Party Etiquette or Little Miss Decorum 1

Due to my love for celebrations, and my close group of friend who share that affinity, I find myself attending parties, events and get-togethers on a frequent basis.  While there, I am always amazed at the number of people that I see who seem to have been absent on the "how not to behave" days in life.  Whether you are the host or a guest, there are certain general rules that you should attempt to follow when out with other people.

1. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. This is going to sound crazy but, instead of texting people who AREN'T at the party, you can actually TALK to people who are!  "That's incredible!" you say.  "I had no idea!"  Indeed, it's true. 
In this age of modernity, we all (including myself) seem to be pedaling as fast as we can to keep up with everything that's happening around us.  Technology - particularly smart phones - has made it incredibly easy and tempting to multitask. However, that same technology is also creating a huge inability to focus, and to connect with the people around you.  Obviously, there are times when you need to use your phone.  Just make sure that you politely excuse yourself from the conversation before giving directions, taking a phone call, or playing another rousing round of Words with Friends.

2.  ENGAGE.  Many people, including myself, can feel intimidated in large groups of people.  While that's understandable, make sure you don't wind up being the guy in the corner playing Angry Birds and attempting look like you don't care.  No one likes that guy.  
Make an effort to converse.  Introduce yourself to people you don't know.  There's a whole wide world of things out there to chat about, to learn about and to laugh over. Feign confidence until you actually feel it (seriously, it works!). 
Likewise, if you see someone exhibiting the signs of discomfort - holding up the walls by leaning on them, sitting by themselves staring wistfully at window as if determining how best to escape, making daisy chains out of candy wrappers- offer the proverbial olive branch and try to draw them into a conversation.  They may be eternally grateful (and perhaps even give you a candy wrapper necklace free of charge).  

3.TALK ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN YOURSELF. Okay, this is an important one.  While, yes, you are there to learn more about each other (and, short of mind-melding, that's almost impossible to do without telling the other person something about yourself), you want to make sure that the conversation is balanced.  By all means, share a funny joke, or the story about the time you accidentally dropped trou in the middle of a press shoot, but make sure that you allow the other person to speak too.  In general , avoid speaking at length on the great  things you've done, compliments you've received, or things that only you are interested in.  If the majority of your sentences begin with "I" or "me", or you notice that the other person is attempting to maim themselves, you might consider sharing the stage for a bit.  

4. MAINTAIN CIVIL CONVERSATION.  There is a common rule that you should always avoid discussing politics, and religion in public forums.  That said, many people ignore that rule.  And in all fairness, sometimes there are huge events that are difficult NOT to talk about (elections, protests, etc).  But, as they are topics that most people have very strong opinions on, it can make things a bit awkward, or even hostile.  Should these subjects come up, do your best to remember (and remind others, if necessary) that every person comes from a different background and most have very valid reasons for believing in what they believe in.  So long as they are not bashing another group of people**, they are entitled to believe what they believe.  Debating is dangerous territory, and it is usually best if you simply change the subject when possible and leave religion and politics for personal conversations in private forums.  
**SPECIAL NOTE: If someone IS bashing another person or group, you have absolutely every right (and a responsibility!) to step in and put an end to it.  This doesn't mean you need to be rude or make a spectacle.  Simply say, in as even a tone as you can manage, "I find those sentiments very offensive, and I think it would be best if we changed the subject." 

5. HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN.  While most manner guides would balk at this sentiment, let's face it- an escape plan is desperately needed now and again. 
If you're attending a party with a friend or loved one, keep an eye on each other throughout the event.  If it appears that they have been sucked into a situation where another guest has been giving a monologue for the last fifteen minutes, throw them a lifeline.  Simply excuse yourself from your discussion and casually interject with your friend saying, "Excuse me for interrupting, but I really need to steal her away for a few minutes."  You can also decide on a subtle please-come-save-me sign, like a cough and a scratch of the nose, or an action like dropping your phone or purse, or perhaps hopping up and down on one leg, flapping your arms and screeching "Cachaw! Cachaw!"  

If you are attending a party by yourself, have a game plan.  Casually mention at the beginning of the party that you have an important phone call you're waiting for, or that you're supposed to be taking a friend to the airport later that evening. Later on, should you find yourself in a conversation that you'd like to escape, politely interrupt the speaker by saying "oh my goodness - what time is it? I completely forgot that I have to [insert excuse here]. I apologize, but I need to run!"  Or, as previously mentioned, you can employ the "Cachaw" method, and, in all likelihood, the offending conversationalist will be running away from you at top speed anyway.  

By keeping these things in mind, you can breeze through most parties and events with ease and focus on simply enjoying the evening.  More Little Miss Decorum to come...

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