Month: December 2016

Save Me from You- Small Talk at Holiday Parties

Save me from you this holiday season, or my argument why everyone should have to go through sorority or fraternity rush to attend a cocktail party:

We may meet over these next couple of weeks, and I would like to prevent any possible awkwardness.  I want to help you become absolutely scintillating for three minutes or less and then have the option to fade away.  Yes, I am talking about holiday party small talk with strangers.

We can do this together, and I promise, it can be painless.

First, don’t avoid eye contact.  It is so obvious when we are standing near each other and then you decide you want to know what type of crown molding our hosts chose for their dining room.  It’s okay, you can look at me.  I won’t bite.

Because of our close proximity, I may say, “Hi, I’m Mary.”  I may even extend my hand to shake yours.  The appropriate response is not, “Oh.”  It is, “Hi Mary, I’m Jane, Steve,” or whatever your name is.

So now, we are making eye contact and know each other’s names.

You may be panicking about what comes next, I promise it is not rocket science.

Here are some common next sentences:

“This dip is delicious”

“Their decorations are beautiful.”

“How do you know (hosts names)?”

“Do you live in this neighborhood?”

“Have you tried the cocktail they are featuring?”

“Those are great shoes.”

“That is a great tie.”

These are some sentences to avoid:

“I’m not much for parties.”

“So, who did you vote for?”

“I don’t know these people.  My spouse made me come.”

“I can’t eat anything here because I am dairy, soy, gluten, protein, and carbohydrate intolerant.”

“Do you think it’s too early to leave?”

So, going with one of those first, common sentences, I may respond in agreement with you.  I may introduce you to my husband.  He may use one of those sentences, or, because he has a life, he may say, “So, where do you work?”

These sentences may set off a chain reaction of more sentences, thus leading to a conversation, or they may lead us to a dead end.  It will be a pleasant dead end where we have met, exchanged some pleasantries and done our parts as good holiday party guests.

I learned this three-minute conversation technique while going through four years of sorority rush.  It can be exhausting, but it can also lead to meeting some really great people.

I may even meet you.

Companger-when anger gets in the way of compassion

I saw someone who causes me companger.

Companger-when you know you should be feeling compassion but all you feel is anger.

I wonder, are some people here to test us, to see if we will take the high road, turn the other cheek, forgive and forget?

Nearly everyone I know has someone in their life who causes them to feel companger.  The person is infuriating and at the same time elicits feelings of sympathy.

Why do they continue to do these behaviors that are either destructive to themselves or the relationships they have with other people?  Don’t they see their role, their contribution to the drama in their lives?

In many of these cases there is some addiction—to shopping, eating, drinking, exercising, drugs, or some other compulsive behavior.  We know these compulsions must exist to assuage deep emotional pain.

We feel for them.  We want the best for them, but we don’t want to get caught up in their web.  We don’t want to be lied to or lied about or try to pretend they aren’t lying when we know they are.

You know you are dealing with a difficult person when they produce one of two emotions in you-anger or pity.

A friend of mine said these hurt souls need “space and grace.” Is that really the best thing, isolating them? 

Another friend speaks of not letting these challenging individuals vomit all over her shoes.  It’s a strong image—you are going through your life, keeping all your plates balanced in the air, and some person comes along with all their mixed-up emotions and throws up all over your shoes.

Maybe, “space and grace” is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

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