An Introvert’s Guide To Surviving Social Functions

An Introvert's Guide To Surviving Social FunctionsFor this introvert, there isn’t much that will send my anxiety levels through the roof like a dinner party or other social gathering. I enjoy opening our home to others, but sometimes the pressure to keep the conversation going makes me wish I was hanging out with a book instead of the people I invited. And when I’m  going to a social function? Yikes. I never know whether it would be better to arrive a tiny bit early and only have to engage in conversation with the host or to arrive late and have to choose which conversation to weasel my way into.

Over the years, I’ve developed some strategies to make social functions less stressful. Without further ado, I give you:

An Introvert’s Guide To Surviving Social Functions

If You’re The Host

  • Recruit Backup: A Bread and Wine book club meets at my house every week. Our first gathering was an informal dinner a few weeks ago. My extroverted co-leader couldn’t make it last minute, which sent me into introvert anxiety mode. What if I couldn’t keep the conversation flowing? What if no one talked? How should I segue into our get-to-know you questions smoothly? I S.O.S.ed  a friend to help if I started to flounder with the conversation. Just knowing she knew my predicament and was willing to throw out a life preserver or two calmed my nerves. There’s no shame in having a wingman.
  • Have a Soundtrack: Introverts don’t mind silence but it can make others uncomfortable. Music helps fill dead air if you can’t think of anything to say and provides a nice ambience. It can also be a good conversation starter, even if you don’t quite know what you’re talking about. Example – “Do you like the new Civil Wars album? Seems to be getting mixed reviews…” or “How about those Norwegian brothers, eh?” (Vegard and Bård, the two who brought us What Does The Fox Say). Spotify is my favorite resource for music and creating playlists. Ten dollars a month (or sign up for the free 30 day trial just before your shindig) gives you access to virtually any song with no commercials. iTunes Radio and Pandora are also good options.
  • Invite Extroverts: You’ve taken the bold step to host a social function, don’t add the stress of carrying the conversation to your plate. Having people in your house may be stretching your social limits enough. Make sure your guest list includes a few people who could make conversation with a tree stump. You could even ask them to arrive a bit early so they can share the task of greeting and making guests feel at home.
  • Divide Your Assets: So you’ve invited the extroverts. Good. Don’t seat them all together at the table! Place cards are fun and allow you to be strategic for the sake of conversation. Spread those extroverts out so the natural talkers aren’t just talking to one another, leaving half the table either staring awkwardly at each other or listing to one side as they eavesdrop.
  • Utilize Conversation Starters: If starting a conversation doesn’t come easy to you, use obvious conversation starters (ice breaker questions) to get people’s lips moving. I love (affiliate link) Table Topics for purposeful conversation starters or you can come up with your own. Place one at each seat and give your guests the freedom to ask their question at will. This approach makes the conversation starters feel more like a game instead of a social crutch. The burden of conversation will be on guests and they’ll have fun quizzing their fellow attendees.

If You’re The Guest

  • Go With A Friend: Showing up with someone you know guarantees you aren’t left standing in a corner by yourself or awkwardly trying to make small talk. Bonus points if they’re an extrovert and can help you engage with the other guests. Sometimes we introverts just need an introduction and little help getting started.
  • Do Your Homework: If possible, find out who is attending before hand and let the Facebook stalking commence. You will feel more comfortable being able to recognize folks even if you’ve never officially met. Plus, the more you know about people, the easier it is to come up with questions to ask. (Asking questions is an introvert’s secret weapon). Just try not to be creepy about it. If you saw they went apple picking last weekend, go for, “What’s your favorite thing to do around here in the Fall?” not “Did you make pie with those Golden Delicious apples?”.
  • Don’t Waste Your Wit: While we’re talking about social media… Many introverts find it easier to express themselves via social media than in person. They make witty comments and have articulate commentary about current events from the safety of their living room. If this is you, consider going on a social media fast for a few days before the event. Save up those astute observations and smart opinions for when you need to make conversation in person. Write them down when they come to mind. I wouldn’t even judge if you took a small stack of cue cards with you to examine in the bathroom if your mind suddenly turns to Jello.
  • Preparation is key: Everyone made fun of poor Mr. Collins who amused himself by “arranging little elegant compliments based on previous study”, but I think his tactic is genius. Think through some potential conversation topics. Watch/read the news so you know what’s going on in the World. Do your homework (See point 2). Just remember, manners shouldn’t seem rehearsed. To give your conversation “as unstudied an air as possible,” role play with an obliging friend or your mirror.

The bottom line: The more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you will be in social settings. Do the things you need to do to make yourself confident and comfortable.

Are You and introvert? What are your best tips for surviving social functions?

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc
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11 thoughts on “An Introvert’s Guide To Surviving Social Functions

  1. I stand nearby the action and people-watch, if someone DOES come up and want to talk to me, I usually just listen and nod my head and smile and they think I’m a grand person by the end of it.
    Or I volunteer to help in the kitchen. It helps to have something to do so that I can look busy when really I’m only getting some space. :)

  2. I wonder if the key is, not knowing what question to ask. Maybe the key is in taking the risk, taking the focus off of oneself (which I know is hard as an “introvert” myself), stepping out of the box, caring enough to ask (not ask just to make me feel comfortable) unplanned questions and then being engaged enough to listen and hear the answers then move forward from there.

    1. I totally agree! I just meant, it’s good to know what kind of questions to ask. Like, that it’s probably not wise to ask yes or no questions. Open-ended is always better.

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