St. Charles Herald-Guide

Just in time for New Year's Eve

By Heather R. Breaux - December 27, 2006

You can party hearty on New Year's without making a fool of yourself with tips from an expert who's written a book on people who get into trouble while trying to get ahead in life.

"We all want to be lively and engaged and make a great impression when we socialize with friends or associates, but there's a fine line between being the life of the party and making a complete fool of yourself," psychologist Dr. Constance Greenleafe told the Herald-Guide.

Here, from her forthcoming book, Behaving to Get Ahead in Life, are eight mistakes people make when partying:

1. Dressing inappropriately. Under-dress for the occasion and you'll be uncomfortable from start to finish. Ask the host what to wear so you don't wind up standing around in a tuxedo while everyone else is in jeans ... or vice versa.

2. Arriving too late. It may be fashionable to arrive late, but it's unfashionable to be rude to your host. Arriving more than 30 minutes late is unacceptable and will win you no friends. If your late arrival is unavoidable, telephone to alert your host well in advance.

3. Drinking too much. If your host is serving non-alcoholic punch, soft drinks or water, guzzle as much as you like. But if beer, wine or cocktails are up for grabs, limit yourself to what you can handle. Otherwise you might wind up dancing on a table with a lampshade on your head. And if you do drink too much, get a ride home with a sober friend or call a cab. Getting into an accident on your way home could land your host in court, liable for damages you caused in an accident. There are numerous legal precedents for these lawsuits.

4. Pigging out. Unless the party includes an eating contest, you should avoid stuffing yourself at your host's expense. Eat until you're satisfied, not until you have to loosen your belt and shake the rafters with a belch. And don't chow down on the "expensive stuff" only. Piling a plate high with, say, lobster tails is gauche. Eat some veggies and the cheese cubes, too.

5. Talking too much. Sharing information about yourself is an acceptable way to start up a conversation. But dominating the conversational give-and-take with unending news about your job, your children, your vacation or your life doesn't make you interesting - it makes you a bore. Ask other people about their lives - and listen.

6. Bringing up taboo topics. Politics, religion, sex and other "hot-button topics" - like money and child-rearing - are off limits. Although some people can negotiate these treacherous conversational waters, most of us can't. And if someone hasn't paid attention to Mistake No. 3 (above) about drinking too much, you might wind up in an argument - or a full-blown fight.

7. Flirting with the wrong man or woman. You probably can get away with some light and gentle flirting if there are single people at the party, and you're single, too. But if you get pushy or heavy-handed while trying to pick up on someone, you're asking for real trouble. Never, ever flirt if you're married. Never, ever flirt with a married person.

8. Leaving too late. If all the other guests have left and the hostess is yawning, wake up - and go home. Better yet, after the first few people leave the party, follow suit. You might not be the life of the party from start to finish, but chances are good you'll be remembered as a great guest - and invited back next time.