Introverts are awesome people who simply prefer to relax by spending time alone or with a quiet group of friends. However, parties and social events continue to exist and sometimes you have to get out of your bubble. Here’s how to conserve your precious willpower without hating the whole experience.
Socialisation is as inevitable as it is healthy, even for introverts. However, as with any diet, there are certain things that are good for you and some stuff you can probably leave out. Here are some of the situations you can avoid and others you probably can’t.
What You Can (Optionally) Avoid Going to the bar/coffee shop every week. The clichÃ© about hanging out at the a local drinkery (for which we can blame Friends and How I Met Your Mother) is common, but it’s also not typically necessary. If your friends want to just go chill in a loud, crowded place, you can probably skip some of these outings.
Weddings/parties/etc. for people you barely know. For some, going to their best friend’s aunt’s former roommate’s wedding is a blast because they find weddings cool. If you’re an introvert, it’s OK to stick to the special events for people you actually know (the exception being if you’re needed as support for another introverted friend who can’t get out of it).
Going anywhere to “meet people” for dating purposes. If you’re single and don’t want to be, you have to meet people. That’s just how life works. However, the online options have never been better. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to meet people in person, but if you’re not feeling it, don’t force yourself.
What You Can’t (or Shouldn’t) Avoid
Networking-heavy work events. Your job is not like your social life. The rat race doesn’t slow down because you like TV more than karaoke. While you may not need to go to every single office party, you should show up to talk with your coworkers (as well as strangers) on a semi-regular basis if you want to advance in your career.
Special occasions for close friends and family. It should go without saying that Christmas with the family, your best friend’s birthday or your sister’s wedding are all events you should probably go to whether you feel like it or not. Sorry, friend, but we all have our social obligations.
Your own special events. You have birthdays, promotions, and reasons to celebrate too. If you don’t want to do anything elaborate or loud for your own shindigs, that’s OK. But chances are your friends will want to do something. The upside is you get to dictate the circumstances. Strictly speaking, it’s not required, but getting out in front of the event and planning something low-key can help bolster your relationships. After all, they wouldn’t want to celebrate with you if they didn’t care.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you can only go to events on the correct list. If you’re looking for something to avoid, the former list is probably better to choose from. They’re not hard fast rules (I’ve avoided plenty of my own birthdays), but when it comes to prioritising your time and energy, some events are worth more than others.
It may sound about as enjoyable as filling out a stack of paperwork to get a sandwich, but having a specific goal for your trip out can help make it easier to socialise. Are you going out to network for your career? Give yourself a socialisation quota. Celebrating a friend’s birthday? Focus on them for a good portion of the evening (but give them room to talk to other people too.) Trying to meet someone to date? Talk to attractive people you don’t know.
Having a goal helps you define what you want to accomplish in an outing, but more importantly, it keeps your brain focused. Part of the problem introverts have with big social gatherings is the constant flood of external stimulus. By giving yourself a specific task, you occupy your brain so it’s less focused on the thumping music or bright lights.
Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean being shy, but the two often overlap. If you’re having trouble talking with new people, have a friend or two that you can piggyback off of to meet strangers. Let your friend start conversations with someone you don’t know, then offer your input as they discuss. You can easily sneak into conversations this way.
You don’t want to spend the entire evening talking with the people you already know (or maybe you do, but if you’re out to socialise or network, that’s probably not helpful). However, start by talking with your friend and then include new people into the conversation. Ask for their input on a topic you’re already discussing. This trick allows you to bring other people into your own, existing conversations, which may be more comfortable for introverted brains.
It’s also helpful to have multiple friends you can do this with, spread out over the party. If you came to the party with a group of extroverts, they may want to mingle. If you can pick out two or more people you already know, you can use them as anchor points (as well as escape vectors) for conversation. If you find yourself stuck with someone you don’t want to talk to, politely say you need to check in with Friend A. When you’ve spent some time piggybacking on Friend A and want to give them a break, check out what Friend B is up to and talk to that group.
By Eric Ravenscraft
(First Published Aug 13, 2014)