April 10, 2015

8 Tips for Navigating Social Engagements as an Introvert.


Contrary to stereotypes, introverts do actually attend social engagements.

We may have spent one too many hours (or days) holed up in our houses and look forward to human contact. We may want to show a friend or new acquaintance our support, or further our career.

But whether we show up feeling good or feeling resentful, chances are we’ll experience dips in our energy. And there’s a decent chance we’ll feel drained afterwards—not the I-just-worked-out-and-I’m-feeling-tired-but-good drained, but the I-don’t-have-the-mental-capacity-to-remember-my-name drained.

Here are 8 tips for you on how to make social engagements a little more pleasant and less draining:

1. Get a job. 

I know someone who used to put on pop-up vegan dinners at a local restaurant. The food was always good, but I never really enjoyed the part where I was supposed to talk to people for an hour. My solution: volunteer to take photos. This meant I could hang out in the kitchen watching the fun stuff happen, eat with everyone when the food was done and, when I got close to reaching my socializing limit, I had a ready-made excuse to get up out of my chair—time to start taking photos again!

Having a job is an automatic conversation starter and allows us introverts to politely check out from conversations when our energy starts to dip.

You could offer to help in the kitchen or tend the bar. A job at a wedding could be standing by the guest book and encouraging fellow guests to sign it. Or you can get to know names and faces at a networking event by signing people in.

2. Locate the quiet corners soon after you arrive. 

Many houses have them. There may be a hallway with family photos. Or a bookshelf with lots of interesting books. I have a friend who loves to cook; on one occasion I found her reading the host’s cookbooks (it was a very laid-back party). Another option may be to conveniently leave something in your coat so you can retrieve it from the quiet coat room later on in the evening. And then of course there’s the classic hide-out-in-the-bathroom-for-a-minute-or-two technique.

I’m certainly not suggesting spending the entire time in these corners, but they could serve as a place for recuperating mid-party. Use your intuition and empathy when figuring out what would be acceptable behavior.

Even if you don’t end up using it, the knowledge that a quiet place exists around the corner can be a comfort in and of itself.

3. Show up early. 

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a bustling party it can be instantly overwhelming. Where do I start? Who are all these people? Where’s the food?

If you show up as early as etiquette allows, there will be fewer people, less noise, and you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed. This is particularly important for an introvert who is also a Highly Sensitive Person.

4. Host your own. 

In Quiet: The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain describes Edgar, a fixture of the New York social circuit. He’s quoted as saying “I don’t really like being the guest at someone else’s party, because then I have to be entertaining. But I’ll host parties because it puts you at the center of things without actually being a social person.”

5. Briefly prepare about what to talk about. 

Before arriving, make a mental note of the memes that are making the Facebook rounds, or take a look at Twitter’s trending topics. What’s this week’s version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, or The Dress?

Also, I’ve recently realized that the “elevator speech” technique can be used outside of networking events, and that it’s helpful to memorize an interesting, yet laid back, response to the classic American question “So, what do you do?”

6. Find the introverts. 

According to Susan Cain, one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts. So chances are there will be other introverts at the get-together! Is there someone who keeps looking at the artwork? Or someone who has claimed one spot on the couch, letting people come to her to chat instead of going out to them? They may be just as interested as you are in moving beyond the standard chit-chat.

7. Don’t stress if you do something embarrassing. 

Chances are, the other people involved forgot about it as soon as it happened. We humans tend to drastically overestimate the amount of attention being payed to us. Psychologists call it The Spotlight Effect.

Off the top of my head, I can’t even remember the last time I heard something really embarrassing at a get-together. But, if I wanted to, I’m sure I could come up with at least 20 embarrassing things I’ve said and done in front of others in just a few minutes. Parties are draining enough, so it’s best not to use up energy by mentally staying in a conversation we’ve already left.

8. Have a polite excuse ready for when you want to leave, just in case you’re too out of it to think of one on the spot. 

I try to tell the truth in a gentle way that won’t offend the host such as “Thanks for inviting me! It’s time for me to go.”

Yes, social engagements can be draining, or a pain. But if you go in prepared, you’ll find it easier to manage your energy and hopefully decrease the number of times you forget your own name.



Four Things: How to be a Popular Introvert.


Author: Thea Orozco
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Google images for reuse

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