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The Post Modern Handbook: Social Etiquette



Perhaps the greatest component of any good wedding is alcohol. It has the ability to break down natural barriers and create quick friendships in a room full of strangers, turning an otherwise daunting social situation into an unexpected reunion of sorts. However, like all good things, alcohol consumption has its drawbacks and can quickly turn those who partake too enthusiastically into the evening’s entertainment.

Cocktails aside, learning to successfully navigate social events involving lots of strangers requires a certain amount of tenacity. And where conversation concerns female attendees in particular, the landscape is often littered with potential potholes and the occasional IED. But take it as a credit to our sex that no one topic enthralls us all. Men may have the ever-ready “sports and chicks” themes to discourse on, but sophisticated and smart women typically remain above any all-encompassing stereotype. To engage these females requires an open mind and the ability to field a great variety of subjects.

My own recent social challenge combined me, an out-of-town wedding and a veritable sea of trophy wives with whom, I initially perceived, I would not share a thing in common. Yet, determined not to shy away to a corner and with big girl panties firmly in place, I quickly made a decision to approach these women, who had more business competing in beauty pageants than socializing with a self- confessed bookworm. The conversation that followed began with flower arrangements (their interest), led to interior design, and finally settled on creating your own employment field in a difficult economy (my topic, all the way). Not only did I make a few new friends in the process, I earned the admiration of a very impressed boyfriend for uniting a small group of women who turned out to be just as new to one another as I had been to them.

So, whether your next event is a backyard barbecue or New York Fashion Week, here are a few tips to help you through:

ASK AND LISTEN. Questions are the best way to break the ice, but be sure to not turn a casual inquiry into an interrogation.

DON’T DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION! Someone’s silence may simply mean you’ve given them no room to speak.

GIVE COMPLIMENTS. Compliments are a great way to start a discussion, but never give one you don’t mean, and limit yourself to one or two in order to avoid appearing smarmy.

STAY POSITIVE. Focusing on subjects that irritate you can create a negative impression, and you’ll run the risk of offending fellow conversationalists.

VARY YOUR TOPICS. This makes for a more inclusive discourse, and creates the impression that you’re willing to consider interests outside of your own.

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