The Corey Story

My random wanderings and things I find entertaining

Etiquette Awareness — Ins & Outs of Holiday Chit Chat

Posted by Corey Kaster on December 22, 2009

The holidays are a time for people to get together and gatherings are a wonderful place to meet new people, reconnect with acquaintances and catch up with old friends. Sometimes the conversation flows easily but there are many times you may find yourselves at a loss for words as you stand face to face with those whom you don’t know (the spouse of a colleague), don’t see but once a year and have little or nothing in common (the pre-teen daughter of your second cousin) or are bound by the rules of good manners to be courteous to even though it is not necessarily reciprocated (the unfriendly neighbor).

Just as you are prepared when attending a business networking event, so too should you be prepared when attending a holiday social event. When someone approaches you and asks “What’s new?” nothing will kill a conversation faster than the response “Oh, nothing much…”

Have an answer prepared! It doesn’t have to be particularly bright, expansive or witty, but surely there is something about your existence you could share, even if it is only to say “We seem to be going warp speed with all the activities; it has been amazing to see how fast the time has flown these past few months / year! It’s nice to take a break and catch up with friends over the holidays.” Notice how there are no complaints about how busy or overextended we are in this example; it’s light and non-committal, yet it provides an answer to that age-old question.

The next step to interacting with others you don’t know or know well? Ask questions! Paying a genuine compliment is a good start, perhaps on a piece of jewelry, a tie or sweater … and then follow-up and ask if there is a story behind the item. Invite nostalgia — does the person have a favorite holiday memory or tradition? Are they planning a vacation … was a vacation recently enjoyed? What might be a favorite vacation spot?

Above all, act as if the person you are talking with is interesting; it helps to make him or her feel more comfortable and the conversation becomes easier. People enjoy talking about themselves and no matter how proficient you are at speaking, you will come off as a sparkling conversationalist because you asked a few questions and then listened.


The purpose of small talk is to break the ice and put others at ease.

  • It establishes a connection between two people.
  • It doesn’t require original or profound conversation.
  • It’s what people say to each other to be polite.

The key to your success? Focus more on the other person and less on yourself.

Above all, relax and enjoy!

Please feel free to send me any of your

etiquette or customer service questions or stories!

Previous editions of Etiquette Awareness

may now be viewed at my website,

Jodi Blackwood

Business Etiquette & Customer Service Specialist

Speaker & Seminar Leader

“Etiquette is about polishing your approach,

not changing who you are.”


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