Christmas festivities present us with the wonderful opportunity of socialising, mingling and engaging in cheerful conversations with friends and family. But what if you find these social occasions somewhat stressful? During this season, we often find ourselves needing to talk to lots of people, some of whom we might not even know so well. For some, the thought of engaging in small talk with people whom they do not feel as confident with makes them feel tense and uneasy.

So, I have dug into some of the best ingredients from the communication kitchen that are effective for those awkward moments and have compiled them into this successful recipe which will help you navigate your way.

I’ve broken this down into two parts – the first part is for conversation starters and the second is a guide for how to make your way into group conversations that are already underway.

Conversation starters

Greeting someone is a sign of interest and friendliness. Be courageous enough in making the first step to introduce yourself to people you don’t know, and be the first to greet people you already know. Smile when you approach them to look amiable and make them feel more comfortable. Then, consider some of these options to get the conversation going:

1. Give sincere compliments

As you approach someone and you notice something appealing that you can genuinely compliment them on, go ahead and tell them. Finding something good about the person you are talking to is possible if you focus on them. It could be their clothes, an accessory, or perhaps their hairstyle. You can follow up the compliment by asking a question related to it, such as, “I really like your necklace. Did you get that locally?”

Don’t hesitate to give genuine compliments, as they are always well received. Everyone likes a compliment  Just make sure that it is a sincere one. Giving compliments reflects that you are interested in the other person as you were able to notice something in them. It also assists the other person in feeling appreciated and therefore more at ease during the conversation. 

2. Food glorious food!

Food is one of the best small talk topics, since practically everyone loves to eat. You can take a spin off from the food being served at the event to discover what kind of food the other person loves eating. Ask which restaurants they would recommend and the best dishes to order. If they do not eat out often, ask which dishes they like having at home. You can ask about the weirdest kind of food they have ever eaten or the most sensational food experience. It’s up to you where you want to steer the conversation.

3. Passions

Delve into the other person’s hobbies. You will soon find that they will be enthusiastic to talk about what they love, and you’ll get the chance to connect with them on a deeper level. You can open up so many interesting conversations, going into anything from the beauty of art to the thrills of sport or the wonders of travel. The key thing is that you have to be interested. If you’re not interested, you can’t be interesting!

As you open up conversations with others, keep in mind that most likely, you are not alone in having nervous feelings and vulnerabilities. Consider what others might be feeling too about the gathering. By considering the perspectives of others, you will be able to shift yours and get out of your own self-thoughts.

Joining conversations

Chances are that you will also walk into a social event that is already in full swing. As you look around, you see groups of people in circles, chattering. How do you make your way in?

1. Paraphrase

How do you insert your voice into a conversation that’s already going on? You would not want to come across as rude or as if you’re interrupting. Yet, at the same time, you want to join. You can consider paraphrasing. Paraphrasing means formulating someone else’s ideas in your own words. So, you could say something like, “Looking for a new opportunity! That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately” or “Budapest! That’s a city that I’ve always wanted to explore.”

2. Ask a question

In a conversation that is already under way, you can gently make your way in by politely asking a question. You can go with, “That sounds interesting! So how did you reach that destination?” or “I’m curious to know more.  So, what did you do then?”

3. Share an emotion

You can politely lead your way into a conversation by using emotion and saying something like “That sounds amazing!” or “That must have been exciting!”

This recipe will enable you to break away from apprehensive feelings and move towards building delightful connections. Keep in mind that pushing through to make meaningful conversation is good for you, so seek to communicate in a way that fosters understanding and connection.

Contrary to conventional advice to ‘keep it light’, studies show that people prefer having deeper and more meaningful discussions. Moreover, engaging in valuable conversations is linked with greater happiness and well-being. When we speak about experiences and the world around us, we become better equipped at finding meaning in our lives. Good conversations also facilitate bonding and a greater connection with the person with whom we are speaking. Simply put, making a point to talk about stuff that matters is a simple way to cultivate happiness.

Christmas is a time to embrace deeper emotions and nurture joy. Be aware of your own feelings and those of others around you too. Know that when you make that pause and effort to truly connect with someone and understand how they feel, you’re on your way to having meaningful conversations and building healthy professional and personal relationships.

Wishing you all a truly blissful festive season!

You can reach Michelle Fenech Seguna on [email protected]  or accesswww.speaktomove.com.mt for more information.

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