How to Navigate Dinner Party Conversations This Holiday Season

Life of the Party | Dec 09, 2019


Three women gathering in a kitchen laughing and talking.
Three women gathering in a kitchen laughing and talking.

It’s one of the most vital holiday skills, right up there with nabbing the last piece of pie and avoiding the mistletoe. We’re talking about navigating those sometimes-awkward holiday dinner party conversations. Making conversation with party guests doesn’t have to be a minefield. It’s the holidays, after all, and we don’t want you to be stressed out. So here are some conversation tips and starters to make this holiday season bright.

First, avoid assumptions

Presuming that your conversation mate shares your views, enthusiasm or situation can sometimes get things off on the wrong foot. Unless you really know the person you’re talking with well, there are topics you should avoid around the dinner table, such as: medical conditions, politics, religion, crude jokes, and personal finances.


A conversation is defined as a talk between two or more people in which ideas are exchanged, “exchanged” being the operative word. No one likes to be talked at, and a one-way discussion is a sure way to make your new acquaintance feel less than enthusiastic about the conversation. So watch the bragging and oversharing and exchange some ideas by giving them a chance to talk too.

Body language

Pay attention to what you’re saying when you’re not saying anything. Let your co-conversationalist know that you’re paying attention by facing them, looking them in the eyes, using an open posture, and participating in the conversation. (Also, please stay off your phone.)

Ice breakers

Finally, what should you talk about? What’s the key to happy small talk? You could start by asking some good questions: Tell me about yourself? What do you do for work? How do you know the host? What are your hobbies or interests? You could also start off with a compliment—say something nice about their outfit. Or, kick things off with topics like music, movies, sports or good restaurants. Check out this article from Huffington Post for more ideas.

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