The end of the year has come around again, and the biggest event in the work social calendar is coming up. In the weeks before the big event, everyone is talking about it and planning a great night. And in the weeks following the big event, some will be up for promotion, some will be looking in the careers section of the paper, and others will be planning an extended holiday. But whether you look forward to it with the greatest of anticipation and excitement or one of those things you wish you could avoid at all costs, the workChristmas party comes around each year, and if you want to keep up workplace relationships (and hopefully not destroy them), then attending is a must.
The Christmas party always has a range of characters who emerge each year. These people either enhance their reputation with their fellow workmates, or they completely obliterate it. Being able to read the body language of who is playing what role at the party, and who to talk to or who to avoid, will help you to make a success of what could have been awkward and uncomfortable situations your co-workers never seem to want to forget.
At the beginning of the night there is always plenty of polite and politically correct behaviour and discussions. But, as the night wears on, and alcohol begins to take its effect, behaviours dramatically change. Alcohol is the basic cause of almost every awkward moment we’ve ever regretted at a Christmas party. Alcohol removes inhibitions and people start to express their undying love for their boss, their absolute hatred for their work partner, how much they love the new employee’s bum and even jokinglyshare a description of their favourite sexual position to all their other colleagues.
Most of us go to the party with hidden intentions and expectations,whether it’s sucking up to the new IT manager so you will get help more easily when your computer spits the dummy, being extra friendly to the boss and his wife to improve your chances of promotion, or to tell your arch-rival at work to ‘stick it where the sun don’t shine’ (using the alcohol as the excuse later on). To succeed in these intentions, you need to be able to read people, determine the mood they’re in and the role they are playing at the party – are they keeping a low profile, being the life of the party or just being the most-intoxicated loser?
So, who are the characters that typically emerge at a Christmas party? Being able to spot these people by their body language will make your life a lot easier from Boxing Day forwards. We’ll give you top tips to recognise the most memorable characters:
How to recognise him
The first prevalent character at the party will be Mr Sleaze. There is always that one guy who decides this is his night to get lucky, no matter what, and will make advances on every girl at the party, whether they are a work colleague, girlfriend or wife of colleagues, or even his boss. He is usually highly intoxicated, shameless, and very open about his intentions when chatting up women. He will make the most blatant male courtship gestures such as preening behaviour: straightening his tie, smoothing his hair and/or beard, smoothing his collar and brushing imaginary dust from his shoulder, continually adjusting his private parts, making thrusting actions with his hips as he talks and draping himself on you. When it comes to courtship rituals, most men are about as effective as someone standing in a river trying to catch a fish by hitting them on the head with a big stick. Women, as we shall see, have more lures and fishing skills to land their fish than any male could ever hope to acquire. This is why Mr Sleaze is seemingly so sleazy. It’s obvious to everyone that he wants to score, and he is not at all subtle in his approach. Beware of Mr Sleaze, because if he is trying it on you, it’s because he hasn’t been successful with many other women at the party.
What should you do?
To handle Mr Sleaze’s advances whilst not putting you in his bad books for the next year, use your body language to send the message of not being interested, without being rude about it. Turn your body away from him when he speaks, rather than toward him (toward is a sign of interest). Cross your arms on your chest. Smile, but don’t show your teeth. This is an insincere smile that will subtly send the message that you don’t find him interesting or amusing, without having to verbally express it by saying ‘get lost!’ If this doesn’t work, be firm, but not rude, and say, “Thanks, but no thanks”.
How to recognise him
Mr Cool will also be at the party. There is always that one man who has the skills that all men wish they had. He can ‘psych out’ the available women in the room, make his choice and, in almost record-breaking time, be seen heading toward the terrace or the exit with the woman. Mr Cool will also put into action his range of male courting gestures. He, however, will be really smooth about it. He might use an intimate gaze, and hold eye contact a little longer than normal. If he is sincerely interested, his pupils will be dilated, he will stand with his hands on both hips to accentuate his physical size and show his readiness to be involved with the woman. Mr Cool is really not that much different from Mr Sleaze, only he may be someone that all the women in the office think is sexy and desirable, but the Christmas party is the only time that social barriers are dropped. Women may be hanging on his every word, laughing at all his jokes. If he shows interest, take caution that he is not simply looking for some hot action. The way to know if he is genuinely interested is to read his body language. Men broaden their stance, holding their shoulders back to say “look at me, I’m capable of carrying large amounts of water from the creek and catching large lions and wrestling them for you”. He wants to seem manly and strong. Then he rocks forward and back almost as if he’s making love to an imaginary woman.
What should you do?
If he seems genuinely interested there are ways that you can successfully obtain his affection without being too forward, and even better, not creating tension for the rest of the year with all the other women in the office. If the two of you are both interested, you will naturally start to mirror each other’s body language. Make contact somehow, by for example, both leaning on the same wall or bar, because this effectively will make the two of you seem like one. Point your front foot toward him; this is another subtle way of sending the message you are interested in him, one he will hopefully pick up; do the head toss, flick your hair back; expose your wrists; tilt and roll your hips highlighting your hips-to-waist ratio; (70% hips-to-waist ratio gets every man’s attention – it shows high fertility) make sideway glances, wet your lips with your tongue, fondle cylindrical objects such as a glass stem, glance over a raised shoulder. These are all natural sexual body language signals, and will subtly send the message to him you want him, without putting the other women off side (women cannot stand overt flirts).
MISS MAN EATER
How to recognise her
Another prominent character at the party, one that can cause a lot of women grief, is Miss Man Eater. Miss Man Eater is the woman who goes after men, knowing he has a girlfriend or wife, and it doesn’t matter whether the girlfriend or wife is at the party or not. She never holds back, and if she is attracted to someone she works with, she will make it known very openly at the Xmas party. Miss Man Eater makes many wives at home worried. Even if they trust their husbands fully, the thought of this woman drives them crazy. Miss Man Eater eyes off her prey, she provocatively dances and flirts, she consumes a bit too much champagne in order to get herself in the man-eating mode, she approaches men on the dance floor, and then she goes in for the kill. Most men can identify the man-eater a mile away, and even though they know she is the female equivalent of Mr Sleaze, they all find her very stimulating; only her sights are firmly set on the married men in the room. Forbidden affairs are her forte, she gets excited at the thought of winning over a taken man. She shows very strong body language signals, that which another woman can spot from the other side of the building. She will lean toward her prey, trying to encroach on his personal space. She will face toward him with her legs sexually crossed toward him; one may be deliberately touching him. She strokes her glass in a provocative manner and exposes her neck in a head tilt whilst flicking her hair and use child-like laughter to seem vulnerable and submissive.
What should be done?
Some men are tempted to think, “My wife will never find out!” However, there are many men who see through her act, and remember she is just an airhead who can’t hold a very intelligent conversation. In this case, they will display body language to her, saying, “I’m not that stupid” and have their arms folded when she talks to them. His wife or girlfriend, if she’s there, can also show strong body language, such as territorial gestures staking her claim to scare off competitors. She can lean against her partner, put her arm around him or hold hands. When used in public and social situations, this shows others that the couple have a claim on each other.
THE BOSS & HIS WIFE
Inevitably, the boss and his wife (or partner) will be there. The boss may have given you grief during the year, but he can also make your work life worthwhile. The boss is the source of promotion for you, and to impress him will mean a more successful career. And, as they say, behind every great man is an even greater woman. In other words, she usually has last say and controls his opinions, so don’t ignore her. More importantly than being nice to your boss, is being nice to his wife, because she is the one who – when they get home and are changing for bed – will be chatting away, and she will be the one to say “she was a really unintelligent, incompetent loser” or “he is a real asset to the firm, you should look after him well so the competition doesn’t steal him”. And heregardsher opinion very highly.
What should you do?
When talking to your boss at the Christmas party, a balance needs to be found between the social nature of the event (the normal work relationship you hold), being on equal terms (being a social event), and also maintaining respect and giving him or her their rightful authority so as to not offend. Stay at least 3 feet away in distance and don’t touch, other than a handshake, and nod whenever they speak. Remember however that you need the balance, because you don’t want to seem like a ‘bootlicker’ or ‘crawler’ to the boss because then he will lose respect for you. There are some basic body gestures that can be used to seem interested in the conversation from the boss and his wife. Use of head gestures is perfect for this. If you want to seem really interested in what they are saying, the head tilt to one side is powerful. Lean forward when listening using hand-on-chin. This all makes the other person feel warm toward you. If you disagree with your boss try not to reveal this. Common body language when you disagree or have negative feelings include dropping your head down, folding your arms and leaning back from him.
WHO ELSE COULD BE THERE?
Mr Comedian & Miss Life of the Party
Mr Comedian is the guy who uses humour as a way to deal with painful or awkward situations. When he’s not comfortable around someone or about the topic of conversation, he’ll crack plenty of jokes to distract from it. Miss Life of the Party will also be attending. She is young, attractive and fun loving. She loves attention, and gets on the dance floor and ‘shakes her thing’. She is a natural party girl and loves to get into it when she gets the chance. Others however look at her differently. They think she is an attention-seeking bimbo. They spend time talking about how drunk she is, or how desperate she must be to pick up someone. But Miss Life of the Party is oblivious to this, she is genuinely there to have an ‘awesome time’, to dance the night away after having a really exhausting year at work. She feels she has earned the night, and will make the most of it. She doesn’t realise how this behaviour causes other women to gossip about her.
Dr Jekyl and Hyde & Mr Desperate
Dr Jekyland Hyde appears halfway during the night. Jekyl and Hyde is the nerdy computer IT guy, who turns up dressed to kill, looking great and is extremely sociable, when he has hardly uttered a word to anyone at work all year. Or, he can appear as the most serious man in the office, who does nothing but work, work, work, and then at the party, completely lets loose, acting crazy, drinking too much, and trying to win the Karaoke prize of the night. Mr Desperate arrives with his obviously hired date. She is a stripper from out of town, who later in the night starts handing out her business card to all the men much to the horror of Mr Desperate who wanted her to appear to be his new girlfriend. Occasionally Mr Desperate’s date will emerge from the bushes with another workmate.
Miss Frenzied Organiser & Mr Intoxicated Loser
Miss Frenzied Organiser is usually the events managerfrom work who was delegated to organise the party and is rushing around, like a chicken with its head chopped off, trying to make everything run smoothly, checking the caterers provided the “shrimp on a stick”, and that there is enough alcohol to last the night. She’s breaking into a sweat, panicking, talking at a fast pace, and not stopping to talk to anyone for more than 10 seconds. Finally, there is Mr Intoxicated Loser. The resident drunk who sits in the corner with his beer, trying to hold his head up, fighting his eyelids, spitting on everyone and drooling on his shirt as he talks about his miserable life. Actually, there can be several of these guys in the room by the end of the night – they often sit together in a dark corner and stare at the dance floor like it’s a lava lamp.
All these characters show their own body language and behaviour on the night. By deciphering who is who you can stay in control of your night. By staying away from the likes of Mr Sleaze, you can’tregret your interactions. By playing your cards right with the boss and his wife, or befriending Mr Desperate, you might experience more success next year. And by not criticising Miss Life of the Party, you can’t be accused of gossiping. Finally, avoiding Mr Intoxicated will mean you don’t have to make a trip to the dry-cleaners due to bodily fluids on your designer outfits, and that’s always a bonus!