Etiquette For Dummies
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A guest's good manners (or party etiquette) includes knowing how to start a conversationand how to participate in one. Knowing how to mingle with people at a party or other social function is the mark of a gracious guest who's always invited back. Understanding the basic principles of party etiquette can help you socialize better at any gathering, whether the social occasion is a dinner party or an office event.

A good conversationalist knows how to be patient and not interrupt; be a good listener. And you need to think about what someone is asking and respond appropriately, just as you need to think about what you want to say and say it clearly.

[Credit: © 2008]
Credit: © 2008

Not everyone is a social butterfly by nature, but don't shy away from conversation just because this form of communication isn't innate. With the following party etiquette tips and a dose of confidence, you can be mixing and mingling in no time:

  • Think about other people and care about them. If you're shy or quiet, learn how to open up to others and not always wait for them to draw you into a conversation. If you're an extrovert and extremely outgoing, you may need to rein in your enthusiasm and let other people have the floor.

  • Act as if you're a host, not a guest. Reach out to people standing by themselves, the white-knuckle drinkers, or those that look obviously uncomfortable. Introduce people to each other. Be helpful, kind, and genuine. Don't be afraid to approach people. Strangers are merely friends you haven't met yet. If you focus on the other person's comfort, you can lose your own self-consciousness.

  • Be pleasant, cheerful, and upbeat when mingling, no matter what your mood. If you've had a bad day, don't rain on anyone else's parade by talking about your negative experience — unless, of course, you want to be left standing alone. And when ending a conversation, say that you enjoyed talking with the person or that it was a pleasure meeting her.

  • Listen more than you talk. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Nothing is more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere interest in other people.

  • Know how to gracefully end conversations. It is perfectly fine to simply say, "Excuse me, it has been nice meeting you" or "I've enjoyed our conversation." Then visibly move to some other part of the room.

  • Avoid making negative comments on the room, the food, the guests or your host. In any social situation, making negative comments, especially when you're a guest in someone's home, is rude. You never know if another guest can overhear your comments. And, quite often, the person holding the party delegates the actual planning and details to someone else, and you could be speaking with someone that helped with the event.

    Basic party etiquette for guests insists that you be mindful of the host or other party planner's feelings.

  • To engage a stranger into a conversation, find a shared interest. Some common topics of interest include: travel, children or pets (if you both have them), hobbies, current news topics (preferably nothing controversial), sports, careers, films, and books.

  • Avoid any type of talk regarding physical injuries, sickness, accidents, or off-color language or jokes. Also, commenting on the host's home, décor, or food; spreading offensive gossip; or bringing up controversial subjects that could make others uncomfortable or angry is a bad idea. Keep your tongue in check!

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Sue Fox is the author of Business Etiquette For Dummies and a Professional Member of the International Association of Protocol Consultants.

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