Playing the Game at Work Events

by Ed Dryer

Friend, lover, confidant and business partner…

There are many events in life that you endure because it’s a necessary obligation for you to provide your spouse support.  In situations such as this, merely attending and being civil may seem like a chore.  It is times like these where putting your game face on and maintaining that you’re having the time of your life yield far more than one could ever image.

In the modern professional world, the social business function isn’t something you can go to solo if you have a spouse.  Executive dinners, company picnics and fundraising events are places where everyone expects you to arrive with your mate and be, well, social.  If you’ve been to one of these, you’ve probably seen the entire spectrum harmony and disharmony.  The most uncomfortable moments are being stuck at an assigned table for two hour meal service when it’s obvious that your coworker’s wife has no desire to be there and is attempting to punish their spouse by making the other eight people at the table as miserable as she is.

On the other side of the spectrum, you can take this opportunity to get to know some of your fellow table mates, and show off why you are lucky enough to be married to the person who brought you to this event. For example, I am horrible at names.  People can tell me their name two or three times, and I can almost never remember them.  My wife and I have worked out a system of ‘introductions’ where if I don’t immediately name the person who I am introducing her to, she takes on the role of the extremely eager person, sticks out her hand, and introduces herself.  This causes the other person to shake her hand and state their name – thus allowing me to avoid an embarrassing moment of obviously not remembering that person’s name.  An amazing perk that also comes from this particular trick is that my wife is extraordinary at recalling names and faces.  She’s even better at quietly reminding me of them again later in the evening when I’m obviously drawing a blank.

Inevitably, when co-workers get together, conversation always turns to ‘shop talk’.  This can leave spouses isolated and a little bored.  In another example of how my wife is exceptional to have at these events, she seems to target the most bored looking spouse at the table and opens with a joke about how their spouses have once again started the ‘shop talk’ instead of paying attention to them.  This sort of ‘in the trenches’ humor is very good at drawing said spouse out of their shell and getting them talking.  It also forms an immediate bond between two individuals that didn’t know each other prior to the event, and have to spend the next few hours together.

You and your spouse may have different strengths and weaknesses, so these examples may not address a specific need that you have.  Much like in every other aspect of your relationship – communication is key.  Do a pre-game in the car on the way to the event and try to do a post-game evaluation after the event to see what you think went well, and what may have not worked that time.  See if you can improve upon your tactics in time for the next one.  On the bright side, if you both hate these types of events, working on skills like this can be a game just between the two of you that nobody else needs to know about, and makes you look a little happier when you’re forced to be at an “obligated” event.

One other thought you should always keep in mind is this:  Even if these events are obligatory, how you handle them as a couple isn’t clearly defined.  Make sure to always recognize and acknowledge the time and teamwork that your spouse has dedicated to these situations.  They could just as easily by the cranky, bitter looking curmudgeon at the table instead of making an effort.  Thank them for going along and playing ‘the game’ alongside of you.  And it never hurts to tell them how incredible they looked when they were all dolled up and working the crowd.

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