What does it mean ?
There is nothing I loathe more than small talk, and the holidays are just about the worst. Probably like many of you, I find myself attending a lot of holiday functions. I’ll go several holiday gatherings for various magazines I write for. I’ll attend my husband’s company party. I’ll drop in on a few open houses for area businesses. And ultimately, I’ll find myself running out of things to talk about at every single one of these functions. Like we need more stress this time of year, am I right?
The reality is, I like to talk to people. I’m naturally curious, and I enjoy asking questions. However, oftentimes I ask the wrong questions. You know the ones: those conversation enders instead of conversation starters. There’s the usual, “What do you do? What part of town do you live in? And do you have kids?” And for me, that last one is the ultimate doozy because I, in fact, do not have kids. So ends that conversation. Oops.
The more I think about it, the more I realize I not only hate asking those typical questions but answering them too. It’s difficult to describe my non-traditional career; it’s hurtful to explain why I’m not going home for the holidays, and it’s boring to talk about the same things over and over again. Who’s with me?!
This holiday season, I’m saying enough is enough when it comes to dreaded holiday small talk. Instead of avoiding it, I’m going to embrace it, thanks to the guidance of Erika Preval. Erika is an Atlanta-based etiquette expert who also owns a modern day charm school. After years working on Wall Street, writing for the likes of Southern Living, and being a personal shopper at Tiffany’s (hello dream job!), Erika knows her stuff when it comes to all things etiquette.
Who doesn’t love hearing something positive about themselves? Preval explained that a tried-and-true way to start a conversation and get someone talking is to say something nice about them. “Compliments are great conversation starters, and with everyone dressed in their finest, you’ll likely have many occasions during the holidays to create an instant connection with the recipient when giving them,” she said. She emphasized that it’s important to think beyond the weather and focus instead on things people like talking about. “Chatting about upcoming travel plans, new restaurants, or even favorite (non-controversial) podcasts are also ways to keep the conversation going,” Preval added.
Recently, a hostess friend of mine said one of her favorite ways to start a conversation is to ask what someone did that day. I love that! Think of all of the answers that will come up in that response. Preval also said to be ready for what’s next. “Be armed with leading follow-up questions,” she explained. “‘Tell me more…’ expresses interest in what you’ve just heard and is a simple way to keep the conversation going.”
As a conversation starts to dwindle, it can become clear it’s time to move on. However, doing so without being awkward is, well, awkward. “When the conversation starts to wane and you’re beginning to feel like the rhythm has been lost, it’s time to move on,” Preval said. “You can graciously exit the conversation with, ‘I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you. Please excuse me…’ or by introducing them to another person who might be a better fit.”
Leaving a conversation to start a new one can also be a bit tricky, but Preval explained there are ways to do so with confidence. “If the group is open, enter with a simple greeting and introduce yourself,” she noted. “If you’ve overheard the subject matter of their current conversation, add to the discussion with your experiences or inquiries. ‘Did I hear you talking about ____? I’ve always wanted to go there. What is the one thing I shouldn’t miss when I visit?’”
It can be tempting to head to the bar as soon as you get to a party, especially to calm your nerves. Avoid the temptation by giving yourself a little confidence–boosting pep-talk. “Often, when you’re employed in an office where co-workers are known to socialize, your interview was likely looking for a fit for both hard and social skills. Find confidence in that and be yourself,” Preval said. Of course, holiday parties are a time for revelry, so imbibing is often expected and anticipated, and that’s OK! However, keep it light, but professional. “If alcohol is present at an event with co-workers, it is OK to join them,” Preval explained. “Know your tolerance and take care to consume beverages that you’re familiar with to avoid unintentionally being over-served.” Another tip? Don’t feel pressured to drink. “A soda with lime, tonic with citrus, or holding the same glass of wine throughout your time together is perfectly fine,” Preval noted.
Ultimately, have fun! Whether you’re slowly sipping on jingle juice or confidently rocking around the Christmas tree, enjoy yourself. Erika’s final piece of advice? “Please don’t enter the event in search of the WiFi password. Unless you’re expecting a call, your phone should be put away at social events. Connect with the people your feet are facing instead those you interact with virtually.” Cheers to a successful holiday party season!
More Christmas questions for you to ask.
Photo by Canva
When do you open Christmas presents? (On what day? At what time?)
When do you put up a Christmas tree?
If you don’t put up a Christmas tree, do you put up other decorations?
When does your family decorate the Christmas tree?
Where are you going for Christmas vacation?
Where do you think Santa Claus is from?
Where will you go on Christmas Day?
Who do you expect to receive presents from?
Who is Santa Claus?
Do you know the history of Santa Claus?
At what age did you begin not believing in Santa Claus?
Who was at your house last Christmas?
Who will you give presents to this year?
Who would you like to be with on Christmas?
Will you go skiing during the Christmas vacation?
Will you have a Christmas party at your home?
Will you spend Christmas vacation with your family or your friends?
Will you travel abroad during the Christmas vacation?
Would you like to go skating during Christmas vacation?
Why do people give out Christmas cards with gifts and presents at Christmas time?
Why some people do not like Christmas?
Do people behave differently during Christmas? Do they try to be better?
Do you donate something (money, clothes…) to charities?
Do you give something to homeless people?
How long do Christmas trees last?
Do you use an artificial tree?
What do you usually do on Christmas day?
What people usually do on Christmas day?
Why do people sometimes write “Christmas” with an “X”? (Xmas)
Do you have a big and delicious dinner on Christmas day?
Does it break your heart knowing that your children have grown up and this year will be their last Christmas at home?
If you had a million dollars, what would you do during Christmas time?
If you could change something about Christmas time, what would it be?
When do you put up your Christmas tree?
How is Christmas celebrated in the United States?
Do you have a big and delicious dinner in Christmas?
What kind of food do you usually eat in your country?
Do you remember Christmas celebrations you had as a child?
What was the most regretful thing about this year?
Does it break your heart knowing that your children have grown up and this year will be their last Christmas at home?
What did you get for Christmas? What did you give for Christmas?
What’s the best thing you left out for Santa Clause to eat on Christmas?
Trivia: In what 1942 movie was the song ‘White Christmas” first sung?
Do you ever think about the real meaning of Christmas?
Do you go skiing at Christmas time?
Whose birthday is celebrated on Christmas?
Which comes first, Christmas or New Year’s Day?
What is the significance of a Christmas tree?
What does it represent for you?
Christmas Questions I & II by:
Let’s talk about Christmas !
Photo by https://triathlons.thefuntimesguide.com/the_peaceful_warrior/
Bestselling books are notoriously difficult to quantify. First, it’s hard to gauge overall digital sales in tandem with various print formats. Second, according to Publishers Weekly, figures are complicated by various lists that cover multiple categories across several formats. Bestsellers cover fiction, nonfiction, and genre as well as formats like trade paperback or hardcover editions. The titles on our list of 25 bestsellers from the last decade appear on lists compiled by Publishers Weekly, but they’re also stand-out books that probably have titles you remember or that remain familiar. Many of the books on our list were made into movies or captured the cultural zeitgeist
From the folks at Readers Digest
Thank you, Oprah !
Relationship advice is a tricky thing. When it’s unsolicited, it can be annoying and sometimes even insulting (hey, we all have that friend). But when you actually seek it out, it can be hard to find what you’re really looking for—like a definitive answer on whether or not yours is healthy, and what’s truly important.
Sure, there’s your go-to advice like “don’t go to bed angry,” and “respect is important,” but we’ve all heard those before. That’s why we consulted expert therapists for the best tips they most regularly share with their patients.
“Commit to investing an hour—on an ongoing basis—to work on strengthening your relationship, troubleshooting, and making it more satisfying,” says Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D. Set up a weekly or monthly dinner where you only talk about relationship issues or goals.
Sure, it might sound drab, but getting your “homework,” or couple’s maintenance out of the way during a designated conversation is better than having it sabotage a perfectly romantic meal. Make sure to cover the things that you’re grateful for as well as use the time to figure out how to solve problems and minimize them in the future, Cilona says.
Regularly opening up can help bring you closer, says psychotherapist Beth Sonnenberg, L.C.S.W. “Once you think that your feelings don’t matter, won’t be heard, or are not worth sharing, you open the door to harbor negativity and resentment.” That includes positive feelings, too, she points out—especially when they’re connected with your partner. “People need to feel appreciated in any relationship,” she adds.
Every couple has these. Maybe you repeatedly fight about your intense work schedule, or your partner’s spending habits. Whatever it is, not addressing the root of the problem means you’re going to continue to fight. That’s why Cilona recommends that you and your partner identify recurring conflicts, and decide on the solutions. It’s helpful to focus on “specific and discrete behaviors” when you do this instead of labels and interpretations, he says.
For example, instead of saying that your partner is inconsiderate when they buy a mini fridge without consulting you, it’s better to say that when they make big purchases without talking to you first, you feel like they’re trying to hide things from you. “Focusing on the issue rather than blame can allow for more effective problem solving and a team-based approach,” Cilona says.
“We expect so much from our relationships these days. We want our partner to be a best friend, confidant, co-parent, and companion. Yet, this sets us up to be disappointed when our partner cannot fulfill our needs,” says licensed family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago and author of You Are Not Crazy: Letters from Your Therapist.
Obviously, you should expect your partner to meet some of those needs, but the best friend one is complicated. If you feel like your partner just isn’t best friend material for you, Klow recommends finding “healthy, alternative ways” to have that need met through others. “This can free up your relationship to be a source of joy rather than something that lets you down,” he says.
It’s called “mirroring.” Here’s how it works: When you’re having an important discussion with your partner, repeat back exactly what you heard them say before you comment on it. For example, something like “So what you’re saying is, you think we need more time for just us without friends or kids around?” is more effective.
“You will be endlessly surprised at how the simplest statements are heard differently by various people,” Cilona says. “This not only dramatically improves the accuracy and quality of communication by allowing for correction of misinterpretations, but also creates of strong sense of being heard and understood in each partner.”
Sure, it’s a good idea to say, “I love you” often, but “the act of showing matters, because we don’t say those three little words as often as we should,” says psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of The Happy Couple. He recommends expressing yourself by doing little things like making coffee for them in the morning, warming up their car, or stocking the freezer with their favorite flavor of Halo Top. “A random act of kindness doesn’t take much, but it can make a big difference,” he says.
It’s so easy to fight about finances but talking about money—the right way—can actually help make your relationship stronger, Cilona says. “A couple that communicates their financial goals, and is willing to work together to achieve them, will likely have a deeper bond,” he adds. So, if you know you like doing your research before a big purchase but your partner is more impulsive, have that conversation before the car lease is up. Or, if you’re more interested in investing in travel than saving up for a vacation home, be up front about your preferences so you can find a common ground.
“My favorite piece of advice is the idea that every day we wake up and decide to feel affection towards our partner,” says psychotherapist Jennifer L. Silvershein, L.C.S.W. The idea behind this is simple, she says: Love is an active daily choice, and you have control over how you’re feeling. “When we wake up and the first thing we notice is a flaw in our partner, it will be hard to feel connected and in love for the rest of that day,” she says. “If we wake up and identify something we love or admire, that sets the tone.”
Every couple fights, but fighting in a way that moves the conversation forward and clearly explains why you’re feeling a certain way can make a difference. Silvershein recommends being specific about how your partner’s actions impact you. For example, “When you forget to text when you’ll be late, it makes me feel like you don’t care.” “When we begin shifting our language to share how our partner’s behavior makes us feel rather than just telling them what to do, I find that couples become more fluid and more aligned in their daily functioning,” she says.
Ask your friends for advice.
Sure, you and your partner have your own thing going on, and no one is perfect. But maybe you admire the way your couple-friends seem to navigate conflict or you really want to emulate the united front that your parents have always had. Whatever it is, talk to these people about how they’re able to achieve the aspects of their relationship that you admire, Cilona says. You don’t need to make a huge thing of it. Just say, “I really love how you and your partner seem to share responsibilities. How do you do that?” Then, if the advice seems good and doable for you? Talk to your partner about it.