Holiday Social Engagement Strategy

Believe it or not there are some super helpful tips to get past the social anxiety and worries of Holiday gatherings. Office parties, friendly socials and family moments are looming. You have a choice on how to respond. Either

- Avoid and regret.

- Wear temporary masks (drugs/alcohol) and hide.

- Coyly maneuver with a plan.

Growing up and through my early twenties in can be argued that I was unfairly labeled as flaky and/or simply a drunk. Yes and Yes. But the truth is, I just didn’t know how to handle social settings very well. It’s hard to explain to a dear friend that you missed their holiday party because you didn’t know what to wear or that you do in fact have to talk about the weather because you can’t seem to relate to the person in front of you and you buckle at the pressure. And how do you explain that sense of worthlessness compared to peers when asked “so what are you up to these days?”. I practiced avoidance somewhat routinely.

Drugs and alcohol are effective temporary masks. Not that I’m a proponent. I just know them very well. That’s a dark path and when the mask is removed, your true self will always seek its vindictive retribution.

There are different ways however. Different perspectives to help offset the fears and worries. Here are a few strategies to help you offset the inevitable social pressures:

1. Conversation Bullet Points. Beyond the weather darn it. I would suggest 3 topics to have handy beforehand. This will take a bit of research and prep. Throwaway facts and statistics are fantastically well received at holiday gatherings. Big Foot, Nerf guns, best gift you received….

2. Vision and Anticipate. Visualize the setting before you get there. Anticipate the room dynamics, where, layout, dress, mood, who, type…anything that will give you a read on what you’re about to walk into. This includes your bullet points for conversation, curious questions to ask others and who to look for.

3. Niche. Find your niche in the setting. Identify this early. An out of the way, but yet still close to the heart of the party type of spot. Don’t worry if it’s against the wall and be prepared to defend your spot by confidently telling those that ask, that yes you are comfortable here. And no you can’t stay here all night….but you can always return after a short walk around.

4. Embrace the awkward. Flat out admit that this is awkward or tough for you when you first engage with someone. Given with sincerity and humility, the recipient will usually admit the same or offer you an olive branch of affirmation. Chances are you’ve built an ally here.

5. Drink in hand. For us non-drinkers by choice, this is vital. Come prepared with a favorite nonalcoholic drink of choice. Perhaps mask it with a solo plastic cup so no one knows it’s not alcohol and you can assimilate and blend in easily.

6. Find an Ally. Perhaps have an accountability partner prepped and prepared before the party starts. Gently instruct this person the reasoning why and what is needed. Perhaps this person can stop by every 10 minutes and casually temperature check your situation. If you are solo, then identify someone in your same boat at the party and stay close.

7. Be curious. Tap into your curiosity and ask powerful questions to those that choose to engage you. People normally love to elaborate on themselves, so facilitate that. This will include your attention and listening skills, so pay attention and engage them appropriately. Bonus points for questions that really make them pause and think. And congratulations, that’s going well beyond the weather with conversation.

Like most things, the accomplishment comes with practice. After practicing these events and preparing beforehand, you should become much more comfortable managing yourself at social events. It doesn’t end there and don’t allow yourself to plateau with comfortability. Next level party antics include dancing, networking for career referrals and life partner seeking if applicable to your situation. There’s always work that can be done and you are the author of your choices. What do you want to be able to do?