Parties are typically a challenge for most introverts.
Big crowds. Few areas to recharge…all the issues that can tax an introvert.
However, this does not need to be a death sentence for your social life. There are ways to give yourself a chance to survive a party and not be seen as the anti-social, stand off-ish person. I used these techniques to free myself from that reputation. But it took years. You can get a head start and save yourself years of trial and error if you just follow these simple steps.
1. Understand the Right Time to Go Out
As introverts, we know that we have a limited amount of social energy to use before we get burned out. Due to this limited “battery life,” sometimes the most important thing is knowing when and where to go out.
First, understand that you do not have to accept every single invitation. Yes, you are actually allowed to say no.
Don’t like the venue where the party is being hosted? Politely decline their invitation.
You barely know the person they’re celebrating for? Probably don’t need to go to that one either.
Also, despite the projections in mass media (Friends and How I Met Your Mother) if you do not enjoy it, doing weekly meetups at bars or coffee shops are not standard, nor are they obligatory for any friendship.
The point is you do not have to feel obligated to go anywhere that doesn’t bring out the best in you. If you feel that you need to go out to these places that pose challenges to your introverted self just to find dating options, understand that online dating is booming now. You can improve your dating options without going to loud, crowded bars or parties if those environments don’t bring out the best in you.
2. Once You Do Accept an Invitation: Develop a Plan
Most introverts typically struggle with parties because they do not take the time to plan out their night. Setting up this pre-party game plan can save you significant social energy and allow you to enjoy the event longer than without proper planning.
3. Set Up Time to Recharge
First, plan out your day to save up social energy. Be sure to schedule some quiet time for both before AND after the party. (For a party that ends late at night, sleep might be your recharge session). For the pre-party work, find something that works for you. What have you done previously that typically recharges you? Sitting in silence or meditating? Listening to relaxing music? Anything that works for you will do.
4. Set Intentions for the Night
Many times it feels silly and pointless to go out, so give yourself some kind of direction instead. Part of the problem we introverts have is the over stimulation from the environment. I’ve found that setting a goal or purpose for the night gives me an increase in both focus and energy levels at parties. So what kinds of goals can you make?
You could make a socialization quota, such as talking to x number of people you don’t know that well, and when you reach that quota you tell yourself you can leave guilt free. But a goal can also be a skill based goal, such as improving your conversations, developing a connection with one person, practicing being present when surrounded by a potential minefield of distractions.
By giving yourself a goal, your brain will become focused on achieving it. You will begin to ask yourself how you can achieve that goal. But I’m going to give you a different question to ask yourself: “What can I do at this party to make achieving my goal inevitable?”
This question will get your brain working on a deeper level than just asking “how” (which can result in a negative response if it seems too overbearing on the surface).
5. Skip the Small Talk, Focus on Connection
Some introverts dread going to parties with bland, small talk conversation.
It’s not that we don’t like socializing with others, but we want to talk about things at a deeper level and build deep, lasting connections. We see small talk as this annoying hurdle to those connections.
But the good news is you can help speed the process along . It may be considered a radical nothing in this day and age, but I guarantee it will bring you some deep connections.
Ready for it?
Saying what you actually think (such as I don’t like X, not even a little bit; This feels awkward; or even just a simple “No”) can take basic surface conversation and bring it to a deeper level.
Sounds simple right?
So why don’t we do this more often already?
Because we tell ourselves that people won’t like us if we say what we really think. That we should be pandering to them so that they like us. And the sick thing is that is normal, because we are social creatures who want to be accepted by our peers.
But the truth is a magical tool in your conversation arsenal. It draws people in and allows them to let their guard down with you.
Now I’m not saying you have a license to be a prick, but you should be honest in expressing your boundaries. Other people will respect that you can have deeper, meaningful conversations. The kinds that let you know if you actually want to spend more time with them in the future.
If you are nervous about first trying this out on a stranger, try it with someone you are already comfortable with and see how it feels.
6. Know Your Social Stamina
As introverts, we must know ourselves and when we will start wearing out during a social event. When we don’t we end up trying to fight ourselves as we are getting weaker while all the extroverts in the room only grow stronger. And it becomes overwhelming. The more you try to be like extroverts, the faster you feel drained and you must retreat, either to a secluded area (see below) or from the party entirely.
By understanding how your energy cycles work you can build your schedule around it (i.e. for me, my Friday night I’m gassed after a long week of work and side business hustle, it is definitely not a party night. It is my guaranteed chill time with maybe 1 or 2 friends tops).
Another theoretical example, if you know you can only last an hour at big parties, you can plan that out for when you show up. This also gives you the permission you need to leave accordingly. And if it really gets that bad, to the point where you can no longer even force a smile, allow yourself to leave.
7. Have an Exit Strategy
One of the most common introvert problems is getting stuck at a party long after we have started to fade. It is why carpooling can be one of the worst decisions you can make as an introvert. It leaves you at the mercy of others in deciding when to leave. And worse, when you’re stuck there you still are consumed by the guilt of wanting to leave and hating the fact that you are stuck. You wonder what’s wrong with you since everyone else seems like they are having a good time and it’s just you who can’t take it anymore.
This is why you need to develop your exit plans.
Also, as in the previous section, you need to know how you can leave the event if you need to. To do so, you need to give yourself guilt-free permission to leave the party. This can be done by achieving a set pre-party intention (see: “Set Intentions”) or when you get to the point that you can’t even pretend like you’re enjoying yourself (see “Know Your Social Stamina”). Know that you can leave if necessary.
8. Help Out and/or Bring a Gift
It is well known that almost nothing makes a party run smoother more than a happy host. Think about it, they have a lot of influence over how an event is going to go. Additionally, they will know many of the guests and almost every guest will spend time talking to the host at some point during the event.
This also makes them one of the most likely social hubs at the event.
But hosting a party is a lot of work.
If you have been to the host’s place before, you could offer to help them out by getting to the party a bit early to help them set up.
Additionally, as one of the first guests there, when people start to arrive you will get a personal introduction from the host. You will have opportunities to make conversation and perhaps create real connections. If your intention for the night has some sort of social quota, this is a great way to “hack” that.
9. Find a Quiet Spot to Take a Break
While related to finding an exit strategy, this idea deserves its own section.
Sometimes we just need to get away from everything and everyone, even if it’s a short 10-15 minute walk. At larger gatherings this is possible and most people won’t even notice.
But if it’s freezing outside, going for a walk may not be your favorite idea.
So if you need to, find a safe space to relax and recharge.
This safe place can be as simple as being over by a bookshelf perusing the books, or a porch, or even the lobby of an apartment building. The point is just to be away from the crowds both mentally and (ideally) physically. Another trick I learned from my friend Michaela Chung: if there’s a pet at the event you can focus on it, and giving it some attention. It will free you mentally from the event for a short time, and can be a nice ice breaker when you are ready to get back to the guests.
Surviving parties as an introvert is a challenge. We tend to get over-stimulated and exhausted in short periods of time. But by knowing ourselves and some ruthless planning you can survive the night. And even if you are a bit uncomfortable going to bigger events, give yourself the right intentions and focus on just completing that by the end of the night and you will feel better. You’ll see yourself making progress. And most importantly, you will enjoy your experiences more.
Got a party coming up? Try 1 or 2 of these techniques (not all of them, no one can implement all of them at once) and let me know how it goes.