Top 10 Survival Tips for Introverts at Social Events

Famous Introvert #1

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I’m an introvert. Myers-Briggs tells me that I’m a very low introvert, but I think that’s because I’ve learned to cope with some social situations. Otherwise I fully embrace my introversion.

How do you know if you’re an introvert? If you are deflated by being around lots of people, you’re an introvert. If you’re energized by being alone, you’re an introvert. If you can be by yourself and not feel alone, you’re probably an introvert. It doesn’t mean that introverts don’t enjoy being around people sometimes, and it doesn’t mean that extroverts don’t need some alone time, but think about the next three nights: Would you rather spend them alone or with groups of people? Therein lies your answer.

Even though introverts prefer alone time or small-group discussions with no small talk, there are times when it’s important that introverts attend large social events. Happy hours, parties, conferences, mixers, etc. And what do we do? All too often we simply don’t attend. We dread these events and know we won’t have fun, and we’re probably right.

But sometimes we need to attend such events to advance our career, our social life, or our networks. Thus I’ve been working on a list of ways to help make these events easier for us introverts to attend. I hope it helps, and if you have any specific tips to add, please add them in the comments.

  1. Famous Introvert #2

    Come prepared with two conversation starters and one great story. Some default conversation starters of mine are pets, travel, food/restaurants, sports, and weekend activities. They generally get people talking, which takes the pressure off you. But you should also be prepared with one really good story to tell. Something inclusive, funny, and recent. Don’t wait until the party to think of the story–come prepared with it.

  2. Wear a conversation topic. Conversation isn’t the issue here–conversational ability has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. However, one key area in which introverts struggle is initiating conversation. So make it easier for people to approach you by wearing a conversation topic. Whether it’s a funny statement on your name tag, a school mascot on a tie, a distinct skirt or shirt, carefully choose what you wear to social events so people have a great excuse to approach you.
  3. BYOE (Bring Your Own Extrovert). You don’t have to attend these events alone. If you’re single like me, that can sometimes be a struggle, but here’s the thing: We all have extroverted friends, and they love social events. You’re not inconveniencing them by inviting them along.
  4. Find a job to do. When an introvert scans a crowd, he sees a lot of people having a great time who are completely uninterested in talking to him. We know it’s not true, but it’s what we see and feel in that moment. So instead of standing there feeling helpless, empower yourself by finding a way to help out with the party. That’s a good way to break the ice of entering a social event, which is probably the thing I dread most. (If it’s not an event where you’re able to help, head for the bar. It’s not the alcohol that matters all that much–it’s the sanctity of having a defined destination in a room full of variables.)
  5. Find an extrovert you know and get them talking. I’ve done this countless times at open houses and holiday parties at work. Whenever I need a break from the energy suck of small talk, I find a talkative extrovert and ask them a few questions. 10 minutes later, I’m recharged and ready for more small talk.
  6. Famous Introvert #3

    Find an introvert and engage them. You’re never the only introvert at a gathering. When you enter a room, look for the people standing by themselves. They might be over near the food. Chat with them for a little bit, but beware of the clingy introvert. You don’t want to be stuck talking to the same person the whole night if you’re trying to get something out of the social event.

  7. Think of yourself as the host. Step away from your anxiety and apprehension by giving yourself the mission of making sure other people have a good time. One easy way to do this is introduce people to one another.
  8. Power pose. Simply holding your body in expansive, “high-power” poses–such as standing with legs spread and hands on hips–for as little as 2 minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. Physiologically, you will feel more confident and powerful standing in that position. You’ll need that confidence boost at a social event.
  9. Take a bathroom break. Even when a social event is going really well, an introvert’s energy is slowly draining the entire time. So about an hour and a half into an event, take a bathroom break to recharge. Soak in the solitude for a few minutes and return the the event with renewed vigor.
  10. Reward yourself. This is a little behavioral economics trick. Identify a few things you love and only let yourself have them after you take the risk of attending a social event. Not only will you attend more events if you stick to it, but you’ll begin to associate the positive feelings you have for the treats with social events in general.