At Your Company’s Holiday Party, What to Say and What Not to Say

Walker Brown

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when businesses all over the world become more festive than ever before, with holiday music piped throughout the buildings, dazzling decorations, and, of course, a big party to celebrate the season.

You’ll almost certainly engage in conversation with your coworkers at these events. What a fantastic opportunity to form bonds with newcomers and strengthen long-standing workplace relationships!

Of course, you don’t want to record these conversations because they’ll sound artificial and robotic. However, it’s useful to remember a few guidelines that will make the evening more enjoyable for everyone you interact with—and encourage your teammates to remember you more favorably. As a result, I recommend that you think about these four conversation starters for your club’s annual party.

First and foremost, stay away from politics. Because many of us keep up with the news by watching it, we’re bombarded with interviews and commentary about who the good guys and gals are, as well as who the bad guys and gals are. Most of us hope that when we attend our company’s holiday party, we won’t be bombarded with talk about indictments, treason, accusations, lawsuits, resignations, firings, inappropriate comments, e-mail misuse, and other upsetting topics.

Not only are you and your coworkers tired of listening to political pundits who appear to be paid by the word, but there’s another factor to consider: talking about politics rarely changes anyone’s mind—yours or theirs. Instead, highly opinionated individuals will become frustrated, angry, and even hostile.

President George H.W. Bush’s recent funeral reminded me of his call for a “kinder, gentler nation.” Unfortunately, we haven’t arrived yet. When more moderate people question their judgment, too many zealots become enraged.

SECOND, maintain a positive attitude. This is not the time to be pessimistic. The rest of the year, we get a lot of it. We all want to unwind and stay positive for a couple of hours. Examples:

“Service at our table appears to be especially slow,” we might think. Our main course hasn’t even arrived yet, while that table over there is enjoying dessert.”
Instead of being negative, you could say something like, “Well, I noticed that the other table got their dessert before we did.” But I applaud those who work in the food service industry; they have a big job to do, serving so many people at once. It’s amazing how well they perform!

—We might be tempted to say, “Aren’t you shivering?” again. Outside it’s below freezing, and it’s the same here”? It’s far better to take a step forward and say, “I’m going to ask our host if he can adjust the thermostat.” I think a few more degrees of heat would be more comfortable for us.”

It reminds me of a cruise my wife and I took years ago. We ate with the same two couples every night. One couple was cheerful, upbeat, and upbeat. The other couple spent the entire dinner discussing everything that had gone wrong earlier in the day. Which couple do you think we remember fondly and would like to dine with again?

THIRD: Keep your jokes and off-the-cuff remarks to a minimum in tip number three. Throughout the year, headlines have confirmed this new reality: previously acceptable language has become unacceptable, offensive, and, in extreme cases, has resulted in highly unfavorable publicity and even legal action.

Naturally, we can still compliment another partygoer on their appearance and dancing ability. Compliments that are tastefully expressed are appreciated. Good judgment tells us which linguistic boundaries we should avoid crossing.

FOURTH: My fourth conversational tip is also very important. “When holding a conversation, make sure to let go once in a while,” I read somewhere a long time ago.

Consider the men and women you enjoy spending time with the most. There’s a good chance you won’t remember the gentleman or lady who spends most of your time with you telling long-winded stories. On the contrary, you’ll hold a high regard for a friend who says things like this:

“Interesting… tell me more… what happened then?”

You can easily become the most memorable conversationalist at your club’s party if you become the most attentive listener.

Finally, I recommend that you use these talking points at your company’s holiday party. You’ll be glad you did, and everyone you meet at the event will be as well.