I like to bring this post back around each year during holiday party time:
We’re into the holiday party time of year, and at these kinds of gatherings often people’s kids are a major topic of conversation. When you don’t have kids (yet or are childfree), trying to chime in with parent friends, acquaintances, colleagues and their spouses can feel awkward and challenging. Skillfully trying to change the conversation off kids can take even more finesse. What are some ways to navigate conversations with parents at holiday gatherings? This could be a book in itself (any takers?), but here are a few thoughts I pass on this time of year…
Navigating the art of conversation at holiday gatherings
• Of course, more than likely parents are going to want to talk about their kids. But here’s the mindset: Just because they seem to only want to talk about their kids does not mean they aren’t interested in you or what you have to say.
• Share where you can relate, whether it be your own experience as a kid, or with friends’ or family members’ kids.
• Use the art of transition: pick up a phrase or idea and use it to transition to a story you can tell, information you can share, or something you find interesting, e.g., You son’s baseball reminds of something I saw recently online about …
• Gracefully shift to showing interest in them: Do a wrap on their kid talk, then find something to inquire about them, e.g., It’s great hear that Susie is doing so well—I hear you have been…, or Last time I saw you, you were….Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so when in doubt ask questions to get them talking about themselves, and use the art of transition to volley the conversation to …
• Offer something about you, a story or topic that somehow relates to what they have just told you.
If you want to get out of a conversation…
If you want to get out of a conversation with someone you don’t know well, there is a simple escape strategy. Do something a professional mentor taught me to do at what can be painful professional networking events. Believe me, it works at parties too. When the other person ends his/her thought, look him/her directly in the eye with a genuine smile, maybe even gently put your hand on his/her arm/shoulder, and simply say, “So nice talking with you!” — walk away.
I know it might sound cold, but I have found that if done with clean, genuine positive energy, it is a graceful way to get out of a conversation you don’t want to be in~
Parents often talk a lot about their kids because it is comfortable social conversational terrain for them. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of skill to take the conversation in new directions that is stimulating for all, parents and not.
What can make holiday party conversations challenging doesn’t boil down to not having kids in common —it boils down to the art of conversation, and knowing how to use one’s social skills in a holiday party situation to enjoy the event and have a festive time!
What has worked for you at holiday gatherings?
Updated from original post
I avoid parties with parents, especially parents of young children.
you know, i really tried these this weekend, but it felt that at every turn of the conversation i was trying to steer it to a childfree conversation. it became so much work that i just sat there and looked interested. although, believe me, after several drinks, mommies finally confess that their little angels aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
Sorry that trying those felt like trying too hard to steer to childfree conversation! I think I frame it to myself as ways to not have the conversation stay so focused on one thing – their kids. I try to to talk about other things, and things not related to being childfree at all….