Small Talk Secrets for the Holiday Season The prospect of holiday parties fill some with dread. But mastering the art of small talk can make conversations with strangers more enjoyable. Debra Fine shares her tips for getting through holiday parties unscathed.

Small Talk Secrets for the Holiday Season

Small Talk Secrets for the Holiday Season

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Fine's book covers conversation skills from icebreakers to exit lines Hyperion Books hide caption

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Hyperion Books

If the idea of the office holiday party makes you want to hide in your cubicle, brushing up on "small talk" skills can make the events more enjoyable. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, offers timely tips that can turn the holiday season into an opportunity for conversational success:

Top 10 Icebreakers

1. "What is your connection to the host/hostess or event?"

2. "What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?"

3. "Describe how this season of the year impacts your work?"

4. "Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we got together..."

5. "Tell me about your plans for the holidays..."

6. "Describe your favorite holiday tradition..."

7. "What challenges do you encounter at this time of year?"

8. "Tell me about a special gift you have given or received?"

9. "What is your favorite holiday? Why?"

10. "What have you got going on during the coming year?"

Conversation Killers to Avoid

1. "Are you married?" or "Do you have any kids?" Where are you going with either one of these if the response is "No"?

2. "How's your job at Boeing, United Airlines, Martha Stewart Enterprises (fill in the blank)?" Unless you know a person well, assume nothing! Don't put them on the spot like that. Instead ask: "What's been going on with work?"

3. "How's your wife?" (She left, took all the money, the kids and got the house!)

4. "Merry Christmas!" "What are your Christmas plans?" Not all of us celebrate Christmas.

5. At all costs avoid "Is that real?" "Are those real?"

Debra Fine is the author of The Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion October 2005).