The holidays can be a wonderful opportunity to connect or re-connect with family and friends, those who mean the most to you.
Sitting around a big table with your favorite people, sharing great food and wine can be one of the most wonderful experiences in the world.
It can also be a complete nightmare.
Maybe you are a guest at someone else's family event, maybe you are in an environment where you only know one or two others. Or maybe you have a mother in law from hell.
The best way to navigate your way through this, or any other event, and come out smelling like roses, is to become a great conversationalist.
What to do:
Be expressive.People who communicate in an animated and lively way are generally liked or received more than people who are considered moody or hard to read.
Make Eye Contact.These days everyone seems to have their eyes cast downwards to their smartphones / tablets / other screens. If you pay attention to an average day of interaction with others you will be amazed at how many people you talk to who either don't make eye contact with you, or who look away multiple times while you are speaking to them.
When someone makes eye contact and maintains it during a conversation, it is completely intoxicating. Those are the people who make the biggest impact on you, and who you remember.
And it is one of the traits of a great conversationalist.
Be A Great Listener.People love to talk, especially about themselves.
You will be perceived as a better conversationalist if you do more attentive listening than actual talking!
Don't Talk About Yourself.Well, not all the time anyway.
Having to sit through never ending conversations where someone is just talking about themselves is plain nauseating. Spice up the chatter with interesting things you have done, but don't spend all your time ME-ing.
Learn About The Interests of Others.
Do a little research on the people you will be with, find out what they are interested in, and learn a little bit about those things. Enough to ask a few leading questions about subjects the person or people in question feel passionate about.
The art of great conversation is not to talk at people, but to draw them into a conversation where they feel their input is desired, appreciated, enjoyed and respected.
Even if you will just be with your own family or people you know really well - use the opportunity to practice and become a better conversationalist.
Find Common Ground.People instinctively like someone they have things in common with.
A great conversationalist seeks out the common ground they can find with others, and in doing so opens conversations that everyone enjoys participating in.
My friends at Proflowers.com created this info-graphic about the Science of Dinner Table Conversation
Please include attribution to ProFlowers.com with this graphic.
Check out the gorgeous bouquets available at ProFlowers.com
And if you are the poor girl with the evil mother in law? Take a deep breath, square your shoulders, keep your chin parallel to the floor, and know you are not alone! You win by maintaining grace and dignity. Don't let the old bag get under your skin ;))