December 31, 2014

How to Make the Most of a Cocktail Party

If life is one big popularity contest, then The Social Climber’s Bible is your secret weapon to win the grand prize. Written by novelist-screenwriter Dirk Wittenborn and his niece, Johnson & Johnson heiress Jazz Johnson, the LOL-worthy guide ($20, offers practical tips for stepping up your social game and landing the privileged elite friends (A.K.A. the “Big Fish”) of your superficial dreams.

To help you brush up on your party-going skills before gracing this year’s hottest New Year’s Eve party with your presence, we’ve excerpted our favorite words of wisdom from the book’s appropriately titled “How to Get More Out of a Cocktail Party Than a Hangover” chapter. And be sure to have your game face on from the minute you walk into the room. Wittenborn and Johnson write:

If your host is still the only person you know, wait until he or she is talking to at least two interesting-looking people (expensively accessorized or so badly dressed they obviously have to be somebodies for your host not to have been offended by their attire) before interrupting to say hello. Always begin by announcing how fabulous they look and how much you miss and love them.

And remember, when your host or hostess introduces you to these first two strangers (and when meeting anyone else for the first time), never, never say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” The graceful social climber always greets a stranger with: “So nice to see you again….”

By giving the illusion that you have met before, you will be that much closer to actually having a genuine friendship. Getting into the strict habit of never acknowledging you haven’t met everyone and anyone will be invaluable in future years when you have more friends than you can keep track of. Why? Because it will also prevent you from falling into the embarrassing trap of saying “So nice to meet you” and being told by the offended party, “I’ve met you a dozen times,” or worse, “We slept together…twice.”


Once you’ve broken the ice—hopefully in an appropriate manner—it’s time to get better acquainted. But be careful when fishing for information about your new party pals, as there are some topics that are simply off-limits. According to The Social Climber’s Bible:

The Three Questions You Never Want To Ask At A Cocktail Party

1. Who are you?
2. Where do you live?
3. What do you do?

Why? Because asking any of the above will indelibly mark you as an obvious social climber. Of course you need to know the answers to these questions before you waste time on someone who can’t help you, but there are much more polite ways to be rude. We have already told you how to avoid asking people directly who they are by consulting geriatrics, children, and Google. A more gracious way of finding out whether a fellow guest lives, say, in a Fifth Avenue penthouse versus a rent-controlled studio in Staten Island is to ask, “Don’t you live in TriBeCa?” Nine times out of ten, regardless of whether they are residents of TriBeCa, the question will prompt them to tell you exactly where they do live.

As to question #3, “What do you do?,” which, after all, really translates into “How much do you make?,” is more tactfully handled by making a supposition: “Aren’t you in finance?” If you are right, they will proceed to tell you what firm they work for and just how big a big shot they are, and if they are not in finance, they will either be flattered or insulted by your false assumption and proceed to tell you exactly what they do do and why you should be impressed.

And there you have it. Your climb to the top of the socialite mountain has officially begun.

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