The Introvert’s Party Guide
Every introvert is familiar with those moments when you just have to fake being social. And nowhere are we put to the test like at a party. Sure, we like people, but parties are seldom our preferred method of socialization. In fact, depending on the individual, a party can be anything from an inconvenient distraction from what you really want to be doing, to an anxiety-riddled nightmare.
When I started writing this, I thought I’d just have a few tips, but the more I thought about it, the more survival techniques I realized I had stowed away in my arsenal. So I’ve sorted them out a bit for you. Firstly will be three essential tips without which you might just shrivel up and die. At the end are a few really practical suggestions that help me. This can turn a party from something to be dreaded to something you might even look forward to! (In small doses, of course.)
Essential Tip #1: Have an Exit Strategy
This is the single most important rule I set myself in parties. You can do anything for 45 minutes, however stressful it is. I often get myself to actually go into a party by telling myself I only have to be there for 20 minutes, and then I end up staying longer. Get in, do the rounds, grab a snack, and then give yourself permission to leave if it’s not clicking. Sometimes all you need is the permission, and then the anxiety will hold off enough for you to actually enjoy yourself. If you want to put in more time, the exit strategy can actually be an endurance strategy. Put in socialization time for 30 minutes, then take a walk outside to regroup, and evaluate whether you can do another 30. Your time limit doesn’t have to be 20 minutes, or 45. Decide what’s right for you, and then keep your promises to yourself.
Keep your time limit in mind when you’re deciding on transportation to and from the party. Carpooling with a social butterfly can make the difference between torture and a manageable evening.
It’s also handy to have an excuse ready for your exit. I actually like scheduling things after a party so that I have a valid excuse to leave. “I promised my mom I’d stop by before she went to sleep.” “I have an early morning tomorrow.” Be armed with your reason so you can counter anyone trying to loop you back in, or guilt you for leaving.
Essential Tip #2: Give Yourself Specific Goals
Sometimes I think it’s not just the socialization of a party that makes us nervous. It’s the aimlessness. If your only purpose there is to have fun, and yet you’re in just about the least conducive atmosphere to your version of having fun… what’s the point of the party? What’s the point of you there? So instead, look at the party in terms of objectives that actually make sense to you. Set yourself some goals. I usually tell myself that I have to talk to three new people before I can leave. You could also challenge yourself to get to know something new about 3 acquaintances or coworkers. Or perhaps, your goal is simply to show up, smile, and say hi to the host. Determine what’s worthwhile to you. Go ahead and challenge yourself, though. Remember that resting afterward (which you totally set time aside to do, right?) feels even better when you’ve really achieved something.
Essential Tip #3: Have A Job to Do
My favorite weddings are always ones where I’m part of the wedding party. It’s not just because those are the ones where I know the bride and groom the best. It’s because I have a role! It’s amazing how liberating that can be to an introvert. Ask the host early on what you can do to help. Get there early enough that your help will be useful. Even if the host doesn’t ask you to do something, give yourself a task. Tidy up, make sure everyone has drinks, keep the chip bowl full. You really hit the jackpot if you can get the gig of DJ, or photographer. You might even start up a game and find flocks of fellow party-goers eager to join. I used to abhor pool parties, never having been one for splashing and flirting. Then I realized that if I could get just a couple people involved in some creative relay races, I’d be joined in an instant by dozens of relieved individuals who were also fed up with flirting and chicken fights.
Before you go out, do your makeup or hair really nice. Before you get dressed, you just want to stay comfortable. Once you’re glammed up, it seems like a waste not to show it off. This might only work for girls, but it’s often the way I get myself out the door.
Try to make others comfortable. Odds are good that you’re not the only introvert there. In fact, most people there are so busy being self-conscious that they’re not noticing you and your flaws nearly as much as you think. So instead of waiting for someone else to make you comfortable, assume the job of helping someone else out. This can go with suggestion #3 above: giving yourself a job.
Wear a conversation starter, like a funny t-shirt or unique earrings. Nerdy or not, if you have R2-D2 shoes and you can connect with a fellow Star Wars fan at the party and spend your minimum of 30 minutes talking about the new trailer… that’s a win!
Ask questions, and let others do the talking. Instead of the ubiquitous “So… what do you do?” Try asking “What’s been the best part of your day so far?” instead.
Make yourself comfortable. Often, if I’m stressed or uncomfortable at a party, it’s because I’m hesitating from really being myself. What I’ve noticed about extroverts is that they just go ahead and MAKE themselves comfortable wherever they are. Feel like taking off your shoes? Exploring that room? Starting a game? Taking a whole plate of devilled eggs? As long as it’s not something that would upset your host… just do it. When you’re comfortable, people around you become more at ease too.
Find pets and kids. I mean… don’t be weird about it. But sometimes they’re the best company to be had at a party. You can skip small talk, and maybe even have a tootsie roll pop or something.
Keep tabs on your drinking. It’s easy to use alcohol as a social crutch, and if you have any level of social anxiety, you can start down a bad road. Becoming dependent on substances to make it through a party can handicap you, lead to party regret, and create even more scenarios to dread.
Treat yourself after the party. I often bribe myself with some ice cream, a book I’m excited about, and hours of uninterrupted solitude.