Come the holiday season, people can get a little bah humbug about parties. There’s nothing particularly festive about getting dressed up in uncomfortable clothes and making awkward small talk just because you feel obligated to be there.
But it’s possible to keep the evening from feeling like a waste of time. The secret to using all leisure time better is to be as intentional about your social get-togethers as you would be about conferences or other professional events. Go with a few goals in mind. Not big goals, just reasonable goals that will nurture your social ties, improve your life, or at least keep you entertained. Try picking three to five items from this list. Do those, and you can declare the evening a success:
- 1. Thank a colleague for helping you out on your last project, and offer an informal toast to his hard work.
- 2. Introduce a colleague’s spouse to someone he’d find professionally interesting.
- 3. Say hello to three people you’ve never seen before.
- 4. Meet one person you’d like to have coffee or lunch with sometime, and leave with something at least tentatively on the calendar.
- 5. Compliment someone in front of his or her date.
- 6. Learn something new about a person you talk to weekly that makes you like this person even more.
- 7. If it's a "white elephant" gift exchange, bring something so awesome that at least three people trade for it.
- 8. Ask people for gift suggestions for a picky relative you have no idea how to shop for.
- 9. Have someone snap a decent photo of you and your date, all dressed up. Now you have a head start on next year’s holiday card!
- 10. Challenge yourself to do something out-of-character, like singing a Beyoncé song with a friend during karaoke.
- 11. Get the name of a restaurant you really need to try because everyone else is raving about it.
- 12. Get a recommendation of a book you really need to read.
- 13. Get fodder for a blog post, if you blog—or at least learn the name of a blog you should be following if you don’t.
- 14. Share news of someone’s recent accomplishments with at least three other people. Particularly try to do this for someone who will never brag about herself.
- 15. Strike up a conversation with that person you always see in the bathroom or kitchen at work but never talk to.
- 16. Hone your elevator speech about what exactly it is you do for a living, and use the opportunity to practice it enough times that you can say it without any "ums."
- 17. Praise your host or the party organizer for something you can see he or she is kind of stressed about.
- 18. Find a new-to-you wine you like enough to give as a gift—or an appetizer you’d never thought of serving, but actually like.
- 19. Successfully rescue someone who’s stuck in a conversation she can’t get out of—a favor she will hopefully return when it happens to you at the next holiday party.
[Image: Flickr user Ian D. Keating]