If you're kind of a private (read: mildly antisocial) person, then you know the pain and agony that is a party, get-together, or networking event. Without a doubt, you'd much rather stay home, read a good book, and remain quietly introspective. But like it or not, such events will happen. So it can help to know how to socialize when you're an introvert.
Of course this is way easier said than done. If you're an introvert, being social can feel like quite the insurmountable task. Where other people seem to gain energy from parties and outings, you only seem to withstand them (at best). You might even feel totally drained afterward, as if you had just been through some sort of horrible experience (instead of something lighthearted and fun). This is the nature of introversion.
"An introvert generally 1) feels comfortable being on their own, 2) is seen as reflective or reserved, 3) prefers to know a few people well," says Kim Chronister, Psy.D., in an email to Bustle. Cue those nights alone with a book, or maybe a coffee date with a very good friend.
While it's totally fine to prefer your own company, it will be occasionally necessary to head off to a wedding, or show up at the office holiday party. When that's the case, never fear — there are things you can do to make socializing easier. Here are a few of those tips.
1. Try Going Out When You Don't Want To
If you're introvert, it can feel mighty tempting to decline every invitation from here on out. And of course you can do this, forever and ever. But it's not a healthy to be that reclusive, especially if you're only giving in to anxiety. As Chronister says, "The remedy for ridding oneself of anxiety is exposure. One simply needs to do what is uncomfortable over and over again until the nervousness mitigates. Go to the meet-up even if you are anxious, accept the next invite, and repeat."
2. Practice Some Convo Starters
Before you get to the party, tuck some conversation starters in the back part of your brain. Think topical news, the book you're reading — anything you can chat about easily. "Coming armed with some small talk starters/ extenders will make your life a lot more pleasant," said Jessica Stillman on Inc.com. Not to mention easier, and less awkward.
3. Give Yourself Some Goals
It may sound cheesy, but giving yourself some goals for the evening can help you stride off with purpose. "Are you going out to network for your career? Give yourself a socialization quota," suggested Eric Ravenscraft on Lifehacker.com. And don't go home until it's met.
4. Make Sure You Recharge
Remember what I said about feeling drained? You may be the most charismatic person around, but as an introvert social outings leave you feeling drained. To combat this, be sure to charge your proverbial batteries before going to the event. "And while you're at it, plan to give yourself some space to unwind after the party and before you have to rejoin the social world," Stillman suggested.
5. Take Lots Of Breaks
Unlike extroverts, you're going to need to slip away for a bit of peace. "When you first arrive, scout out a place that you can retreat to if you need a moment. It can be a patio, a kitchen, a bathroom, or even just your car," said Ravenscraft. It's totally OK to have a moment of escape, if it means you'll feel more refreshed.
6. Get Ready To Paraphrase
If you have social anxiety, then you may find yourself talking blanking while you talk. But don't let it freak you out. "If you find yourself drawing a blank mid-conversation, try paraphrasing," said Katherine Schreiber on Greatist.com. It can help get the chat back on track.
7. Wear A Statement Piece
"Struggle with small talk? Leverage your clothing and accessories to help," said Stillman. All it takes is a statement bracelet, or a really weird necklace, to give people something to chat about. And you can turn the tables, of course. Casually compliment someone's shirt, or their cool glasses. The two of you will be chatting it up in no time.
8. Fake It 'Til You Make It
Research has shown that it can help to act extroverted, even if you're introverted, according to Schreiber. It likely works due to positive social feedback (i.e., people finding you ridiculously charming, and it thus egging you on). So smile, walk to the center of the room, and shake people's hands. It may just start to rub off.
9. Assume The Role Of Ever-Helpful Guest
Got nothin' to do and no one to talk to? Then busy yourself with helping the host. Not only will he or she greatly appreciate it, but you'll be given something to do — like pouring drinks, or setting up food — that doesn't involved standing around uncomfortably.
10. Follow Your Friend Around
Partner up with an understanding friend, and let them lead the way into groups of people. "Let your friend start conversations with someone you don't know, then offer your input as they discuss," Ravenscraft said. "You can easily sneak into conversations this way."
11. Be Ready To Leave When Your Heart Desires
If you know this is going to be an early night, then plan ahead for a graceful exit. "You need to be able to leave when your social energy reserves are depleted," Stillman said. Drive yourself there so you can drive yourself home. Or be ready and armed with Uber, so you can peace out when the mood strikes.
Then go home and congratulate yourself on being social. You did it! And it will only get easier the more you go out.
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