’Tis the season for holiday parties, including those that have nothing to do with you: the events put on by your significant other’s employers, clients, and partners.
You (should) already know what attire is most appropriate and which conversation starters to use and avoid. But did you know that there’s one rule that will guarantee you make a stellar impression at your significant other’s party?
It’s a simple rule—so deceivingly simple, in fact, that you may be unknowingly overlooking it. But keep it in mind, and you’ll not only be remembered, your significant other will be thanking you for weeks to come.
The magic rule is this: Be kind. Read on for examples of how kindness is the ultimate do and how it will translate to every group of people you meet.
1. Your Significant Other’s Colleagues
Don’t: Wear Your Feelings on Your Face
Do: Be Equally Warm With Everyone
One of my husband’s colleagues once advised him to never reveal how he really felt about everyone he worked with, because, according to this person, wives just can’t resist giving looks of contempt.
I don’t happen to agree with this advice, but there is a sentiment behind it that bears consideration: How you treat your significant other’s colleagues, even in subtle ways, reflects back on him or her.
This means that if someone catches you rolling your eyes during the boss’ unending story or overhears you saying something catty on the way back to the car, it makes your significant other look bad. Conversely, by being warm to everyone (even that officemate who always steps on your spouse’s ideas), you’re acting as though he or she has only relayed lovely things to you back home, which can actually go a long way in an ailing work relationship.
So be kind to absolutely everyone, and remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say—smile, nod, and save your comments until you get home.
2. The Other Guests
Don’t: Be Cliquey
Do: Reach Out
As a coach’s wife, I have repeatedly found myself in a brand new town, and the natural people for me to reach out to are the other coaches’ wives. I don’t think it’s intentional, but I have witnessed that in nearly every group of women, no matter their age, there are some who naturally click (and others who are left out).
This can happen, too, in the short span of an office party—say you meet a significant other with a similar job or killer sense of humor, and you want to talk to her (and no one else) all night because she’s awesome.
Beware of this. Instead, just like we advise young people to eat with the person sitting by himself in the cafeteria, go out of your way to talk to the significant other who is on the other side of the room by herself.
First, it’s just the nice thing to do. Second, she’s might be great, too. Third (and this has happened to me more than once), she’ll tell her husband that you went out of your way to be nice to her, and—again, because how you act is a reflection of your SO—the colleague will be appreciative toward your significant other that you went out of your way to be kind to his wife.
3. Your Significant Other
Don’t: Use Put-Down Humor
Do: Be Each Other’s Biggest Fan
This is not—I repeat not—the time for the “all he does is watch sports,” “all she does is shop” banter. Humor about the other one’s shortcomings has no place in the office—even if it’s of the “she works so late I never see her” sort.
This is the time for each person to make the other one look good. Here is one my favorite strategies: Tell stories that flesh out who your significant other is outside the office but that reinforce that he or she is the exact right person for his or her job. For example, I might talk about the latest coaching book I spied my husband reading during his downtime, or he might mention my volunteer work.
Think about when Jay-Z and Beyonce or William and Kate or Barack and Michelle do a joint appearance—we love seeing when one member of a power couple admires the other, and we just can’t help but like them both more.
If you need another reason to focus on kindness, I’ve noticed that it helps people stay away from the introverted or extroverted extremes: Kindly interacting with others can save you from being the shy wallflower or the too-memorable center of attention because it forces you to really connect. So, go out of your way to be kind, and you’ll make a shining impression that will reflect well on you and your significant other (and then expect the same at your holiday party).