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How to cope at parties and work events when you’re an introvert

December 12th 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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You don’t need to be loud to be the life and soul of the party. Here’s how to get the most out of social and work gatherings without losing all your energy, hiding in the bathroom or opting out altogether

I’ll start this with a literal get-out clause that applies whether you’re an introvert or not : if you really, really don’t want to go to a party, don’t. Don’t agonise about your decision, say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’ or over apologize for declining. Turn down the invite politely and ideally well in advance and be at peace with your...peace. There are occasions, however, when you simply can’t avoid attending a party, and for many introverts this compulsion to be present in a crowded room of raucous colleagues, family, friends or total strangers can bring about the dreads before you’ve even filled in the Doodle schedule or told your boss/ mum/ business contact you’ll be there. As such, we’ve put together a party plan informed by introverts who’ve been there, done that and not only survived the festivities but thrived through the seasonal celebrations and office dos. Here goes nothing…

Be selective

You absolutely do not need to be present at the opening of every festive envelope if you get our meaning. Saving your energy, in every sense, means that you’ll be fully charged at the events that matter and far more likely to have fun, which is the intended end game here. One introvert identifying digital writer told me that finding a balance between social interaction and restorative alone time can be particularly hard during busy times of the year, but accepting that you’re an introvert and altering your schedule accordingly is key to staying sane. It’s a skill, but “doing what you want to do, not what everyone else wants you to do” is essential to everyone’s enjoyment. The happier and more in control you feel about attending in the first place, the more comfortable you’ll feel when you get there.

Embrace your inner party planner

Not by throwing a wild one but a bit of pre-party prep can settle nerves and make you feel far better when you arrive. Pick an outfit that makes you feel both relaxed and awesome, find out who’ll be there and the nitty gritty party details and consider both conversational openers and a few headline stories or anecdotes you’d like to share yourself. You were invited, or hired in the case of a work do, so feel proud of what you’ve got to offer. If you’re feeling self-conscious, shift the focus onto others by asking leading questions and being an invested audience.

Just as you detailed your outfit and arrival beforehand, have an escape route that will allow you to go home happy after a few hours should you please. Ensure that you thank your hosts and say goodbye to the people that you engaged with the most rather than disappearing into the night, but don’t feel the need to hang about if you’re spent. Give it your all, then exit. Or don’t if you’re swinging from the chandeliers (you can’t put all introverts into a box), but know that the option’s there and you don’t have to wait it out.

Know your strengths

Every introvert I spoke to emphasised that being fully aware of and playing to their strengths was key to having a ball. Traditionally parties, and society in general really, have been shaped around the preferences and more gregarious characteristics of extroverts, but there’s a greater consciousness of late of the values that introverts bring to the table thanks to books such as Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Focusing on conventionally introvert qualities such as engaged listening, considered questioning, an economic but well chosen use of words and high levels of empathy as the positives that they are will empower you to be yourself rather than shying away from interaction and help you to understand how you prosper in party situations and prevent you from losing your mojo.

By way of example, one very successful business director told me that, had he been fully aware of the benefits of being an introvert and how he functioned optimally in social situations, he likely would have felt more comfortable and confident in event and networking scenarios earlier on his career. He’s since taken a professional profiling test determining him as falling within the first percentile of extraversion (i.e, very introverted) and used the knowledge to his advantage, for instance, like many introverts, he naturally prefers more intense one-on-one interaction to party mingling, large groups and meeting lots of people fleetingly. Also, if the party’s already rowdy and there’s no chance of getting a word in edgeways or having a more sustained, personal interaction, he’s probably out of there. Or quite happily surveying the venue’s art collection until things calm down.

Conserve your energy

If, like the aforementioned business director, you find that parties drain your energy, while your extrovert companions only seem to power up as the hours go by, know that that’s normal and don’t ‘compare and despair’. Group situations can be more energy sapping than individual conversations if you’re an introvert, so identify a few people you’d like to chat to over the course of the evening and don’t put pressure on yourself to work the room.

Try to come along well rested (disco naps were surely invented by an introvert), arrive early before things get too lairy and consider bringing along a more extroverted plus one to be your social wingman should you start to flag. If you need to recharge, by all means head for a quiet spot, particularly if you’re the ‘extroverted introvert’ type and have been strategically performing your social set (sometimes necessary but give yourself permission to recover). If you’re in deep conversation wise but feeling the festive party fatigue, employ your excellent, receptive listening skills rather than feeling the need to chip in with something profound - speaking about number one is most people’s favourite subject after all.

Don’t use cocktails as a crutch

Or lukewarm prosecco, tepid beers, tequila shots...whatever the booze on offer, don’t sink it too soon. If you’re experiencing an energy lull or office party paralysis, try getting involved with party logistics to keep busy (someone’s got to fetch the sausage rolls), taking a breather or seeking out another introvert in the room and sipping a drink slowly in either comfortable silence or a conversational one on one. Either way, don’t try to cultivate more extrovert tendencies by way of hitting the hard stuff. To roughly quote Mark to Bridget, “you’re perfect, just the way you are.” Being honest about how you’re feeling, monitoring your energy levels and stepping away when you’re overstimulated will help you to feel at ease far more than warm wine will and you’ll feel better across the board the next day too…

Account for the introvert “hangover”

One party going introvert warned me of this phenomenon - feeling a non-alcohol related hangover, including a fuzzy head, paranoia or panic the day after a big event. Not everyone will feel depleted the day after, but be aware that you may need to account for more alone time or take longer to recover than extrovert types might. We prescribe a bath, a book and a box set, but whatever you do, don’t over analyze your party “performance”. You went, which made others feel good in the first place, and chances are that everyone else was too busy focusing on themselves anyway. If you did say or do something you regret, own it and apologize if you need to but don’t let it put you off future socialising - awks party situations tend to be forgotten especially fast and getting out there again should speed that process along. Above all, be kind to yourself and others and bear in mind that introvert, extrovert, ambivert or otherwise, everyone feels social anxiety from time to time, and this too shall pass.

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