For many, holiday parties are a source of extreme anxiety. Suddenly, you are surrounded by people that you see every day, but have never had to relate with on a personal level. This can be a very unnatural and awkward experience. Shuffling between different personas can feel forced and uninspiring. However, if you follow a few basic techniques, holiday parties can become a great place to connect with others and build new relationships that might enrich your everyday life. Parties can also be a powerful venue for networking and developing fresh opportunities. If you are in a managerial role, these events can be a great time to build rapport and trust with your associates.
1. Start with a beginner's mind. Despite what you are thinking about your colleagues, give them all the benefit of the doubt. Make an assumption that they are looking forward to seeing you and having a good time. Do not enter the room with preconceived notions that it will be a bore. View the event as an opportunity to connect with others and get to know people on another level. Wipe the slate clean if you have had any negative interactions with your coworkers. The holidays are a great opportunity to create inroads with those you have not had a chance to connect.
2. Be in the moment. Try to enjoy yourself. If you are going to be at the party, you might as well have fun. Try to experience the evening and those around you. Leave your phone in your bag or pocket. Research shows that regardless of what you are doing, people are much happier when they are in the moment. You can increase the quality of your experience by truly embracing it and leaving your other thoughts and distractions behind.
3. Smile and make eye contact. When you approach others, make sure to give them a big smile and make eye contact. Research shows that smiling can actually make others feel more trusting and at ease. It disarms others when you greet them with a positive intent. It shows that you are happy to see them and are looking to build a connection. If others approach your group, do your best to introduce them. Use first and last name when possible, and try to employ some personal identifiers to add context. For example, "Jack worked on the sales project with me last month" or "Jesse sits next to me and our children play soccer together."
4. Compliment when possible. Try to find something personal and pleasant about the other person. It could be how well someone did on a presentation or that you recognize your peer always seems to have a positive attitude. Now is a perfect time to bring up something you might have noticed throughout the year but never had the chance to communicate. Perhaps you have seen cute pictures of your colleague's children at their desk, or that someone is always on time for a meeting. Let them know you have observed it, and it has impressed you.
5. Ask open ended questions, speak less, and listen more. Try to ask thought provoking questions that do not beget yes and no answers. You might ask someone to tell you about their children or why they chose a specific destination for a vacation. Show interest and truly listen to their response. Try not to interrupt, and really tune into what the other person is saying. Active listening means engaging with the other person, asking follow-up questions, and relating some of your experiences to create a greater personal connection.