One of my least favorite parts of holiday events is the small talk. I loathe it and it’s one of the reasons I tend to say no to most events in general, even work-related ones. But since events are part of my job and we all have certain holiday parties we have to attend, I’ve come up with ways to avoid the painfully awkward conversations…at least for the most part. Here are some things to try if you feel the same.

+ Ask questions

People LOVE to talk about themselves, so let them! I try to find out what they’re interested in or what they’re bringing up in conversation and go from there. Obviously I’m not giving them the third degree but a natural stream of questions usually gets people talking about themselves.

+ Don’t be the person talking about the weather

This is especially an eye roll in Southern California because the weather is nice year-round. So you know you’re pulling sh*t out of the air when the conversation goes to the weather. A mention of weather is fine but don’t be the person bringing it up for more than a second. I know you’re more interesting than that!

+ Ask them about the best part of their year

Since the year is winding down, it’s a good time to ask people about their year, specifically the positive. Depending on the type of event, you could ask them about their favorite part of their year personally or professionally. This usually gets some sort of topic going.

+ Include others

I always find that talking in a small group is easier than 1:1 if you know absolutely no one, so I usually try to find a small friendly-looking person or person(s) to start with. From there you can invite others into the conversation, especially if you see someone looking left out or the person you’re with is extremeley dull.

+ Compliment people

This is a good place to start in any situation. I’ve definitely been the awkward person who didn’t know a soul at a party, and this is what I rely on. Same for when you’re seated next to a family member you don’t have a lot in common with. It breaks the ice in a friendly way.