1. Announce Your Hugging Game Plan
A simple fix to the awkwardness of choosing the appropriate greeting for varying levels of acquaintance is to let the other person know what you are going for. I like to ask, “Would you like a hug?” or, if I know they like hugs but don’t know if they are expecting one from me, I say, “I am so happy to see you! I need to give you a hug.”
2. Repeat the Names
I know this has been said before, but since I am personally weak in this area and need a reminder, I’ll just go ahead and say it again: People feel valued when you make an effort to remember their name. It’s true. If you want to spread holiday cheer, it is great to sing loud for all to hear, but it is also wonderful to actually try to remember the names of your co-worker’s children. You can help names stick by repeating them, asking what they mean or even writing them down.
3. Go Next-Level with Anyone
Weed out stale, cut-and-dried questions like “Where are you working right now?” and “Have you been enjoying the holidays?” If it is a question that has been overused on you, it has been overused on this person as well. Instead, use an invitational, open-ended question that you are truly interested in hearing the answer to, such as, “What’s been on your mind this week?” or “What is your favorite way to spend your time these days?”
4. Bring Your Questions and Your Best Snippets
While preparing for an event, plan how you will contribute to an entertaining conversation. Pull a few interesting snippets of your life, local news, or global discoveries to the forefront of your mind. (Avoid bringing up politics–because of acid reflux, obviously.) Choose ahead of time a few questions you want to ask folks you expect to see at this event. If there is a topic you’ve been wanting to discuss with someone who is also interested, keep that in the forefront of your brain too. Boom. You are ready.
5. Jump Aboard the Awkward Train
In the event that conversation dives so far into the awkward or absurd that no amount of civility will bring it back, you can still have a good time by going Brant Hansen and just bringing a wonderful snippet of your own to the conversation. A few starter options:
“Does it ever bother you that gingerbread people live in houses made of the flesh of their fellow men?”
“Do you ever stop and ask roadside bystanders whether they are hitch hiking, or just trying to compliment your driving?”
“What spiritual applications do you take from 1 Samuel 19, where the Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel, and lay naked for a day and half?”
Have a very Merry Christmas!