Like any introvert, I loathe most big social gatherings. As an INFJ personality type and a highly sensitive person (HSP), the overstimulation, inane small talk, not to mention the fact that I usually don’t know many people at the event, are enough to throw me into a state of utter agitation.
Unfortunately, we introverts can’t always hole up in our houses and escape the world. There are some events we simply have to attend — whether for family, work, or something else entirely. And since we can’t escape them, we might as well try methods to help us cope with them.
Here are six tricks that can make social events more bearable. I’m sure that they’ll apply to most introverted personality types, but as an INFJ and HSP myself, I’ve found them especially applicable.
Whoever you are, I hope you find these tips useful.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)
6 Tips to Cope With Social Events
1. Hold something.
There’s nothing worse than standing in a room full of people with your arms by your sides and shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. For women, a handbag can be a great thing to have, because then at least you have something you can fish around in if you don’t know where to look, or at least have somewhere to rest your hand.
But even better, grab yourself a drink (it doesn’t even have to be alcohol for this trick to work). Almost every social event has food and drinks, and when you’ve got a drink in your hand:
- you have something to hold
- you have something to do (you can take sips every now and then)
- you don’t look awkward (you’re participating in the event by having a drink, and this blends you into the crowd, you don’t look out of place, and it keeps you occupied)
Getting a drink is my go-to. It takes the pressure off because it gives me something totally natural to do, and it doesn’t draw attention. I used to cross my arms over my chest, but this tends to appear standoffish and also made me extremely self-conscious. Why not grab that drink, or even better, a plate of snacks that you can slowly nibble? It may sound simple, but when you’re feeling awkward (as we introverts tend to do at these events), a little thing can go a long way.
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2. Plan something to look forward to.
When you know you have a social event to attend — and you know it’s going to be sheer torture — your mind is probably working overtime debating whether to call in sick. It helps to think of what you’re going to do after the event. It gives you something to look forward to, and it lets you focus your energy and attention on that enjoyable thing, instead of on the impending social experience.
I don’t necessarily mean you reward yourself with a shopping spree or piles of junk food. You don’t have to spend money. Simply saturate yourself with something you love doing.
Personally, I like to lay out some comfy clothes or pajamas, set my laptop out, arrange the pillows and blankets on my bed, even get the coffee mug ready, for when I get home and can jump into bed and watch Netflix. Maybe going as far as to set out the scene is extreme, but for me, it truly helps. It makes the reward tangible. It gives me a visual picture of what I have to look forward to. It encourages me when I’m standing awkwardly against a wall at a party, people’s emotions are crowding in on me, and loud music is throbbing through my head.
Set up your ideal scene. Literally set it up. When socializing is as exhausting and overwhelming as it is for us introverts and INFJs, it’s nice to have a treat after enduring it.
3. When in conversation, ask about feelings.
Turn every dry bit of small talk around with a simple trick: Ask about feelings. We INFJs are extremely perceptive and intuitive, and more than that, we find other peoples’ emotions and cognitive processes fascinating. We crave genuine connections that skip past the superficial, but it’s often hard for us to get there, especially at polite social gatherings where we’re surrounded by strangers or acquaintances.
Getting cornered and having to fake pleasantries is an INFJ’s nightmare. We’re already drained by the atmosphere, and now we have to engage in frivolous conversation?
INFJ friends, we can turn it around! When we’re having a conversation, we can focus on feelings. Ask people, “So that change, how did it make you feel?” Or, “That must have been hectic. How are you coping with that?” We don’t have to be limited to, “So what are you doing this weekend? Are you still going on that holiday? I love this weather, don’t you?”
If we want to dive right into a deep conversation, we can ask about emotions, then listen intently to people’s responses (as we’re so good at doing). Don’t focus on events and situations and activities. Focus on feelings, responses, and mental states. That can take small talk to big, profound, deep talk in just a few seconds. And it makes the conversation so exciting for us INFJs!
4. When overstimulated, go somewhere else.
There’s no shame in getting away from the bubble of activity. There have been times at social gatherings when I’ve almost burst into tears in front of everybody because I was so distressed by the emotions burdening me and the noises and voices coming from every direction. I wanted to sob, scream, just catch my freaking breath, because I simply couldn’t handle it anymore. And when leaving isn’t an option, I’m lost.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If there’s a yard outside, go there. Get some fresh air and quiet, however brief. It’s not rude, and don’t you dare let anyone tell you that. You’re an introvert, you’re an INFJ, you’re an HSP, and you need this. You owe it to yourself.
Have a miniature restorative session as you recompose and spend time with your own thoughts. Take inventory of your mental state. If the lawn isn’t an option, I tend to hide in the bathroom for as long as I can. Sometimes it’s the only quiet place available, and just a moment of being by myself, closing my eyes, or splashing water on my face can help me regain energy.
No matter what the social event, make sure you get some alone time. It might make all the difference between an emotional breakdown and a calm, resigned persona.
5. Do some research.
Confession: I’ve used Google Maps to find street photos of some of the social events I’ve attended. It makes a huge difference!
For me, a big part of dreading a social event is not knowing what to expect. When I don’t know what will happen, I can’t control it, and this gives me anxiety. As an INFJ, I tend to overthink every hour of every event and try to plot my movements from the moment I walk in the door. I need to know what to expect, because then I have some degree of control, and I can take measures to protect myself and make the experience bearable.
Do some research before you arrive. If it’s a venue you’ve never been to, google the place in advance. Get a picture in your mind of what the building or grounds look like. It’s done wonders for me, because once I know exactly where I’m going, I have a degree of control that makes the whole experience easier.
But the research doesn’t have to stop when you arrive at the event. Personally, I like to find where all the bathrooms and exits are when I arrive, so I make this a priority when I walk in the door. Again, this gives me some control, and that helps soothe my nerves.
6. Pick your battles — a.k.a your social experiences.
Yes, some social events we can’t get out of. But some we can, and some we should. Our mental health demands that we do, and we need to listen to our bodies and our minds. Once in a while, we need to follow our instincts, and as INFJs, we can generally trust those instincts.
Say no sometimes. Say no, and let yourself feel good about it.
There’s no such thing as a “small” social event for us INFJs and HSPs, because every sound is loud, every touch is intrusive, and sometimes we can overthink and overanalyze to the point of feeling physically sick.
INFJ and HSP friends, social events don’t have to master us. We just need to acknowledge what we need in order to cope, and then equip ourselves. It comes down to recognizing what makes social situations bearable, then respecting ourselves enough to go after what we need.
You might like:
- How to Fight Guilt as an INFJ
- 4 Ways INFJs Are Their Own Worst Enemy
- Here’s What Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type Angry
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