THE BLOG
12/16/2012 08:57 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

Conversation Etiquette Tips For The Holidays (And Always)

Flickr: Sarah_Ackerman

I was recently at a party speaking with a friend who went on and on (and on and on) for a 20-minute monologue about a recent trip to Europe. She then winged into how brilliant her son is, how athletic her daughter is and how great, perfect and amazing her life is. The woman simply did not come up for air.

Hellloooo?

I tried to send social cues that I was bored, that my poinsettia mimosa needed refill and that there were other friends at the gathering with whom I wanted to chat. I even looked down at my shoes a few times and tried to convey that my heels were killing me and I needed to sit down. Still no pick up.

As my mother would say, "Is this what the younger generation does nowadays? They don't give you a chance to speak?"

Let's prove my 81-year-old mother incorrect. Listen up.

With the holiday season in full swing, many have calendars bursting with engagements -- from office, glögg and yuletide gatherings, to cookie exchanges, snow balls and other jolly paloozas. It's as good a time as any to review the etiquette of social intercourse. Let's start with:

1. Holiday gatherings are not the place to have mega-catch-up conversations. It's one of the reasons the phrase, "Let's have lunch" was invented.

2. Learn to pick up hints of apathy. If the person with (notice we didn't say "to") whom you're speaking starts to look around, cringe, fidget, stare at their napkin or play with their hors d'oeuvres somewhere in the last 15 minutes of your discourse, you lost your audience. Be aware of how much time you've "got the floor." Attenuated monologues get monotonous real fast.

3. If the person in front of you is standing with an open mouth (and s/he is not about to eat that afforementioned hors d'oeuvre), it is likely that they have something to add to the conversation. Give them a chance to say it.

4. Parents take note: Don't harp on your progeny. Though they may be virtuosos in all of their endeavors, keep the regaling brief.

5. A savvy person understands that it's acceptable to circulate at social gatherings. There's nothing wrong with saying, "So nice to see you, (name). Have a wonderful holiday. I just want to refresh my glass of (wassail/egg nog/cranberry spritzer)."

6. Speaking of which: if you were introduced to someone, remember his or her name. You will score major points if you end your conversation by using their name as a drop-in. (See 5.)

7. Remember the mantra: "No politics, sex or religion."

8. Think before you speak. I was once chatting with friends and one of them said to the other, "It looks like your bald spot is getting bigger." (I am not kidding.)

9. Enunciate, especially when speaking to elders. If someone bobs their head more than a dozen times, it's likely they don't know what the heck you're talking about. Or for that matter, can't even hear you. In this instance, speak up and speak clearly.

10. Feel free to share these tips with your extraordinarily exceptional children. It's never too early to learn conversation etiquette.

T'is the season to charm us with your witty chit-chat and bon vivant-ness. Just don't be a bore. In fact, screen legend John Wayne framed it best: "Talk low, talk slow and don't say too much."

But enough about us. How are you?