Out in the Open

Tips and tricks for when you inevitably have to deal with people over the holidays: The 2018 Edition

Humorist Henry Alford gives the gift of his seasonal socializing advice.

Humorist Henry Alford gives the gift of his seasonal socializing advice

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In order to truly understand the secrets to avoiding social awkwardness at holiday gatherings, humorist Henry Alford has employed some extreme research measures.

"One time I interviewed eight hostage negotiators about how to deal with your family at Thanksgiving," he said.

During his investigation, Alford learned of "track two diplomacy" – a political ploy that's used to create a distraction from the issue at hand.

"In the case of a holiday party, you would invite the cousins over and have them put a skit on," he explained to Out in the Open host, Piya Chattopadhyay. "Get something other than the elephant [in the room] for people to talk about."

As for those tense debates about politics that spill over into the holiday punch? Alford proposes finding ways to turn our partisan fervour into something more useful.

I do wonder if our moral outrage could power something other than a lot of mouthy invective. Could we use it to power a small turbine, or a hand crank?- Henry Alford

"I do wonder if our moral outrage could power something other than a lot of mouthy invective. Could we use it to power a small turbine, or a hand crank? Are there potential benefits for weight loss, or smelting."

This holiday season also marks the first since Canada has legalized cannabis, a change for which Alford says party planners and goers should be prepared.

"Time is a more abstract quantity now – my 8 o'clock is someone else's 9:30 p.m. Also, from a host's point of view, this new contribution to your society makes you want to double up on your snack foods. It's spelling the demise of Tupperware," he warned.

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Alford is also the author of a book titled And Then We Danced. He believes that the key to building consensus and creating good vibes at holiday parties is to perform "ecstatic dancing".

"[It's] essentially rock 'n' roll or club-type dancing, only you don't need a partner, and the idea is that we're all dancing with each other. One ecstatic dance teacher said to my class, 'Give permission to your armpits'... That means, let it rip!"


This story appears in the Out in the Open episode, "Holiday Survival Guide".

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