, but it also brings a time of people coming together that normally wouldn’t. Office parties, family gatherings and a much busier social month all mean that we’re destined to interact with more perfect strangers than usual. Now personally, I love awkward silences, in fact I love all awkward situations, I like to watch how people deal with it. For instance, I like to say outrageous things, not because I necessarily mean them, but I like the reaction to them. My favourite is when in a lift, turn around to face the group; people pretty much squirm under the pressure of social awkwardness, try it sometime, it’s exhilarating!

But I appreciate that not many people share this odd pleasure I have in life, and so I’m writing a guide on how to deal with awkward gatherings.

Of course every interaction will start with how cold the weather is, how the the kids are, how quickly December passes and of course how work is always the same as it has been, as far as a peripheral family member is concerned (believe me, they really don’t want to hear about the exciting project you’ve just delivered on time and under budget, because roles reversed, I couldn’t give a hoot about theirs. Once we’ve got all this inane chit chat out of the way you quickly find yourself inspecting the state of your shoes, and becoming annoyed at the white line circumnavigating your foot (goddamn salt), so try these tactics for becoming the life of the party:

  • Search for people’s interests. Ask open questions about something you’ve heard them mention and let the conversation flow. Generally people only like to talk about things they’re interested in, so by finding what that is you’re on to a winner
  • Tap into social motivators for sharing. When in a social environment, there are three drivers for social situations; feeling smart, looking cool and helping others. Open up a conversation asking someone to recommend something they’re good at: “John, you like walking, and Blogs here is thinking about getting into it, where’s good at this time of year?”
  • Break the hierarchy. At some point, someone from further up the hierarchy (be it professional, or the hierarchy of life) and conversation will miraculously dry up, repeat above steps with new member, thus breaking the hierarchical convention and we’re back in business.

Merry Christmas y’all.

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