Having a conversation with anyone when you are newly sober is a daunting prospect for most of us. In the early days our anxiety is high and our confidence is low. This time of year with its many parties and social occasions can fill you with dread, particularly if you tend to be shy or quiet by nature and relied upon a few drinks to bring you out of your shell.
In-keeping with New year lists, here are 10 conversation openers you could use at a party when you do not know what to say. It doesn't matter if they sounds contrived. Once the conversation has started it should be self-perpetuating. Try to avoid asking closed questions that can be answered with a solitary 'yes' or 'no'. Asking questions makes people feel flattered that you are interested in them and paradoxically, it makes them think that you are interesting too.
1. Have you travelled far to get here?
2. How do you know…? The hosts or the person who introduced you to each other (then left).
3. What did you do for Christmas?
4. Have you had some time off work over the holidays?
5. Your hair/ dress/ handbag /skin is gorgeous. What's your secret? (You may need to substitute with shirt/ beard /watch!).
6. What resolutions have you made yet?
7. 'Hi, I don't think we've met before. I'm Rachel'. Insert your own name here obviously. Only the very ignorant will not introduce themselves in return.
8. Are you working tomorrow? (You, of course are, that's why you're not drinking and will be leaving shortly.)
9. This venue is X,Y, Z. Have you been here before?
10. How old are your children? (Be sure they have children before you ask this.) People with children will happily talk about them all night.
Remember conversation is a two way process, one person shouldn't be doing all the work. If your companion repeatedly gives mono-syllabic answers and does not offer further chat then be kind (it could be their first night out sober too!) and move on:
'It was lovely meeting you; I must go and speak to X before she leaves. Excuse me."
Socialising sober is exhausting. Trying to be heard over the noise (music?) is tiresome and headache inducing. You can make it easier on yourself: do a quick round to show face and leave early. Don't bother saying good-byes as it starts questions about why you are leaving so early. Drunk people don't tend to notice anyone sober going AWOL so I just slip out quietly. You don't even need to go to the party at all if you'd rather not.
However you handle it, don't worry about it. It does not matter a jot in the bigger picture. If you do decide to go, plan what you will do about drinks, driving and conversation before you go and have a very happy hogmanay.
With best wishes for 2015.