Save me from you this holiday season, or my argument why everyone should have to go through sorority or fraternity rush to attend a cocktail party:

We may meet over these next couple of weeks, and I would like to prevent any possible awkwardness.  I want to help you become absolutely scintillating for three minutes or less and then have the option to fade away.  Yes, I am talking about holiday party small talk with strangers.

We can do this together, and I promise, it can be painless.

First, don’t avoid eye contact.  It is so obvious when we are standing near each other and then you decide you want to know what type of crown molding our hosts chose for their dining room.  It’s okay, you can look at me.  I won’t bite.

Because of our close proximity, I may say, “Hi, I’m Mary.”  I may even extend my hand to shake yours.  The appropriate response is not, “Oh.”  It is, “Hi Mary, I’m Jane, Steve,” or whatever your name is.

So now, we are making eye contact and know each other’s names.

You may be panicking about what comes next, I promise it is not rocket science.

Here are some common next sentences:

“This dip is delicious”

“Their decorations are beautiful.”

“How do you know (hosts names)?”

“Do you live in this neighborhood?”

“Have you tried the cocktail they are featuring?”

“Those are great shoes.”

“That is a great tie.”

These are some sentences to avoid:

“I’m not much for parties.”

“So, who did you vote for?”

“I don’t know these people.  My spouse made me come.”

“I can’t eat anything here because I am dairy, soy, gluten, protein, and carbohydrate intolerant.”

“Do you think it’s too early to leave?”

So, going with one of those first, common sentences, I may respond in agreement with you.  I may introduce you to my husband.  He may use one of those sentences, or, because he has a life, he may say, “So, where do you work?”

These sentences may set off a chain reaction of more sentences, thus leading to a conversation, or they may lead us to a dead end.  It will be a pleasant dead end where we have met, exchanged some pleasantries and done our parts as good holiday party guests.

I learned this three-minute conversation technique while going through four years of sorority rush.  It can be exhausting, but it can also lead to meeting some really great people.

I may even meet you.