I’ve had a busy summer socially, what with friends celebrating kids going off to college or graduating from college or getting married, as well as acquaintances holding social gatherings for work colleagues.
But while parties are usually fun, it can also be a challenge to carry off your conversational responsibilities when you know only a few people at a party. The temptation is to just talk to those few people. But I like to make it a point to talk to people I don’t see that often or who are complete strangers. The trick is to start with some innocuous phrase that will prompt a good several minutes of response, from which the conversation can then go branching off in other directions.
Of course, there’s always the weather; I’ve gotten some good mileage out of, “Pretty strange August we’re having, isn’t it?”
No one has complained that they miss the usual heat and humidity — and this gambit can lead into an exchange of horror stories about the power outages in July, such as the one person who related how her mother-in-law lost power and came to stay with them for a week, and her marriage barely survived the ordeal.
Current news works, too: “So O’Malley signed that bill for more gambling in Maryland. Wonder how that’s going to turn out?”
That one got a brief but heated anti-gambling rant — then another person jumped in to relate how he won a nice little pile of cash at the new casino in Arundel Mills. Those two people didn’t hit it off so well.
One ploy that usually brings good results: “Do anything interesting over the summer?”
Just be prepared to fight off envy when you hear about the 14-day cruise in the Mediterranean or the back-packing trip in Ecuador.
“So what do you do besides handle the care and feeding of your science guy?” is a line I use with wives of my husband’s work colleagues from Goddard Space Flight Center. Fascinating conversational material is to be had with people who hold jobs such as massage therapist or technician in an artificial insemination clinic.
Once you’ve gotten through that topic, if you want to keep going, try “So what do you do for fun?” That one can lead almost anywhere.
Anyway, you get the idea. You never know what useful or enjoyable connections you might make at a party if you start talking to someone totally new.