I’ve made no secret of the fact, Modern Philosophers, that I am a socially awkward introvert, who would much rather hide out in The House on the Hill’s basement bunker than try to make small talk with total strangers at a party.
But I am on a quest to improve my life, and one of my goals is to be more social.
So when my friend Joy invited me to her housewarming party, I made a vow to not only attend the event, but to also blossom into something more than a wallflower.
Why not turn this bold decision into a teachable moment?
So here are some tips to help you party like an introvert…
Remain within a safe distance of home. The perfect way to get your feet wet as a social butterfly is by picking an event that’s close enough to your safe place to keep your Inner Introvert from totally freaking out and losing his $%^&.
In this case, Joy’s house is about three hundred steps from The House on the Hill. So I could see my safe haven, which definitely put me at ease. Knowing that I could sprint home at any moment helped keep stress levels under control.
In addition, by being able to walk to the party, I eliminated any addition stress that might have been caused by driving, trying to find a place to park, and getting home if I decided to have an adult beverage.
Bring your favorite drink (and lots of it). The worst thing that can happen to an introvert in a roomful of strangers is to be left sitting all alone. Anxiety levels will rise exponentially until your head is about to explode as you imagine that everyone is looking at you and mocking you for being the weirdo wallflower.
If you have a drink in your hand, you have something to do. It looks like you’re busy. If the drink is alcohol, the booze will quiet the voices in your head that are screaming at you to jump out of the window, do a crazy stunt man roll across the front lawn, and then run home like you’re trying to sprint to an Olympic gold.
I brought a six pack of Snapple to today’s party. The added bonus of Snapple is that the fact written inside the cap not only gives me a distraction, but it also might serve as an icebreaker should I choose to share that fact with someone else at the party.
Sit near a chatty group. Parking yourself within earshot of a talkative group increases your chances of being pulled into the conversation, or overhearing something that might entice you to open your mouth and comment.
Chatty people don’t like to see people sitting all alone, so the odds are high that they will take it upon themselves to rescue you from mind numbing silence.
Eating gives you something to do, so you’re not just sitting there in awkward silence like a mime on break.
Food also sparks conversation. You can comment on how good something is or recommend it to anyone within earshot. You can also seek out the person who brought the dish that’s making your mouth water, and pass along how much you like it, ask for the recipe, or inquire as to where it was purchased.
In addition, people like to brag about their cooking skills, so someone might see you eating their contribution to the spread and come over and tell you all about it. Listen, smile, and try to get a few words in when the opportunity presents itself.
Finally, since it’s rude to talk with your mouthful, you at least have an excuse for your silence while you enjoy your food.
Befriend the dogs and babies. Any infant and pet in attendance is probably just as freaked out as you are. Suddenly, they are surrounded by strangers and are confused as to what the hell is going on.
Babies and dogs can’t speak, either, so you’re in the same boat. Be silent together. Pet the dog. Smile at the baby. Give that little nod that you get what they are going through.
Also, pet owners and parents like to tell you all about their pet or child. If they see you showing interest, they will come over and talk to you. If you are feeling bold, pets and babies come in with built in conversation starters, so why not try one? These questions work in both cases: “What’s his name?” and “How old is she?”
Keep track of this friend, and seek her out whenever your Inner Introvert tries to escape and make your life more awkward.
Break the cycle of deafening silence by asking her a question, offering her a compliment, or having her tell you where the bathroom is.
This friend should know that you are not the most social person around strangers, so hopefully, she will introduce you to people or just take a few minutes to talk to you when she sees smoke coming out of your ears.
Obviously, that smoke is a warning sign that your head is about to explode.
Take a lap. Get up and walk around. This will rescue you from “Who’s that creepy guy sitting over there all alone and not talking to anyone?” status. Changing your location could change your luck. Maybe you’ll wander into a magical part of the party where you suddenly feel confident and talkative. At the very least, you’ll collect some more steps for your fitness tracker.
What’s the worst that can happen? Is someone really going to be a total douche and ignore you if you start a conversation?
This isn’t high school. The cool kids aren’t going to freeze you out and then shove you into a locker because you dared to speak to them. Just say something and then let regular social norms take over. Odds are you will be pleasantly surprised.
Quit while you’re ahead. You want to end the great “Let Me Try To Be Social For Once In My Life” experiment on a positive note, so don’t be afraid to slip out of the party once you’ve tried all the things on this list and sense that it’s time to go.
If you stay too long and something goes wrong, it might take years before you work up the courage to face your social anxieties again. So get out while the going is good.
Running away from social situations is second nature for you, so you’ll know when it’s time to thank your guest for her hospitality and hit the road.
Remember, you’re not going to become The World’s Most Outgoing Person overnight. Any kind of progress is positive.
You can do it. And the person you chat up at the party might be a fellow introvert, so you could be helping a stranger in need as well.
Have fun and let me know how it goes!