Hearing Link

Social events

It’s that office Christmas dinner again

Hearing Link Trustee Mike TurnillMike Turnill gives tips on how to manage the office party – and maybe even enjoy it. 

OK, so you feel you ought to go to the office Christmas do, to show that you’re part of the team – rather than duck out again with some excuse. But you dread the noise levels that will emerge from 300 boisterous people.  At the same time, well organised parties can be fun and you’ll meet people that you haven’t seen for a while.

Usually there’ll be some people that you’ll want to make contact with during the evening. Check where they are in the melee and at the tables.

The party starts with pre-dinner drinks. At this point the noise levels aren’t too bad and you choose a group of people you know. With hearing aids you’re able to chat about various topics quite happily.

Check out the seating arrangements

Take a good to look around and establish where it might be possible to sit more quietly later on.

Your first big challenge is when you are called for dinner (e.g tables of ten). I always try to tell the host about  my hearing problems and indicate where I’d like to be seated  (don’t leave this till on the day).  However, if there are no set places you need to choose a table where you know at least one person and make a rapid decision about where to sit (always a temptation to sit next to that gorgeous woman you’ve bumped into a couple of times).

For me with only one operational ear, the person on my right will be person I speak to most so it’s very important to tell the person on my left about my deafness otherwise I’ll be written off as rude (this has happened).

Once I’ve chosen a place I usually  make a point of walking round the table introducing myself face to face to those people I don’t know and if necessary mentioning my hearing problems.

For the person on my left I make a point of turning round to face them especially in an interval between serving courses; this is crucial since I’ll have been unaware of what has been going on that side.

As the noise escalates…

When it comes to dessert, ask if you can swap with someone on the other side of the table. This is increasingly acceptable and enables you to redress some of the imbalance in the conversation.

After people have had a few drinks the noise in the room escalates rapidly and this is where things become tougher. You may, like me, have to take your hearing aids off because they can’t cope and from that point on you rely more and more on lip reading.

After dinner people move to the bar area and the band starts up – dancing begins – even more noise! There may well be casino style games set up in the bar area as well.

Try talking to some people in the bar area – stand close facing them and you may be able to converse OK with some lip reading skills.

However you really want to have a chat with Tom, one of the senior managers. The best policy is to say ‘Look, the noise is a problem, could we go and sit in the lounge area outside for a few minutes?’ Usually this works especially if he understands about your problem.

Time to leave?

The best parties usually go on into the small hours but by 10.30pm you are starting to feel tired. If you feel that you’ve spoken (even briefly)  to all the people who matter (direct reports, senior managers etc) then it’s fine to go. Maybe there’s someone you forgot – go and seek them out explain that you to leave early; make them feel comfortable.

My advice for any of these business functions, whether it’s Xmas parties, Conference events or Business Dinners is to plan out in advance what it is you want to achieve by attending – whom you want to meet, whether there any special messages you need to deliver.

One’s attitude to these parties changes with age – if you are young and at the start of your career you may just go to have a good time, but as you get older and perhaps more senior there are other motivations for attending.  Don’t hesitate to persuade people no matter who they are,  to come to quieter area for a while. You may well find that they appreciate being away from the noise for a bit.

Don’t duck out of these events as it’s usually in your interests to take part, but do plan before and during the event on how to manage the process. In events where you know lots of people it can be fun – and with good self management –  even quite rewarding.

One last word of advice; don’t drink too much. The office party is all about us deaf people making the best of a challenging situation – and it’s much easier to do this in full consciousness. Cheers!

A few more suggestions from Vivienne K

Don’t be too hard on yourself….you KNOW will not be able to follow EVERYTHING, so don’t set yourself up to fail. 

Close up of a christmas decoration --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

If you are going to parties, set a limit you are comfortable with…Thank you for the invite, would love to come, but can only stay for an hour…keep calm, enjoy that hour and then come away before it’s all too much.

BUT if you are enjoying yourself stay longer…you will know when it is time to leave. Go with that.

Don’t sit down at a party…you can get yourself out of ‘tricky’ situations when on the move, and the mumbler/bearded man/unusual accent…will ALWAYS sit next to you…

If you are the host/hostess politely remind everyone when they arrive, that you have a hearing loss, and maybe again as a group when everyone has arrived…but don’t keep doing it all day…when gramps hits the sherry he’s forgotten…he wants to have a good christmas too!

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