We've all been there at one point or another: A soiree is going on around us with groups of people laughing and swapping stories in their exclusive little circles, and we're up against the wall minding our drink in uncomfortable silence. Going to a party alone can be an awkward social experience, but only if you let it become one. Standing glued to the wall or sunk into a sofa cushion takes about as much effort as approaching another partygoer and saying hi.
While certain personality types might have it easier when it comes to connecting with random strangers (here's looking at you, extroverts), really anyone can show up to a room and make a connection with the people inside it. All it takes is a genuine curiosity to hear people's stories, an effort to detach oneself from the fear of being judged, and an attitude to just have fun. After all, this isn't the cafeteria of a high school in an after-school special — no one's sitting there ready to tear you down. We're all here to party and have fun. Here are 11 tips on how to go to a party alone and feel comfortable. You'll never need that "plus one" again.
1. Use Your Host
Since you got invited to their shindig, chances are you know your host at least marginally well. Use that to your advantage, and ask them to act as your icebreaker for the first couple of rounds and introduce you to a couple of people they think you'll enjoy meeting. "You might think this is presumptive, but when you set the expectation for your host and for yourself, good things often follow," Amie Leadingham, a master certified relationship coach, tells Bustle in an email interview. They don't have to stand by your elbow as you crack your first anecdote — all you need is a, "Hey, I don't think you've met my amazing friend here."
2. Offer To Help With Something
The trick to working away those first-moment nerves is to keep your hands busy. So when you come through the door, offer to help the host with something. "Ask to chop some veggies, plate some food, or play bartender. It’ll keep you occupied, you won’t feel as awkward, and it will get your mind off the stress," lifestyle writer Kristin Wong from Lifehacker suggested. You can also use it as a way to start your first round of conversations, commenting on how good the food looks like or how a Pimm's Cup is your signature cocktail.
3. Master The Art Of Conversation
People love to talk about themselves, so use that to your advantage. Get curious and ask people questions about themselves to pull out cool and interesting stories. But before you dive in with your conversation starters, first look for people you might have something in common with. "Look for commonalities like clothing, accessories, mutual friendships etc. Approach them and ask them questions about the specific common interest," Leadingham suggests. For example, if you see someone with a leopard-print belt, approach them and let them know how much you love the underappreciated neutral. It can be as random as that!
4. Find Other Solo Hover-ers
If it's hard for you to break into a group, zero in on other people hovering on the edges like yourself. "Find another shy, solo guest and laugh about the fact that neither of you know anyone," Wong suggested. Coming up and admiting to each other you're slightly overwhelmed makes the situation funny and opens the floor for new conversation.
5. Get Competitive With Yourself
Before heading out to the party, make a game out of the evening and decide on five common questions you'll ask each person. If you make it into a game, you won't feel awkward approaching folks dead-on. "For example, you will find out their name, where they are from, what makes them passionate about their work, what is their favorite thing about the city they live in, and what they like to do on their time off. At the end of the event, you will almost certainly come up with an unofficial ranking of who you connected best with and this may lead you into a relationship or friendship that you otherwise may have never sought out," Leadingham points out. It also gives you easy conversation starters you don't have to think about!
6. Make It Your Mission To Elaborate
Often, icebreakers warrant one sentence answers, but make it your mission to create interesting conversations. For example, if someone asks what you do for work, Wong suggested sharing "a story about your job or an example of what you do on a day-to-day basis." Or if they ask how you know the host, share how you met or a funny shenanigan the both of you were in.
7. Dress In What Makes You Feel Confident
You're not going to feel confident in an outfit that you think is all wrong, so put some thought into what you feel the best in. "Make sure you're dressed comfortably and properly for the occasion," fashion writer Chrissy Rutherford from Harpers Bazaar advised. To take it a step further, don't just stick to the dress code of the event but wear your favorite pieces. If you're comfortable and feel like yourself in an outfit, you'll have an easier time mingling and not worrying about whether or not you're pulling off your outfit.
8. Use Compliments As Icebreakers
If you're hovering on the fringes and unsure of what to talk about with people, use a compliment as your first icebreaker. "It could be as easy as complimenting someone's shoes or hair. Flattery is truly the perfect way to start a conversation," Rutherford offered. Who wouldn't like to hear that their outfit is amazing?
9. Give Finding Your People Time
So you don't click with the first person you talk to. So what? It'll take a couple of rounds to find your people, so keep on trying. "You may have to have a few starter conversations, but eventually you’ll find a person or a group of people you click with," Ami Angelowicz from lifestyle site The Frisky explained. If you have a couple of conversations that fizzled, make to refill your drink and try, try again.
10. Hang Out By The Bar
Or the buffet table if the bar is empty. Grabbing yourself a plate or glass is an easy way to open up new chances to chat. "It's usually the most highly-trafficked area at an event and full of the most relaxed people," Rutherford pointed out. While mixing yourself a cocktail you can ask what your new buddy is having and start from there.
11. Seek Out The Extrovert
If you're hitting a socializing slump but don't want to look like a wallflower, seek out the extrovert of the room and let them do the talking. "The only thing extroverts love more than talking is a rapt audience. Ask the center of attention for a piece of advice and watch them go," lifestyle writer Judie McGuire from Today suggested. It requires minimum effort on your part and has the potential to begin a fun conversation.
In the end, going to parties solo isn't scary. So grab your favorite party shoes and go!
Images: Cora Foxx/Bustle