Have you ever been dragged to a party by a friend, only to have that friend disappear off into the crowd moments later? First of all, how rude. Second of all, cue the panic. But this doesn't have to be a moment of terror, especially if you know how to handle yourself at parties when you're alone.
Of course how you act depends on the situation, especially since there are so many different types of get togethers. Maybe you're networking at an event, or attending a holiday party for a new job, or standing in the corner of a smoky, dark house party. The list goes on and on.
For the introverted and shy, the idea of navigating any these situations solo is enough to make you swear of social occasions for the rest of your life. But I promise, it's possible to become a pro at making friends, or at the very least, chatting people up at any type of party. And I'm saying this as a fellow introvert who often masquerades as an extrovert. It's really not as hard as it sounds.
Here are some tips for being the loner at the party, surviving it, and maybe even having a little fun.
1. Quit Being So Negative
You've been invited to a cocktail party because the host wants you as part of her group. Or you've been asked to tag along to a house party with a friend, which means he or she looks forward to your company. So quit feeling like you don't belong, or like you have nothing to add to the gathering. It will only lead you down the road of awkwardness, and you won't have a very good time. As Leslie Turnbull notes on TheWeek.com, "Knock off the negativity already. An invitation is an inclusion — it means your host thinks you will be a valuable addition to her gathering. Allow yourself to feel flattered ... Everyone has positive qualities and attributes; focus on yours and allow them to build your own self-assurance."
2. Ask To Help The Host
If the only person you know is the host, assume the position of their faithful helper. Offer to put out food, or pour drinks — anything that will help them, while giving you something better to do than stand in the corner. As Kristin Wong noted on Lifehacker.com, "It’s a polite gesture, and it gives you something to do. Even if the host doesn’t need any help, he or she may sense your apprehension and give you a task to keep busy." Wong also suggested bringing food that needs a little preparation, like guacamole, so you have something to keep you busy when you first arrive. It's a genius move for those who hate the first few awkward moments of a party.
3. Show Up With Some Information
Don't go into a party blind, especially if it's a networking event. You'll want to have relevant conversation topics ready, as well as information about the party itself. It'll give you something to talk about, and also save you from any awkward pauses when you're asked your opinion on the latest news headlines. As Wong noted, "Whether it’s current events, or just some fun background about the event, prepare yourself with a couple of interesting topics, then find a way to weave them into the conversation."
4. Practice Your Conversation Starters
Store up a few conversation starters for when you have edged your way into a group and are ready to start talking. But avoid boring and/or potentially argumentative questions, like "What do you do for a living?" or "What did you think of last night's Republican debate?" Instead, start off with something simple, such as "How do you know the host?" As Chrissy Stockton notes on ThoughtCatalog.com, "This is a built in conversation starter, because everyone at the party must know the host in one way or another, and there’s usually a story there."
5. Actually Listen To What People Say
When you're feeling nervous, it can be easy to glaze over when someone talks to you. People usually do this when they feel nervous and are thinking about something to say next. But it'll be way easier to talk to a stranger, and actually have a conversation, if you truly listen to what they say. According to Turnbull, the best ways to listen, and show that you're listening, are to make eye contact with the person speaking, and lean slightly in to indicate they have your full attention. "Let him tell you everything he has to say without interrupting, and then ask a follow-up question that indicates you have in fact heard him, and are interested in hearing more," Turnbull suggested.
6. Remember There Is No Spotlight On You
I know, walking into a party when you don't know anyone can feel like an '80s movie nightmare. (Will the record really stop playing while everyone turns to look at me? Ahh!) The answer is no, no it won't. According to Wong, "It’s hard not to feel awkward when you’re alone in a social setting. But the more awkward you feel, the more nervous you become. It helps to remember there’s no spotlight on you." So basically, do whatever you want, because no one is going to notice anyway. How liberating is that?
7. Look For Other Loners (They Really Want To Talk)
How relieved would you be if a stranger came up to you at a party and put you out of your lonely misery? If no one is doing that for you, go be that person for somebody else. Scope out the loners, and make your move. As Korin Miller notes on WomensHealthMag.com, "While you’re probably not the only one there who doesn’t know anyone, it’s not always easy to tell. So just look for people who are on their own for a moment. Maybe they’re enjoying the scenery or sampling the hors d'oeuvres—whatever it is, make small talk based on what they’re doing and see where the conversation goes."
8. Just Have Fun
This one applies more to house parties than it does to networking events (although those can be fun, too). But think about the possibilities of being at a party where no one knows you. You can assume any personality, talk to anyone with no regrets, get totally messy, and then leave without fear of ruining your reputation. If you find yourself in this situation, enjoy it.
9. Make A Clean Exit
If you're at this party only to support a friend, or "make an appearance," then feel free to leave once those obligations have been fulfilled. But if you're main goal was to network or mingle, then you'll want to leave when you feel you've chatted with enough people. Tell them how nice it was to chat, give them your business card, thank your host, and bounce. It's as easy as that.
Parties are supposed to be fun, so remember that they next time you find yourself at one — even if you find yourself there alone. If that's the case, be yourself, chat people up, and I'm sure you'll be just fine.
Images: Pexels (1); Giphy (9)