It's That Time Of Year: Dos And Don'ts For Holiday Mingling

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If you're dreading the holiday office party or attending one more open house and small talk doesn't come naturally to you, consider creating your own "Dos and Don'ts" cheat sheet, suggests Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Networking Skills -- and Leave a Positive Impression.

Save it in your blazer pocket or handbag. The cheat sheet includes:

Don't

Wait to be properly introduced. Are you waiting for your grandmother from St. Louis to arrive and make the "proper" introductions?

Do

Take the risk introduce yourself and be the first to say "Hello!" Act as if you're the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.

Don't

Be uncertain and wait for the other person to extend their hand.

Do

Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone unless they are prohibited by religion or culture.

Don't

Rush through introductions

Do

Take your time! Make an extra effort to remember names, and use the names frequently in the conversation.

Don't

Look around the room to see what is being served at the buffet table or who has just walked through the door.

Do

Maintain eye contact. People don't feel listened to if you're not looking at them.

Don't

Talk about yourself, your work, your kids or your upcoming vacation in the Alps for more than a few minutes.

Do

Show a genuine interest in others. Get somebody to talk about why they're attending the event or what their connection to the host is and you're on your way to engaging them in conversation. Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are special. Help people you talk to feel as if they're the only person in the room.

Don't

Give one word answers and fall into a conversation rut.

Do

Play the conversation "game." When someone asks, "How's are you?" or "What's going on?" answer with more than: "Pretty good." and "Not much." Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you: "We just implemented flex time at our facility so it has been a huge adjustment." Or "My son is joining me for winter break from his first year at college."

-- Debra Fine is the author of "The Fine Art of Small Talk."

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