Tis the season...The holidays can feel like you're partying like it is your job, and that very well might be true for the next few weeks. Here are the seven tenets of getting through the professional merriment with grace.
Give good small talk
Reading the headlines that day and brushing up on major world events allows you to keep pace with small talk and sound relatively well-informed. Avoid the loaded topics of politics and religion, and stick to the safe terrain of great events or exhibitions in the city, films or books. And of course, the hallmark of holiday small talk is, of course, where and how people are spending them. Make a point to strike up a conversation with people that you might not normally speak to.
Shake? Hug? Fist bump?
A firm handshake, eye contact, and a soft smile while introducing yourself will do. If you are unsure of where the greeting is going, the safest bet is to wait to see how the other person is approaching. A hug? Double kiss? Wait to take your cue to awkwardly avoid accidentally planting one on their lips. And unless the person you're greeting comes in for a fist bump, leave the college affectations for the kids. Your handshake should be accompanied by your first and last name when introducing yourself. If you struggle remembering names, try repeating the name of the person you just met ("nice to meet you, Rob"). You can try to draw some recall connections, like reminding yourself that Rob is wearing red.
Allow me to introduce...
Including everyone in the conversation is good form. If you notice someone has meandered over to your group and is milling about alone, take a moment to properly bring them into the fold. If you find yourself sandwiched between two colleagues, one junior, one senior, introduce up. If you introducing your intern to the president of your company, you would say, "Boss, may I introduce you to our newest intern, John". A person of high rank, importance or seniority (I know, I cringe at that too) is named first and receives the introduction. If you are introducing two peers that haven't met, providing some context can help the conversation along. For example, "I've been meaning to introduce you. John, meet Mike. You both spent time in Iceland last year."
Don't let the time of year be a crutch for naughty behaviour
Yes, the plethora of open bar work functions can be fun, but it's not a license to get drunk in front of your colleagues. Nor does the business of the season make it ok to have your face buried in your phone so that you can squeeze in a quick email or two during cocktail banter. Be present and actually engaged in the conversation you're having.
Had a lovely holiday lunch with clients and are ready to wrap up? When the bill comes, they who did the inviting typically grabs the cheque -- though to hell with that custom if grabbing the bill saves you from an awkward moment. And in the presence of clients (or anyone whose respect you'd like to keep in good standing) Instagramming your lunch is absolutely verboten.
Imbibe, as you like
There will always be one person who has too much to drink, and for an entire year will be known as "that person at last year's office party who embarrassed themselves". Don't let that person be you. If you want to enjoy a drink or two with your colleagues, do enjoy some cheer, but don't overdue it. Alcohol loosens inhibitions (in case you didn't get the memo) and you might do something you later regret.
Or don't imbibe at all
If, for whatever reason, you don't want to drink (a not-yet-announced pregnancy or you've simply had enough for the night), but feel that you have to keep up appearances, here's a tip: excuse yourself to use the washroom and discretely ask your bartender to serve your vodka martini with no vodka. They'll pick up what you're putting down. You'll get a refreshing glass of water that looks like a proper drink, and less of a hangover, to boot.
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