Have you ever dreaded going to a family, office, or neighborhood holiday gathering?
Or, maybe you’ve worried that your own event might not turn out “right.”
You are not alone. Attending and hosting holiday gatherings is a big contributor to holiday stress; accepting and sending invitations can make us feel like jumping for joy or running for cover!
Not to worry, my “5 P’s” can help you reduce your holiday happening woes.
“5 P’s for Perfect Party Planning”
If you are dreading attending an event, not going may be a perfectly valid option. If your schedule is too full, and you need to prioritize time with family or you’re just not up to it, let the host or hostess know as far in advance as possible. Last minute cancellations, except for true emergencies, are a no-no and just add to everyone’s holiday stress. If you can’t make it, after sending or calling with your regrets, send a short, but sweet email, FB message, note, or card as a follow-up, and then try to arrange to share time together after the holiday rush. The goal is to let them know you care, even though you can’t be there.
2. PREDICT BETTER
Thinking about a positive outcome – even for a few minutes, will make you happier than worrying about a negative outcome for weeks, days or hours in advance – predict success! Parties and life get better when we predict better. Take a minute or two and picture the party working out great. Picture yourself leaving the soiree thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t so bad. In fact, I had a great time.” or “OMG, that was wonderful.” Envision whatever works best for you; the more details you create, the better. If you’re hosting an event, and are nervous about how it will go, picture everyone complimenting your food, decorations, (or whatever you really want them to compliment) and telling you what a great time they are having.
3. PREPARE – CREATE PLAN B, C, D
If you fear the folks or the situation, giving yourself options in advance will help you relax. And if you are creative with your “blanks”, they may provide you with a few well-needed laughs. Come-up with what you will do if you do find yourself getting frustrated or bored. “When I start feeling ___________ (frustrated, angry, annoyed, impatient, bored, out-of-place, etc.) I will ___________ . Fill-in the blank with a series of workable options: check on the kids; compliment someone; help with the food or dishes; play with the kids; walk the dog; ask about vacations or recipes; sneak a peek at presents; dance; sing; play the piano, or move to a new chair or room (without making your exit too dramatic!) Be sure to include some fun and out-of-the-box options that you would never or can’t do, but make you smile: standing on your head, releasing a protective shield, spinning like a top, floating above the guests – get creative, have fun with it!
4. PAY ATTENTION
Shifting your attention from your worries to the eyes of others is a great way to focus on what really matters. When people are talking to you don’t worry about what you are going to say in response or look above their heads or around the room, simply notice their eyes. Take a second to really look into their eyes. This small, but meaningful gesture will let them know you are really listening and will bring you fully into the moment, which can lift your mood and theirs. You’ll be amazed how relaxing and rewarding it will be. (Most of us think we are already doing this, but more often than not, our minds and our eyes are focused on something else.)
Focusing on what you can learn about others can lead to rich conversations and connections. I use this strategy almost every time I attend a party where there will be lots of folks I don’t know or don’t know well. Although I’m an extrovert, I’m a closet introvert at parties. I’ve done PR and special events for years, and I’m completely comfortable in those realms, but for some reason small talk at social gatherings is often difficult for me.
I’ve learned to take a few minutes before going to a party to think of at least three things I have enjoyed learning about folks in the past. I love finding out what people like to do in their spare time, what they enjoy about their professions, where they grew-up, or where they like to go on vacation. Another favorite topic, especially at this time of year, is to ask about their favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas or how they celebrated the holidays as children. I always learn something new and interesting. Before you head to the party, remind yourself that if you feel nervous or self-conscious, you will ask about ________, __________, ___________. With those thoughts in mind, it will be easier to shine the light on others and to keep it shining as you ask follow-up questions about what they’ve shared. When we put others in the limelight, we are giving them a precious gift – being heard. It’s a priceless gift, something everyone wants, and we can deliver it anytime, anywhere.
Each of the “5 P’s for Perfect Party Planning” is cost and calorie-free, and will enhance your experience at any event. The “5 P’s” work so well because they put the emphasis on people not the party, which is a warm and wonderful way to celebrate the holidays.
P.S. This is an updated post from 2010. Since holiday happenings, happen each year, I thought I’d make this column an annual event, as well. Do you have tips that have worked well for you? If so please share them! We’d love to hear about your best holiday party experiences.