As an introvert of gigantic proportions, my experience at parties is often a fraught one, which shouldn't be too shocking: as Psychology Today explains, introverts find their energy drained by anything to do with social situations, conversations, mingling, or networking, and recharge by spending time on their own. In a house filled with people intent on arguing about "Bernie Or Bust," dancing and having loud gossipy conversations in the kitchen, introversion isn't the greatest personality type to have. But introverts, like all humans, crave social interaction in manageable doses, so it's important for us to figure out how to survive social situations without becoming completely exhausted.
There are some experiences that will never be particularly geared towards dyed-in-the-wool introverts: clubs, massive-yet-claustrophobic house parties, and certain intense social situations in which there is no option except to have extensive conversations with people you barely know. House parties can work well for introverts, however, offering a variety of options to help you survive — provided you plan properly, know your own energy levels, take along the proper accomplices and position yourself correctly in the flow of the party. And if it's your own party, it becomes even better: you may not be able to sleep until the last person goes home, but it's your house, and you can sneak off to a spare room to take a breath without anybody telling you not to. (It took years of mildly catastrophic, exhausted exits from my own birthday parties before I figured that one out.)
Here are seven ways to survive a party as an introvert. If all else fails and you're just not feeling it, you can, of course, stay home; but if you're feeling up to venturing out, let's get you prepared.
1. Know The Quiet Spots
This one is easier if you yourself are hosting the party, but even if you're coming to someone else's bash, try to make an exploratory trek around the place when you arrive to seek out where you might sneak away and have a recharge when you need it. Good spots include bathrooms, quiet corridors, back entrances and kitchens; avoid places where you've been clearly warned off, private spaces (bedrooms that have shut doors, for instance), anywhere with a lot of foot traffic, anywhere that feels potentially unsafe, or anywhere where it would be peculiar to be discovered (like the inside of a pantry). Try to pick out a few, so that if one turns out to have become an unexpected party hub, you can go to another.
2. Monitor Your Energy Levels
If you want to last the night, don't treat the party like a marathon: look at it more like a series of high-energy, rapidly-tiring sprints followed by recovery periods. Understanding this about your psychology will help you maintain your equilibrium and prevent a serious drain on your resources.
If you notice yourself starting to get tired, struggle to find new things to say, become awkward or otherwise show signs of social low energy, tap out: pretend you need to take a call, wander off to the bathroom, become fascinated by a book or a painting on the wall, whatever you need. (Yes, playing with somebody's pet at a party is an excellent way to escape social pressure, but make sure the animal is OK with receiving attention first; otherwise, you might end up with a spooked pet — or a nipped finger.)
3. Go With Somebody Who Can Give You An "Out"
If possible, collect sensitive friends (either extrovert or introvert) who can lessen the social awkwardness of your need for a brief "off" period by distracting others, coming to sit with you in silence, finding spots for you, and generally facilitating the experience. One of the great advantages of extrovert-introvert pairings is that the extrovert can demonstrate care by being compassionate towards an introvert's need to escape social spaces for a while — and structuring things so that that escape is possible. I've talked about the need for an introversion ally or buddy before, but here I'm specifying a particular type: the person who can create situations which will allow you to briefly escape.
4. Plan A Specific Time To Leave
You may find it much, much easier to enjoy your time socializing if you know exactly when you're going home to bed. If possible, don't sleep over at the party location, or agree to go by a timetable set by someone more social than you; you'll end up stuck waiting for them while feeling seriously depleted. Introverts do best when they secure their exit route in advance and take it when they need to. Once you've definitively had enough, have cash on you for a cab or plans to get home when you need it. Lifehacker recommends that your time going home or directly after you get home should be as quiet as possible, in order to build up your reserves around severe depletion.
5. Make Sure You Know The Guest List
This is an interesting tip from the Huffington Post's informal 2015 survey of introvert techniques for handling parties: most of us find it much easier to perform socially in an environment where we already have more than one friend; otherwise, we are much more easily drained. So do your research. Who's going to the party? And of those people, who can you rely upon to actually go when they've clicked "yes" on a FB event? Will they be OK if you stay quiet beside them, or prompt you to speak up or mingle more? (There is nothing an introvert hates more than aimless mingling among strangers.) Knowing this before you go (or even before you decide whether or not you're going) can make things much easier.
6. Listen More Than You Talk
Most people love talking about themselves or what they're passionate about, so help them. We're all a little bit self-centred, and that trait can be exceptionally useful when it comes to preserving your energy in a social setting: be an exceptional listener and prompt people to divulge what they're thinking about, their next career move, their current drama, whatever they want to tell you. (This works in other languages, too: I got through German speaking exams in school by saying "Really?" in an interested tone to whatever the teacher asked.) The Huffington Post has a good guide to becoming an "active" listener, covering everything from using body language that encourages somebody to talk to asking the right questions.
7. Take A Helping Role
Expert Beth Buelow, over at introvert advice site Shut Up And Speak, advises that "taking a role" at a party — from giving out presents to picking up plates to cutting salad in the kitchen — becomes a very good aid if you're finding it socially tricky, as it both gives you a goal and keeps you away from situations in which your talking skills are the main focus. Everybody wants somebody who'll help the party run smoothly. Don't let yourself be run over roughshod, of course; but it's still a good plan to position yourself as a go-to chopper, sorter, washer or organizer. Plus, inanimate objects are much less likely to require extensive social interaction than fellow guests.
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