How to Navigate a Party
Gracious greeting and graceful eating―when you can’t afford to make a bad impression.
"It's normal to be apprehensive at cocktail parties," says Geralyn Lederman, Ph.D., of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. "We're afraid of being judged, and that's exactly what's happening." Here's help.
You are required to hold a drink, clutch a purse, shake hands, reach for food, be charming and savvy, and even gesticulate.
Piece of cake.
You have only two, but here's a party-tested strategy:
What to Do With Your Hands
- Hold your cocktail in your left hand. Wrap a napkin around the glass and wipe off your right hand after eating an hors d'oeuvre.
- Use your right hand for (alternately) shaking and eating. People will be greeted with a warm, dry, clean handshake.
- Sling your handbag over your left shoulder. Or, better yet, carry a featherlight bag and hang it from your left arm or wrist.
- Stand next to a table. If there's one nearby, you can ignore all the above rules.
Awkward silences aren't common during small soirees with friends, but at company holiday parties, they're as regular as red
sweaters. Here's how to break the ice:
What to Talk About
- Discuss current events. "We used to worry about what we were going to talk about, what we had in common," says Susan RoAne, author of How to Work a Room. "Now there's a new national dialogue."
- Ask "How are you? How is your family doing?"
- Have an introduction planned. Stick out your hand, offer your name, and state your relationship to the host or event. Most likely, the other person will mirror you.
- Start conversations about the food. There's nothing easier.