How to survive Christmas parties: A practical guide to festive conversations


As we move into Christmas season, many people will find themselves in social situations they may not want to be in. They may find themselves sitting next to distant relatives or acquaintances who are tedious, obnoxious, annoying, pedantic, weird, bombastic, stupid, or all of the above.

For these situations, I would like to provide a handy guide to party conversation that will help anyone to be completely comfortable in any social situation and conversing with anyone.

Ten years ago, in a period when I went to even more parties than usual, I observed that close to 90% of conversations were essentially content-free. There are in fact many, many things that can be said that are ALWAYS appropriate at ANY point in ANY conversation. This means that you can say these phrases, irrespective of what the other person has just said, and it will always be a relevant way to continue the conversation and appear to be a brilliant conversationalist. I then engaged in a long-term research project, spanning many parties, in which I compiled a list of these “appropriate phrases” that can be used at any point in a conversation.

In the spirit of Christmas generosity, I now share these phrases with the world. Before you go to your next party, memorize a few of the phrases to use. If you prefer, print out the list, and surreptitiously refer to it during the conversation. No one is likely to notice, given your outstanding conversational skills.

Have fun with the 335 phrases listed here, and please add any other “always-appropriate” conversational gambits below when you have completed your Christmas party research. Happy partying!

You expect me to believe that?

That’s a good one

I’ll drink to that

Truer words were never spoken

Have you ever said that to anyone else before?

If something’s worth saying once, it’s worth saying twice

Could you say that again for me in a low, sexy voice?

I’m sure you can do better than that. Take 2!

Just give me one last pearl of wisdom, and then I have to go

Are you an actor, or are you always like this?

We don’t go for that sort of thing where I come from

Lots of people tell me I have a sick mind. Do you think so?

You’re joking

Enough small talk. How about it, then?

Do you understand what you just said?

Do you know for a moment there I almost believed you

I think that’s terrible! Call me old-fashioned if you like.

Just look around – aren’t most people like dogs in heat?

Personal reality is a very funny thing

That’s one way of looking at it


Now there’s a question

Could you say that again in a different way?

I think there’s some truth to that

I can’t deny that

Sounds kinky!

How serendipitous!

Isn’t that a sweeping generalisation?

Did you have to say that?

Don’t stop

That’s the way

I beg to differ

Everyone says that

I’m all ears

The way you speak excites me

How long have you been practising that?

That reminds me of a story…

I beg your pardon?

Do you think a sane, reasonable person would say such a thing?

It’s just a matter of time

When you come down to it, it’s all about boys and girls, isn’t it?

What happened next?

Do you really think so?

But why?

Tell me everything – I don’t mind

Pull the other one

I’ve had a thing about latex for a long time now – ever since I’ve been looking at you

Can you give me an example?

Too right, mate, too right

It never occured to me to look at it like that

I’m not sure about that – I’d have to think about it

Behave yourself!

Life’s like that

You can talk about sex openly if you want to

Could we just erase that last remark?

Look, I may not be smart, but stop using all those long words on me

It’s important to say what you think is right

I see

It’s just what you’d expect, isn’t it?

Not me!

Yeah, but…

These things happen

Pray tell

That’s illegal down south

What does that mean?

I could argue that point

Don’t go all technical on me!

We’re all among friends here

I wouldn’t dream of it

Well, life on earth’s unlikely, and here we are!

Things could always get worse

Did you think it was going to be easy?

Total mayhem!

Not a problem!

Get a grip on yourself!

Time flies

That’s no excuse

I’m on a mission from God!

Not always, surely.

It proves chaos theory

You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do

Tell me, are you green?

There’s always a reason to celebrate

Some people say that

Well, in Hamlet he says, ‘see yonder cloud in the shape of a camel’

Do you come from an aristocratic bloodline?

I’ll second that

Have you had the operation?

It’s a question of striking a balance

I’ve heard that before

In what context?

Sometimes it’s like that, isn’t it?

What’s the purpose of that?

Have you ever been on television?

Let’s do lunch sometime

I bet you learnt the piano as a child

Does that apply to you as well?

It’s only limited by your imagination

That’s priceless

You’ve got to be kidding!

But, honestly, do you really believe that?

You’re not from around here, are you?

Are you paranoid?

Oh, that’s interesting

I’ll put that on my list

Have you ever thought of being a politician/ actor/ used car salesperson?

And what happened next?

What was it you were saying?

No, before that

I have to stop that

Once again with a little more passion!

Steady on!

Who knows?

God willing

That’s a good idea

I wouldn’t have said that

Is that all you have to say?

Are you sure about that?

Oh, excuse me – I’ve just seen an old friend

You know, there’s an old Lancashire saying, “There’s nowt as queer as folk.”

Tell me, do you think this is a difficult conversation?

Now, that’s a big can of worms

You really land in the bunkers of my mind

And you expect me to believe that?

I’ve got an idea: you go that way, and I’ll go this way. Have a nice life!

I think that covers it all, really, doesn’t it?

That’s good, conceptually

It’s possible

What do you expect to get from this?

Did you think of that just now?

[Blow nose noisily] That’s better! Pray continue

Beam me up, Scotty!

Would your mother like you to say that?

Could you say that in another way?

Why did you say that?

I don’t know what you mean, but I’m still listening

Tell me more

You have a smooth tongue

Surely not!

That evokes some interesting images

If you say so

We digress! But only momentarily. What were you saying?

So what are the tax implications?

Go on

When you get to the bottom of it, the CIA will be involved, you’ll see

Is this as good as it gets?

There must be more to life than that

Wasn’t there something about that in the paper today?

You’re putting me on!

Why are you telling me this?

When you said that your aura turned red at the edges

C’est la vie!

Hasn’t that been done before?

That’s a very Aquarian thing to say


Did you go to a Catholic school?

It’s great to be alive

Life’s not fair

That says a lot about you

Is that your ego speaking?

Sounds like a dream to me

Let me write that down

Where do we go from here?

Why does that make me think of sex?

I’ll take your word for it

I couldn’t do without it

Don’t be silly!

You know that

Ah! It’s all too much for me

Inch’ Allah!

You’re just saying that

We all have a different attitude to different things


You mean no-one told you?

It’s nice with friends that you can say that


There’s only one way to find out

Hard to believe

It’s essential

You don’t want to know

You don’t say!

Yes I’m listening

Maybe you need some vitamins

Rather interesting

I don’t believe you

You can never find one when you want one

It’s a wonderful world

That’s just so like humans, isn’t it?

I’m sure it will work out fine in the end


Music to my ears

You can’t deny it

Spooky, isn’t it?

Is that jam on your chin?

Be organised, that’s what I say

Have you tried praying?

That’s a bit glib, isn’t it?

You wouldn’t want to be taken out of context on that, would you?

Only in the mating season

That’s debatable

What a load of rubbish


Not necessarily

I have to think about that

I have to introduce you to someone I know

These things happen

Were you one of those people who protested about education cuts?

Who do you think I am?

It depends on your school of psychology. What’s yours?

Demand a refund!

How could you say that?


I hear what you’re saying

So they say

Well that’s some statement

Now you’re talking!

Someone I was just speaking to said exactly the same thing

That’s funky! Seriously funky

This is what we find

I know where you’re coming from

You sound just like my father/ mother

That’s uncanny! How did you know to say that just then?

Behave yourself!

I couldn’t have put it better myself

Is that a fact?

I’m sure I don’t know what you mean

It depends

Yes, but have you considered the spiritual dimension?

Are you serious?

I’d love to hear about that later

Monkey see, monkey do

Back off!

Are you having as much as fun as I am?

Remember: three strikes and you’re out!

That’s a cliche if I ever heard one

Don’t look at me like that – I don’t know what I’m going to say next

Excuse me, I’ll be back in a minute

I believe it, but only because I’m Christian.

What were we just talking about?

By Jove, I believe you’ve got something there

That’s a bit strong, isn’t it?

It’s only natural

You have to go with the flow

Give me that one again

I never did mind the little things

This would make a good film

Did you think before you said that?

Isn’t there a song about that?

That’s what it’s all for

If that had a colour, what colour would it be?

It never ceases to amaze me

Run that by me again and I’ll really have it in my mind

Would you believe it?

Could you repeat that?

Is this on a need-to-know basis?

I can’t quite seem to grasp it

It’s conceivable

I made it myself

Snakes and ladders, snakes and ladders

You can only be in one place at the one time

It could be dangerous

It always works out in the end

By the way, can you recommend a good accountant?

Sounds reasonable

That’s fascinating

I don’t think anyone’s pointed that out to me before

Do it!

Don’t they teach that in school these days?

Go on then, tell me!

Very wise

Obviously you’re not on the mailing list

I believe you

We’re on the case

Perhaps you should try a different hairdresser


I’m sorry to hear that

Tell me what you mean, exactly

You’re kidding!

It’s a big issue

What star sign are you?

It all fits together in the end

Don’t you find talking makes you thirsty?

Why? Is that important to you?

She’ll be right

Very nice, too

I believe it could

I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised

Fair enough

How gauche!

Don’t think about it

What are you missing out on?

That’s one way of describing it

Try it, you’ll like it

It works for me


Where were we?

Arguably, yes

You can never be certain

It depends

Be specific

How much is it worth?

It’s a hypothesis

You’re bouncy tonight

Wicked! Wicked!

So we are told

Don’t fight it

Freedom and choice, that’s what matters

It’s a question of perception


Don’t hesitate here

You’d better believe it

Why wait?

Since when?

Let me guess – you vote Labor

How puerile

Diarise that

Oh, is that the doorbell?

How old are you?

I can’t stress enough the importance of this project


You have to be in the mood for it

Says who?

Is that rational?

How romantic!

To some degree

Why’s that?

People have been saying that for a while

I think that takes care of it, doesn’t it?

Your barcode is showing

Everything takes time to learn

What’s the relationship between that and what I said?

What’s your point?

Are you normal?

Ain’t life grand!

Does it matter?

  • I’ve got better: all you need is three words, and you can get by ANY conversation
    1) Wow
    2) Unbelievable
    3) Uh-huh