Useless facts, distracting clothes and A Star is Born: Navigate holiday parties with these tips

Like death and taxes, awkward conversations are unavoidable. Daniel Dalman has compiled the following list of conversation tips to help you navigate the perils of these situations.
It's the season for office parties, 'reunions' with people who are more acquaintances than friends, and awkward family get-togethers.

If you are anything like me your holidays are merry and bright, but also fraught with tension. I'm overspent, under-slept, and expected to socialize with people I've barely traded a "How's it going?" or a "happy birthday" Facebook message with.

This time of year visions of office Christmas parties, reunions with old friends, and awkward family get-togethers dance in my head.

This leads me to spiral: What if I get trapped in a conversation I can't get out of? What if I can't think of something to say to Dave from accounting? Worse yet, what if Aunt Brenda gets into the wine again? Should I just stay home? Is Ho Ho FOMO a thing?

Like death and taxes, awkward conversations are unavoidable. Therefore, I have compiled the following list of conversation tips to help navigate the perils of these situations. I hope they can bring you solace.

You can out-run awkward encounters — it just takes stamina. (Getty Images)

Be evasive

Be a rolling stone, and just as one of those gathers no moss, a moving target gathers no awkward encounters. While exhausting, doing laps of a party seems the lesser of two evils compared to being trapped beside the seven-layer dip while a coworker asks me what my hobbies are outside of work.

Wear something jazzy

"You like my belt?" I say. "Thanks. Beyonce has the same one. I bought it online when I took too much Melatonin and had a glass of chardonnay." Boom — another successful interaction with my cousin's girlfriend.

Choose dogs over kids

Asking about kids always involves complicated math. (Is 86 months the same as seven years old? Can a three-year-old talk? Can I make a joke about them partying yet?) I have a hard time understanding the milestones of small humans. But dogs? Dogs, I get. Do you have a dog? Tell me their name. Don't have a dog? Let's discuss you getting one. Seen any good dogs lately? Describe them. The most hot-button question I can ask is "Is he a good boy?" and even if they've just destroyed a couch, the answer is most definitely "yes."

When in doubt, divert conversation with questions about someone's pet. (Shutterstock)

Regurgitating facts

Why did I spend $30,000 to get an art history degree? I did it to learn exactly three art facts, which I have trained myself to artfully weave into any conversation. Do I want to gain common ground with my niece now that she's vegan? Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian. If I feel like I want to impress my amateur photographer office crush, I drop the fact that surreal artist/photographer Man Ray invented airbrushing. And when I want to feel particularly witty, I reference American Gothic, painted by Grant Wood, while the family gathers for a group photo in front of the Christmas tree.

Bring up A Star is Born

The real gift this Christmas is the common ground I've been granted thanks to the near universal adoration people have for this movie. I can easily spend 20 minutes talking to my dearest friend's new boyfriend while out for Christmas drinks and not even break a sweat. Gaga can act! Bradley can sing! It's a true Christmas miracle.

A Star Is Born has gifted party goers with a safe topic to bring up with nearly anyone.

Did you hear that?

I find that if I am stuck in a conversational rut, the chances are high they are feeling just as panicked as I am about having to endure it one moment longer. That's why, at the exact moment when the awkwardness is reaching its crescendo, I like to pick out a sound — anything, from a line of a Christmas carol being hummed, to the crash of a roaster lid hitting the floor — and say "Did you hear that?" Then, I'll add "I better go check that out" and excuse myself to run to bathroom to check my phone.

About the Author

Daniel is a writer and avid Instagram-er living in Saskatoon. When not leaving people on read he can be found enjoying a glass of wine, dining out, and taking a spin class — although he rarely does all three at the same time. Follow him on Instagram: @DanielDalman.


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