Champagne toast
Champagne toast

In the run-up to Christmas, our communication and negotiation experts will share 4 valuable tips over the coming days for a successful Christmas dinner, with a focus on enjoying Christmas rather than just surviving.

1 — Put yourself in the shoes of the other people around the table

In negotiations involving multiple parties, it's all about who feels responsible for making the deal a success, in other words, who takes ownership. This works the same way at Christmas dinner. Who feels responsible for making the dinner a successful evening?  

A common mistake is that some parties take far too much ownership of the success of the evening, while others simply don't invest at all. One person may want to 'over organize' the evening and plan everything, including the jokes, while others sit at the table and make no contribution. You can approach this dynamic with empathy: put yourself in the shoes of the other person. This will give you a better understanding of their wishes, increasing the chances of a relaxed and enjoyable gathering.

In these turbulent times, a Christmas dinner is not just about good food, but mainly about connection and creating precious memories together.

2 — Play the 'talk show host'

A clever strategy to make Christmas dinner go smoothly is to put yourself in the role of a kind of talk show host. Think about engaging talking points in advance and guide the conversation as if you were a presenter. This avoids awkward silences and allows you to change the subject at the right time and keep the mood up. This approach works well not only at Christmas dinners, but also during other occasions where a lot of communication is needed.

At a time when people seem to be increasingly sensitive and some topics are better discussed at another time, it is important to communicate deliberately. Ask questions on light-hearted topics and save any irritations for a more appropriate time.

As a good 'talk show host' of Christmas dinner, you can ensure a table with smiling faces, engaging conversations and unforgettable moments! This is just as important as preparing that delicious three-course meal.

3 — Experience it like visiting a theatre

Try zooming out for a moment. You hear it more and more, but what do they mean by it and what does it achieve? By acting as a researcher/observer in a group, you put your own emotions more in the background. It is a kind of theatre visit that takes place right in front of your own eyes.

This allows you to better observe what is going on and why everyone is actually quite quick to dive back into their old roles. It creates more understanding for that aunt or grandmother who only transmits and barely listens and makes you less quick to judge yourself.

When you get a bit of fun with this, it's time for targetet and open-ended questions. While doing so, be especially open to the answers and ask for them. Don't make it a cross-examination, but a real conversation. That way, you can handle any discussion, whether it's about politics, a family feud bubbling up, or a debate arises whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not 😉.

4 — Don't set the bar too high

Expectation management. In other words, communicate well in advance what is expected of everyone. It prevents misunderstandings such as one aunt bringing extremely expensive gifts and another aunt bringing nothing. Or grandpa standing in his dinner jacket and an uncle arriving in his slouch jumper. It can cause discomfort and an unhappy start that no one really gets over.

Take charge and use clear and friendly communication to make clear the purpose of the evenings what is expected of everyone: gifts are not necessary and cosy if everyone puts on something festive. But don't set the bar too high either, as that comes across as rather demanding and makes disappointment more likely. And remember: in the end it is just a dinner party and the most important thing is that everyone has a good time. So don't set the bar too high.