The season of holiday parties is fast approaching, which means tasty hors d’oeuvres, appalling sweaters, and of course, small talk. For some, this is an exciting time to hear what everyone’s been up to over the year; for others, it can be the most dreaded night of the season.
To help you ace your holiday party this year, we caught up with our resident conversational expert: Bryan Yniguez, the top-rated talker on the Lyft platform.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Rev: So you enter a party. What’s the first thing you do?
Bryan: If I go to a party with my wife, I see all the husbands just standing there. Nobody’s talking, right? So there’s always gonna be anxiety. But to break the ice, I’m like, “What’s up, man? I’m Bryan. I’m Nicole’s husband.” You know? “Who’s your wife?” And then like, “Oh, so do you play basketball? What you sippin’ on?” And then all of a sudden, a conversation.
If it’s in somebody’s house, I make sure I talk to the person that lives there, compliment the house, thank them for the invitation. Respect. And that starts the conversation, right?
What do you do if you forget someone’s name?
I’ll listen out for it. You might hear a person go, “Hey, yo, yo, Jim.” Then later on you say, “Yo, Jim, it was nice meeting you, man.”
But if I don’t get it, I’m straight up. Say, “Hey, I forgot your name, man.” And then when you know his name, you gotta put it with an actor’s name or an actress’s name so that you’ll remember that, you know?
That’s a great trick. What’s your favorite small-talk topic?
Family, always. Like in my Lyft rides, I get people working for conventions, but they’re always talking about how they just wanna get back to the family and see the kids. That’s what’s heartwarming, you know? So that’s always the topic that touches me the most. And then that leads to, “Oh yeah, so where’s your family from?” If the ride is longer, it gets more personal after that.
Or food. I always try to bring food, and then everybody’s asking for recipes. I’ll make Filipino egg rolls, which are called lumpia. You’ll hear, “Who made the lumpia?” And then you have a conversation going about your food.
How do you navigate a conversation if it heads into a tricky topic like politics?
It always happens. They’ll ask me, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” I’m like, “Depends on what you are. Whatever you are, I am right now. Cause I don’t want no problems right here. You go right ahead and say what’s on your mind.” You know? I’m open ears, right? I don’t have to agree with it. But I’ll give you a nod here and there.
And if it gets bad, I’ll just put the music up a little. Be like, “Oh, this song. I remember this song.” Try to change the subject a little bit.
OK, so let’s say you’re in a conversation with someone, and it’s dwindling. You just need to wrap it up. What do you do?
Hmm, just like, “All right, I’ll catch you later.” “Yo, talk to you in a minute, all right?” “I’m gonna go use the bathroom.” I’m sure they don’t want to stand there and talk to you for the next hour anyway, you know?
Later on, when you do leave the party, give them the recognition. “Hey, yo, it was very nice to chat today. See you at the next party.”
How can you tell when it’s time to leave a party?
When the lights turn on. Or when everybody starts leaving, right? My body will tell me, you know? I’m good to go.
Any last tips?
Be yourself. Speak what’s on your mind. If you don’t wanna be in that conversation, don’t be in the conversation. But you gotta just put yourself in that moment.