‘I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the meme about introverts at parties, where they’re sitting on the floor talking to a dog while everyone around them has a great time. This is me.’
Well, this is me when there’s a dog around. When there’s not a dog around, it’s a whole different experience. I’m making the 6 hour drive home to Scotland tomorrow to celebrate the birthday of my best friend and, while I’m looking forward to it, there’s also that underlying sense of dread about all the people-ing I will inevitably have to do.
This is mostly good, because it’s people like my friend’s parents (who are basically my second parents), my friend’s fantastic husband and brilliant kids, and some friends that I haven’t seen for a while. On the flip side, there will also be Other People present and that makes my palms sweaty and my heart race.
I keep telling myself that it’s only for a few hours and that I’ll be absolutely fine (of course I will, I mean, it’s a party…), but the uneasy feeling never quite leaves me. Luckily, I’m going with my husband, Mum, Dad, and sister, which has already made me feel so much better about the whole thing.
This is how to get through a party as an Professional Introvert:
Choose Your Table Wisely
You MUST scout out your surroundings before the event. People will undoubtedly think you’re unhinged, but what do you care? Knowing the set up of the venue will help massively with your choice of seat. You DO NOT want to sit next to the bar or the buffet, because these will be heavy traffic areas. And, when you sit in a heavy traffic area, you will end up being spoken to by more people than you were counting on.
For normal people, this is fun. For introverts, this is actual Hell. What introverts want, more than anything in the world, is to find a table at the back of the room (preferably behind some sort of partition/curtain), so that they can observe but not fully take part. I realise this makes us sound horrible but we’re just not equipped to deal with lots of people at once.
Figure Out An Escape Route:
Introverts need to know where they can get to within short notice of a Too Many People Moment. These are the moments when we feel so overwhelmed by a particular situation that we desperately wish we were heavy smokers so that no one would think it odd if we popped outside every 15 minutes.
We also sometimes wish we had tiny children so that we could do the whole ‘Sorry, I’ve got to go because the babysitter needs to be away at 9:30pm’ routine.
I have actually used this excuse to get away early from a training course with a room full of random people and told my trainer that I had to pick up my kids from school. She didn’t know me from Adam, so it was a safe bet, but I genuinely worry about running in to her again and having her ask about my offspring in front of a colleague who looks at me questioningly and mouths ‘WTF??’ while I desperately try to look like nothing’s amiss.
Anyway, what we introverts like is an excuse to take a little bit of time out. I find the ladies toilets are the best place for this at a party as they offer up the only real opportunity to lock yourself away in a box without people thinking you’ve lost your mind.
You will also need to work out how quickly you can get out of the building once the festivities are over as this will be the start of your period of decompression before you crawl into bed, beneath your duvet, and recharge your batteries. Always know how quickly you can leave any particular building and it will greatly improve your evening.
Dealing With ‘Sitters’:
Sitters are lovely, friendly people that you haven’t seen for a while that take up residence at the empty chair next to you and ‘want to chat’. We all know them. They parade round as normal people, but they have no idea about introversion and, therefore, think nothing of their movements.
Internally, you want to scream ‘OHMYGODWHYME?’, but on the surface you simply smile pleasantly and try to look happy to see them. I realise that sounds ungrateful and rude, but it’s not intentional. I do like talking to people, just not when I have to speak to them all on one night. I need it spread out over, say, a period of three or four years.
Unfortunately, at any large gathering, you will come across Sitters and it’s not always possible to avoid them by looking like you were just heading to the bathroom to powder your nose. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and lie through your teeth, telling them you’ve been busy doing life stuff when, in actual fact, you’ve spent the vast majority of the last 20 years devising ways to get out of the very situation you now find yourself in.
Carefully come up with a few interesting conversational topics beforehand and then use them wisely throughout the night. Write them down if you have to and then refer to them when necessary. You won’t regret it.
Take Back Up:
I never go to parties on my own because, well…I just couldn’t. I can barely walk into a pub on my own, even if my friends are already in there.
If it’s a party of someone I know well (as tomorrow’s is), it’s not as bad, but there’s literally no way on earth I’m going to party of someone I don’t know, say, as company for my sister, for example.
What ALWAYS happens, without fail, is that the person I’m with will float off to speak to someone, leaving me bereft in the corner, staring at my phone, desperately hoping that I’ve suddenly become invisible. With back up in the shape of relatives and spouse, it’s highly unlikely that I will end up in the position where all four members of my entourage will all up and leave my side at the same time.
If it DOES look like this might happen, I stare at them, wild eyed, and internally beg them to stagger their absences so that I always have someone with me.
Take The Next Day Off:
Gone are the days when I could people for a full weekend. With the exception of very close friends and family, dogs are the only other living creatures that I can cope with on consecutive days.
If I know I have a night out, I need to clear my entire diary for the next 24 hours to give myself time to recharge.
This mainly involves not leaving the house and not using my phone for anything that involves actual speaking. Texts and Snapchats I can do and I will always respond to fb messages if they have dog photos attached. I’m not a complete monster, after all.