How Introverts Can Survive Socializing as the World Reopens
No matter what, be unapologetically you… and remember that you always have the freedom to leave early.
Finally, after over a year of uncertainty, society is able to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel! With millions of people already vaccinated and millions more to come, traveling, going out, and meeting new people all seem like possibilities again — and some people have already gotten into the swing of things in our “new normal.”
However, if you’re an introvert like me, you might not be eager to participate in all the post-COVID-19 celebrations. Maybe you’ve missed your close friends and family members, and are eager to see them again (one or two people at a time). Yet you’ve certainly not missed the crowded spaces and noisy restaurants and busy streets that were such an integral part of the pre-pandemic world. And now that the world is opening back up, the pressure to gather and spend time with other people is returning, too.
But fear not! Even the most introverted of us can find ways to survive — and maybe even enjoy — the inevitable post-COVID-19 gatherings. Here are some things that I do, as a tried and true introvert, to survive social events.
6 Ways to Survive Post-COVID-19 Social Events
1. Start with the outfit — the more comfortable, the better.
Many of us introverts may be feeling anxious about socializing again after being out of practice for so many months. One way to help quell your anxiety is to wear clothes that make you feel good, you feel confident in, and, most importantly, that are comfortable! Nothing ruins a good time quite like a waistband digging into your stomach or bra straps that won’t stay in place. Crop tops and mini skirts are cute, but if you don’t feel 100 percent secure in them — and you know you will inevitably feel like you have to sit and stand a certain way to hide your “flaws” — then skip them and wear something else.
I’m a cis woman (and slightly tomboyish) and I dress like one. It’s all about wearing something that will make you feel awesome, both inside and out!
Personally, I have a “uniform,” an outfit I can grab no matter what and feel totally comfortable and confident in: black leggings, a soft T-shirt, an oversized jean jacket, and my red Converse that I’ve broken in over the years for maximum foot coziness. It’s a good idea to have something like this always ready to throw on as your go-to outfit.
2. Take part in the planning process: Attending a large party is different than attending a small dinner with close friends.
We introverts are planners, and when it comes to transitioning to post-pandemic life, the smoother it goes, the better. So have a say in where, and for how long, you’ll be meeting.
I like to go to a place knowing exactly what to expect. Will I be expected to make a lot of conversation, like a dinner party? Or can I get away with sitting on the sidelines and observing the social interactions of everyone else, like gathering to watch a baseball game on TV?
Don’t be afraid to suggest things that you like doing, even if you aren’t sure anyone else will be up for it. Suggest an introvert-friendly activity, like a night of board games, and you might be surprised at how many people like the idea. I even found a bar in my city that has entire shelf-covered walls filled with board games that patrons are welcome to play for free. I had the time of my life there!
So look for unique, fun places that aren’t crowded and have a relaxed atmosphere, and I’m sure you’ll find them.
3. Have an exit strategy, like a phrase you tell the friend you carpooled with.
If at all possible, drive yourself, or at least ride with someone who is okay with leaving early. Feeling stuck at a party when you’ve had enough socializing is one of the worst feelings for introverts.
This can get tricky if you have a partner or friend who is extroverted and enjoys being one of the last to leave a party, so be honest with them. My extroverted husband has learned how to tell from my body language when I’ve had enough socializing, and he will typically say something along the lines of, “In about 10 minutes, we’ll get going.” He finishes up any socializing he’s in the middle of, and I have peace of mind knowing that there’s an end in sight.
Or, you can have a pre-planned phrase that you tell your partner or friend as a hint that it’s time to go soon. Although, like I said above, your safest bet is to drive yourself, or use a rideshare service or public transportation.
4. Make sure you drink something — that way, you can take sips of it during any awkward conversation moments.
Drink something! It doesn’t have to be alcoholic. It can be coffee, a soda, sparkling water — anything that makes your taste buds rejoice. Tasting something good releases dopamine in the brain and makes you feel happy. So periodically sipping a tasty beverage is like constantly “dosing” yourself with good feelings!
Not to mention, it also gives you something to hold onto if you’re not sure what to do with your hands. And you can always take as many sips as you need during awkward lulls in conversation.
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5. Ask, “How are you doing?” (also known as a great way to get the attention off you).
If you’re like me, conversation is the hardest part of hanging out with other people, and it can be a major source of stress to be constantly trying to come up with something interesting to say. So beat everyone else to the punch and ask them what they have been up to.
I’m an introvert who loves her alone time, yet is also very interested in people. I genuinely enjoy hearing about what my friends have been doing, and it’s much easier for me to hold a conversation when I don’t have to worry about doing the talking. And while I’m listening to them, I can simultaneously think about (and plan) how I’m going to respond.
6. No matter what, be unapologetically you.
Is everybody signing up for karaoke while you’re content to sit back and watch? Great! Every performer needs an audience to cheer them on. Do a bunch of people want to play a game, but you’d rather continue your conversation with a dear friend you haven’t seen in ages? Keep that conversation going! Is a friend inviting you to go with them for a late-night Target run, but you’re already in your pajamas? Offer to tag along on the car ride and enjoy a quiet parking lot while she runs inside. (By the way, these are all things I’ve done in real life.)
In any case, just be honest and be you:
- “I hate singing karaoke, but I’ll gladly watch.”
- “You guys go ahead and get the game started; we’re still chatting over here.”
- “I’m honestly not in the mood to go inside a store, but if you don’t mind me getting in your car with my pajamas on, I’ll come along for the ride!”
This way, you can still have social time, but combine it with your much-needed introvert time — a win-win for everybody.
Finding the Balance Between Social Time and Alone Time
We introverts are always going to prefer spending most of our time alone, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy gathering with our people from time to time, too (especially after this past year of not doing so).
Here’s to safe, introvert-approved socializing! May it be filled with meaningful conversations, delicious beverages, and, most importantly, the freedom to leave early and enjoy the rest of your night with pajamas and a good book.