The art of Small Talk etiquette: Sukkot Edition
Tami Lancut Leibovitz
Sukkot, or in its official name “The Festival of Sukkot” is a holiday like no other, where we relocate ourselves to a temporary home, the sukkah itself, built under the sky, where we spend our time, meals and even sleep! On top of it all, it’s a festival of endless hosting circles, people coming and going, visitors from all walks of lives and all circles of our business and social lives.
Having all those guests from all paths of life also brings us etiquette questions and concerns, about carrying proper and pleasant conversation in the Sukkah, and how to make everyone as comfortable as can be in our temporary home:
- Small talk is not a small thing – it’s huge in situations like that, when most people don’t know each other. If you master it, you can turn a dry gathering into a fascinating situation. Don’t be shy to initiate, ask questions or tell jokes or stories about the holiday. Some people are too shy to start a conversation with a seemingly stranger but would love to answer and engage.
- Avoid gossip – local gossip or celebrity gossip both. It can lead to uncomfortable situations, especially if you don’t know the people in front of you that well and you can’t guess who they know or related to.
- It’s a great idea to identify and find common interests around the able, stick to general themes, such as movies, sports, latest show, or concert you watched, travel, books, etc. – find subjects more people can relate to and feel free to talk about without exposing their personal feelings or opinions.
- Give your phones a rest! Put it in your pocket or put it on vibrate of you are waiting for an important call, but don’t have it in front of you while you are visiting. It creates discomfort for others and a feeling as you are not listening completely or not interested. Enjoy the human interaction that is not so obvious nowadays.
- Don’t compete for the world’s fast reporter! We all know those people, constantly asking us if “we heard what happened”, or if we listened to the latest news report. Newsflash!! We all have push notifications on our phones, alerting us on what’s happening in any given moment. Enjoy the time in the Sukkah to develop less news-related conversations, especially because it can create political and ideological arguments that we do not want under our sukkah and can lead to uncomfortable situations.
- Avoid those topics and habits around the table to create a healthy, smooth conversation: Telling jokes that has a racial undertone even if you feel it’s funny or appropriate including men/women jokes that can be offensive, asking personal questions unless someone is volunteering information, discussing value, and cost of things – it’s never a good idea to discuss financial habits and situations so not to embarrass anyone. Also, don’t get into anyone’s plate – avoid talks about health and diet and of course – avoid politics and religion talk at all cost.
- Do not whisper or hold personal conversations in front of everyone in the table, it’s not proper etiquette and it’s not the right time. Sukkah time is the time to share a mutual experience among the table visitors.
What do you think? Is entering a sukkah filled with strangers seems less intimidating now? If you wish to master your art of small talk further, read more about small talk etiquette across cultures and countries, visit amazon for my best-seller collection: TLL E-BOOK COLLECTION and feel free to leave any etiquette-related question or concern! Chag Same’ach and Happy Sukkot to all!