« 13. Five great ways to have easy Christmas conversations »

By Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute; Author of "Business networking" (now out of print).

Build relationships with the people you meet.

Tip 1: Get yourself in the mood and find your Christmas cheer.

Get yourself in the mood for your Christmas functions. Christmas is a time for celebration, cheer and compassion. Go to your functions in a positive frame of mind, happy to spread cheerfulness this Christmas.

Don't go along complaining about having to see the relatives, or fed-up with the amount of cooking you have had to do, or wishing you didn't have to go to so many functions this Christmas.

Be of good heart and prepared to enjoy yourself. 

Tip 2: Talk about Christmas.

You already have something in common with all the people you meet at Christmas functions - and that is Christmas. Talk about:
  • What you have been doing since you saw people last Christmas. 
  • The best Christmas you have ever had.
  • How Christmas has changed for you since you were a child.
  • What Christmas means to you, 
  • Your favourite Christmas holiday, 
  • Your favourite Christmas music, 
  • Your memories of Santa Claus as a child, 
  • Your memory of family get-togethers, of going to church, of singing carols, of your most unusual Christmas and more 

Christmas makes an interesting conversation topic once you move beyond the boring question, such as, "What are you doing for Christmas?"

Tip 3: Think of something different to talk about.

Be original this Christmas and think of something different to talk about. The wine, turkey or the heat/snow can get boring especially if people have been to a lot of Xmas functions.

Try a topic you've never spoken about before, from Apples, Ballroom Dancing and Implants through to Zoos and Zebras!

For example, talking about history can really help to open-up conversation with some people, particularly older people, whether it was Christmas as a child, the war or how times have changed. Be willing to reminisce and to join in with your own experiences. If you listen to some people reminiscing you will hear of a whole different world from the one you live in. And this can help you get to know why people are the way they are.

Tip 4: Use the presents, cards or decorations to generate topics.

Generate topics to talk about from the Christmas presents, cards or decorations.
For example:
  1. You might use them to lead you to memories, eg, "This (present) reminds me of the time when...", or "That picture of Santa Claus reminds me of my favourite Christmas when I was a child and I left out carrots for his Reindeer."
  2. Or, you might use them to lead you to your dreams and plans, eg, "That (present) has me thinking about my holiday next year when I will ...",
  3. Or, you might use them to discuss life values or society, eg, "I notice there are over 20 Christmas cards. Why do you think we send Christmas cards but find it so hard to stay in touch during the year?

Tip 5: Choose questions that keep conversation flowing

The types of questions you ask can make a great difference to the ease with which your conversations keep going this Christmas. 

  1. "Great dinner, wasn't it?", 
  2. "Are you enjoying yourself?", 
  3. "Have you had a good year, Uncle Albert?", 
  4. "Wasn't it good to see Santa Claus?" or 
  5. "Isn't it nice to see Emma looking so well?" ...
... may only get a "yes" or "no" as an answer. Avoid these closed questions.

Instead, ask open-ended questions. For example, use questions such as:
  1. "What are your reactions to the Boxing Day sales?", 
  2. "In what ways do you think Christmas is best spent?", 
  3. "How does this Christmas dinner compare with the ones you had as a child?" 
  4. "What have been the highlights of your year this year?"
  5.  "I've noticed how well Emma is - what do you think are the best ways to keep healthy?" 

Keep your questions open-ended to give you the best chance of making interesting and easy conversation this Christmas.

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