Whilst most people look forward to their corporate Christmas parties, there are some who are secretly dreading the occasion.
According to Catherine Blythe, author of ‘The Art Of Conversation’, there are many workers who are likely to put their heads in the sand this Christmas out of fear for speaking to others.
Recent figures obtained by an office party agency, cited by Fresh Business Thinking, suggest that within London, the average size of a Christmas party will be 113 people this year, meaning that having a fear of speaking is not an option.
Even if employees might be scared of being laughed at or mocked, Blythe says that it’s important to remember that the fear of this is greater inside our heads than in reality.
Saying hello incidentally is the first hurdle to overcoming this fear. Speaking to the Mail Online, Blythe says humorously: “The first thing to do is draw on common ground. Always be neutral, never pass a remark on somebody’s hideous Lycra purple catsuit – the chances are it will be your companion’s wife.”
Shutting down a conversation is a faux pas as well. Speakers should take turns as much as possible and discuss open topics to start, like the weather, work and holidays. However, they should be careful taking care not to encroach on another’s political and personal beliefs.
This doesn’t mean that interruptions aren’t entirely unacceptable, but it is far better to steer the conversation where possible.
“There is such a think as an active listener – participate in the conversation and change the subject if it’s getting boring,” says Blythe.
“You could interrupt the man talking about his new car by finding a pause and saying: ‘Sounds great, where do you like to drive it? Do you go to the country? I’m more of a walker myself’,” she advised, concluding that all techniques will require both some degree of practice and patience.