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.

32 thoughts on “Top 10 Survival Tips for Introverts at Social Events”

  1. Jamey, I’m going to need one example of you turning around an awkward situation by assuming The Power Pose.

    Is this what I’ve been missing? I am a man of obvious physical beauty, and my wit is sharper than a Mach 3 with a full blue strip. Yet, I still lack greatly in the companionship department. Will this change if I assume The Power Pose? I can’t wait to try.

    Is this a Power Pose? If so, it didn’t work.!/BradBaker7/status/172792339369181186/photo/1

  2. These are great party tips for extroverts too I think! Especially at mix and mingle type events, even if I am feeling super social, it can be draining and some of those tips like finding a job or going to the bathroom can be an essential recharge. Good list!

    • Thanks Emma! It was a huge help for me when I started to give myself “permission” to take a short break to recharge.

  3. I think I’m an extrovert with introverted tendencies. I am recharged by talking to people and being around a crowd, but I also really enjoy some quiet time. However, the weirdest part is that the fewer people I know at an event, the more comfortable I am. Isn’t that strange? I am completely at ease in a room full of strangers, but if it’s a room full of people I know, I’m a little nervous.

    • Anne–That’s definitely an extroverted tendency, being comfortable (even excited) in a room full of people you don’t know. Although it’s curious that you’d be nervous around people you know.

    • introvert/extrovert/ or is tomato or tomato (must say this out loud to get it)
      Is it in a large crowd of familiar faces, you have an inner need to make contact with everyone – therefore the exhausting pressure or nervous you will not meet expectations? In a room full of ‘unknowns’ it is like a treasure hunt for someone interesting.

    • I do the same thing, too. I think it’s all mental. The expectations that you think they have on your behavior therefore you act accordingly to those “expectations”.

      There’s this big party that I go to annually. It’s full of strangers. I don’t know a soul except for the host. Seriously, a room full of people makes me nervous, but every time I try not to psych myself out with “expectations” before entering and every time I leave that party happier than before.

      I have done Jamey’s 7 by asking what they think of the party, are they having fun, and do they know that guy who came in wearing cats. And 9 is pretty important. You can give yourself high fives in the mirror the job well done. Talking to people is not easy.

      I also sometimes just find a group, listen to what they are talking about, and chime in with a question or a statement or something relevant if possible. The interaction should start with you in it.

      I like this post. Thanks, Jamey. I might try the Power Pose. 🙂

      • Jasmin–I really admire your ability to mingle in groups. It’s not easy. I like your advice about finding a group and just listening for a minute until the right time to chime in.

  4. Anne, is it possible that you unintentionally do The Power Pose more before you meet strangers, and that is why you feel more confident? Try it out. Do The Power Pose, then go talk to someone you know. Report back with your findings.

    Just this morning, I assumed The Power Pose at McDonald’s and was given my breakfast for free. I then stood in the doorway of St. Jude – doing The Power Pose – and was hired as a pediatric oncologist, despite the fact that my only medical experience is a C in 10th grade chemistry.

    • Power Pose for the win! I hope you actually did it at McDonald’s. That’s awesome.

      Comment of the month material here, Brad–and just in time.

  5. I will start random conversations with strangers all the time. But (as I’ve commented in earlier posts), I test, and believe I am, an introvert. I for introverts, I think it is more important to find a persona within the group in order to feel you belong. But I love the contrast between assuming the “Power Pose” and taking a bathroom break. “I am STRONG! Talk To Me.” vs. “Excuse me while I run and tinkle.”

  6. I’m a fan of #3- BYOE, as I consider myself to be mostly an introvert, despite the fact that my job forces me to talk to strangers all day. I’ve gotten over my fear of talking to strangers in work related situations, but still find myself lost most of the time in social settings.

    I learned recently that bringing along my extroverted mom on my vacation was a good decision, as she started making new friends at the airport and made me step out of my comfort zone multiple times while on our trip.

    Also, I’ll have to keep the “Power Pose” in mind, as it seems like the results are pretty amazing with Brad getting free McDonald’s and . I wonder if the same tactic would work at other places.

  7. I hope this doesn’t seem stalkerish, but after Josh’s wedding Cameron and I both mentioned how at ease you seemed at a wedding where you knew pretty much no one. We both agreed we’d never in a million years willingly put ourselves in that situation. And I’ll admit now that I asked Trey to keep an eye out for you at the reception because I knew you didn’t know many people and I didn’t want you to feel left out, but that turned out to be unnecessary.

    All that to say I’ve seen the Jamey Survival Tips in action and I fully endorse them.

    • Katie–I really appreciate you asking Trey to keep an eye out for me, because honestly, I was very lost. I wanted to be there to witness Josh and Kendall’s wedding, but it was absolutely exhausting to be in a room of people I didn’t know. It helped a bit to hang out with a few of Josh’s friends the night before, but the wedding was a mini-college reunion for many of them, so I didn’t want to intrude.

      However, I appreciate your endorsement. I did use a number of the Survival Tips that night (including some wilderness survival tips, like how to skin a raccoon with a piece of floss and a key ring), and they helped quite a bit.

      • In all fairness, I was related to about half the people there and it was still exhausting for me. I was happy to loan out Trey for the night (he’s a good extrovert to have around), but the raccoon thing did leave me wondering…

        • Ha ha…true, even family gatherings can be exhausting for introverts.

          The raccoon thing was my trusty #2. There’s not a better wearable conversation topic out there.

  8. I have used #4 (find a job) numerous times in the past. Having something to do really helps break the ice. Also #3 (BYOE), although that did backfire once when he wandered off with his new friends and left me by myself. And I have hidden in the bathroom once or twice.

    • Dawn–Ha ha, that’s a great point about BYOE wandering off with new friends. I can definitely relate to that. I think the key is to use the BYOE as a launching point to meet new people so that you can feel less nervous, but you also let them be free to be the extrovert they are.

  9. =) Good tips. As an extrovert, I do say networking can fatigue anyone. But I agree it is about perspective. Part of the battle, 50%, is mental.

  10. It looks like a lot of people have found this entry today, but I can’t track the link back to the source. I’m curious–how did you all find this entry?

  11. Why do introverts have to conform to extrovert expectations and standards? Introverts should just be themselves and be happy with who they are. This pressure to conform to extrovert standards reminds me of Blacks who were pressured to act and look White. We are past these days. Everybody should be PROUD of who they are. Introvert Power.

  12. I have to point out some fallacies in this article:

    “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.”

    Two things are wrong about this assumption. 1) I’m an introvert and I don’t prefer small group discussion at all, with or without small talk. Most introverts I know are the same. 2) It’s important that introverts attend large social gatherings? No. Of course, in an extroverted world run by extroverts, that sounds right, but it’s tantamount to saying that it’s important that extroverts not talk to anyone and seclude themselves in a room for at least 3 hours (the average amount of time I get stuck at a social event when I’m stuck without a ride home). It’s assuming a need that isn’t there. It’s assigning a virtue to something that is not inherently virtuous. Go and network with people, but why is it necessary for me to network?

    Here’s the answer: everyone should leave everyone alone. Go to a social event, but leave me alone. I promise I won’t make you stay in your house. Deal?


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