How to Master a Party as an Introvert

An introvert talks to a friend at a party

As an introvert, it’s helpful to keep in mind that nobody is expecting you to be the life of the party — all you have to do is show up.

Parties sometimes feel like they’re primarily designed with extroverts in mind. They usually involve talking to different and new people while dealing with a highly stimulating environment. For some introverts, this isn’t a huge deal — they’ll count it as their socializing quota for the week or month, and they’ve likely rested up in advance. But for other introverts, this can be a terrifying situation because they’re not into socializing. Or they’re tired. Or would rather hole up with a good book. (Or all of the aforementioned.)

As an extroverted introvert, I can usually hold my own in a party environment. Sometimes I can feel anxious if I hardly know anyone or if people are not being too welcoming, but that doesn’t happen as much as you may think. Staying away from opportunities to socialize is an instinctual thing for many introverts, but it can also sometimes stand in your way of having a great evening and making new friends. (Trust me — been there!)

Below are some tips on how to master a party as an introvert. Initially, you might feel anxious or afraid to attend — even if you like the person who invited you — but it’s important to remember that nobody is expecting you to be the life of the party. All you have to do is attend.

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5 Ways to Master a Party as an Introvert

1. Bring a back-up activity in case you’re waiting for someone.

Most party invitations come from either the party host or a friend of theirs. If it was the host, then there’s a good chance you could arrive at any time and still spend time with them. When I was younger, my usual party protocol was to arrive right at the start time, before most people arrive. I was able to choose my spot and have some one-on-one time with the party-thrower. 

If the person who invited you isn’t the host, then you might have to communicate more clearly about when they are planning to arrive. If you’re close to this person, you can even text them for updates to ensure you’re both at the party at the same time. If you’re not close to them, and you’re attending the party to get to know new people, then come around the time you two discussed — and don’t panic if they’re not there or readily available when you arrive.

Instead of freaking out that you’re alone, give yourself a back-up activity you can do while you wait. You can check your social media or your email. You can open your e-book on your reading app and sit off to the side somewhere. Try to find a drink or a snack, or offer to help set up or replenish them. Also, don’t be afraid to stand alone, as more people are actually likely to approach you this way and include you in the party (unless the entire party is full of jerks).

2. Find some “hiding places” in case you get overstimulated.

Before you find yourself getting overstimulated or drained, stake out some go-to spots to “escape” to if need be.

We are all adults, and most adults know what it’s like to stand alone, so they’re more likely to engage with someone who’s standing or sitting by themselves. It also gives many introverts an opportunity to talk to someone one-on-one or for an extrovert to meet someone new. Standing or sitting off to the side can also be an excellent way to catch your breath if you’re feeling overstimulated.

Another thing you can do is to go outside. If you’re in an apartment or at a venue without a patio, just go stand out in the front. You’ll also be easily accessible if that friend you were waiting on arrives. In addition, this can give you a chance for short one-on-one conversations as people leave or arrive, being the unofficial greeter who can take a bit of a social break. However, going off somewhere secluded is fine, too, as you may need some alone time before heading back inside.

If going outside isn’t an option, find an empty room or go to the bathroom — the bathroom can be a perfect place for a breather and to get away from loud music or voices. You can take a break, calm your nervous system, and get grounded before pep-talking yourself into going back out there for more socialization.

3. Talk to strangers. (I know! But hear me out…)

Conversing with strangers can be a horrifying experience for many introverts, especially if the conversation lulls or becomes awkward. My brain used to sometimes blank during conversations because I was so anxious about the interactions. If you’re like me, then the first step to take when conversing with someone is to remind yourself they are just like you. They might not be exactly like you, but they still have the same basic needs, and one of those needs is to socialize.

Try not to go to extremes inside your (overthinking) head, as there is a very high chance the person you’re speaking to is not judging you at all (especially if drinking is involved). They just want to have a good time in the same way you want to have a good time. An important tip would be to lead with small talk. This can be difficult for introverts, but there are some basic questions you could ask anyone to spark conversation, and then continue to ask follow-up questions (if they seem open) to provide more depth to the conversation.

Another thing to discuss with others is what’s currently happening at the party — or try to see if you know the same people or what brought them to the party. You two might have more in common than you initially thought, and now you have a new friend. If the person seems unreceptive, don’t feel guilty about moving on and finding someone else to talk to. Not everyone will be a conversational match!

4. Join in on activities or games (within reason).

This can be scary for introverts, but it’s important to distract yourself by engaging in activities — even if they’re not introvert-friendly. But this is not to say you should force yourself to do something that would be too nerve-wracking or embarrassing. However, there’s no shame in engaging with others in an activity that doesn’t involve conversation, like a board game.

I’ll give an example of my experience with this. At a friend’s 40th birthday party, she wanted everyone to play a carrot game where they tied a carrot to a string and dangled it behind their back. The object of the game was to squat and fit the carrot into an empty water bottle. It might have been embarrassing for some, but it was a fun experience, and I instantly became friends with the people playing around me. I went from not really knowing anyone (aside from the host) to making many new friends.

5. If all else fails, find a corner and do your own thing.

As mentioned a few times above, sometimes parties just aren’t as fun as you’d think, and that’s not your fault or a shortcoming of yours. Most people are open and welcome in a party situation, and if you find that people are isolating you or talking down to you, then it just isn’t the place for you. If you still want to stick around to say hi to the person who invited you, then go off on your own and do your thing until you get a chance to speak with them. (Or, if they seem pretty occupied, you can always wave from across the room and make your exit.)

If you’re just not finding it easy to converse with others, but you still want to just be around people for a bit instead of going back home, then look at your phone or read an e-book. Don’t worry about appearing awkward or weird by doing this — it’s your safety net. Maybe someone will eventually engage you in conversation, but it’s fine if you don’t speak with anyone directly and just bask in the ambience of others. You still made an effort to come to the party, and you should be proud of yourself (even if you just stay for a few minutes — no one’s going to time you!). 

There Is No ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ Way to Handle a Party as an Introvert

There aren’t necessarily any “right” or “wrong” ways to approach a party situation, as everyone has different needs. The most important thing is to ensure you’re having fun on an individual level. 

If seeking seclusion for a bit is what you need to enjoy yourself, then don’t be afraid to do that. Moments of silence shouldn’t be as scary either, as sometimes there are just lulls in conversation, so don’t force yourself to be entertaining or find something to talk about. You can also enjoy someone’s company, but you may both reach your limit for interaction at some point, and that’s fine. 

All in all, follow what feels right for you. And the best part? You’ll be back home in your “introvert zen zone” before you know it!

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