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What (and what not) to say

November 28, 2004

Here are ice breakers everyone can use to turn holiday get-togethers into opportunities for sharing, caring and warmth:

What's your connection to the host/hostess or organization?

What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?

How does this season of the year affect your work/life?

Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we got together.

Tell me about your plans for the holidays.

Describe your favorite holiday tradition.

What challenges do you encounter at this time of year?

Tell me about a special gift you have given or received?

What is your favorite holiday? Why?

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Tell me about some plans you have for the upcoming year.

Guaranteed conversation killers include:

"Are you married?" or "Do you have any kids?" Where are you going with either one of these if the response is no?

"How's your job with ?"

Unless you know a person well, assume nothing. Don't put someone on the spot like that.

Instead ask: "What's been going on with work?"

"How's your wife?"

(She left, took the money, the kids and got the house.)

Instead: "Bring me up to date on your family."

"Merry Christmas" or "What are your Christmas plans?"

Not all of us celebrate Christmas.

At all costs, avoid "Is that real?" and "Are those real?"

- Source: Debra Fine, author of "The Fine Art of Small Talk" (www.debrafine.com on the Web)

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