by Angela Murphy
It almost Christmas and what a year it’s been. I won’t repeat it all here save to say, world winds should not always ripple small ponds. That isn’t a Crow Indian proverb but it probably should be, otherwise people get totally focused on the negative and forget about being positive. The Christmas-holiday period is not a time to speculate on what’s going to happen in the US, which great singers died or why our politicians continue to spend the costs of inhabiting another planet on their travel. Like flies on a tuna tin, there are some things that will happen whether you fret about it or not. So at this time of year the answer is – not.
Instead, why not use the many social occasions to practice your assertiveness? Christmas gatherings provide collections of colleagues, family, old friends and new acquaintances. So when there’s a big pause in the chat, try this as an opener, ‘Merry Christmas, can I have that fruit mince tart?’ If that doesn’t work (because you got slapped in the face) it may be necessary to do some research to enhance your tangential-conversation tool kit.
Brace yourself and digest some free, magazine gossip at the supermarket or hairdresser. Don’t use doctors’ surgery magazines as they’re sure to be a year out of date. Pick a few pearlers such as, ‘What is really going on in the Brangelina split? Did Bob deserve a Noble Prize? And, what was Prince’s real name?’ Don’t be a snob and say you’re totally above such trite exchanges because these waterfalls of words can fill a yawing conversational silence as snugly as a chia super spread in a celery stalk.
When you announce over the spinach and feta triangles that Prince William will be balder than a badger before he’s forty people will either (a) be astounded that will happen (b) be astounded that you have bothered to tell them or (c) be astounded you’ve interrupted their diatribe on plate tectonics and ask who is Prince William? If the response is (a) you can shift the conversation to include men’s hair care options and Donald Trump’s comb over. If you get either (b) or (c) you can flesh out the topic by asking what transition plan they would advocate for Malcolm’s new republic. Then you can take the credit for changing a morsel of trivia into a national debate.
I do however, understand if you don’t want to resort to the royals, even if only using them as incidental conversation tools. So, if in doubt stick to old favourites. If it’s a work Christmas do, you could start with ‘Have you ever tried to change the photocopier’s ink cartridge?’ But be warned, this needs a quick follow-through or you may conjure up images of you and a photocopier.
If you adhere to the ‘never talk weather’ rule, skip the El Nino references and go straight to food. ‘This cheese tastes like soap, or ‘I didn’t know they still made green pickled onions?’ Delivery is important, but as conversational ice-breakers go, these are unique, so pretty much guaranteed to launch you into a dialogue.
A word of warning though – as the night wears on and the fluid flows, we all know loose lips, well, speak for themselves. It’s Christmas after all.
So here’s to conversation starters, warm hugs and a delicious lump of the hard sauce on the plum pudding.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year