As an introverted woman who is married to an extroverted husband and raising an extroverted daughter, I feel it’s safe to say that I regularly find myself in loud, high-energy, social places. I typically find myself locked inside my mind wondering if it’s too early to suggest leaving or frantically wracking my brain to come up with dreaded small talk for the hundredth time in one outing. An extroverts will never understand the feelings of pure exhaustion and overstimulation that an introvert feels after being in social situations.
As appealing as the thought is to spend every day at home in my comfy sweats and no bra, I’ve found the way to survive–and dare I say even enjoy–social gatherings as an introvert is to go into them prepared with a toolbox of strategies. Let’s break down how introverts can navigate social situations.
Have an exit strategy.
The first thought on every introvert’s mind going into a social event: having an exit strategy. If you’re going with a significant other or friend, ask them how long they would like to stay at the event. Is this a brief appearance to have a drink and say a few hellos? Or is this a reunion that could go into the wee hours of the morning (ugh . . . let’s hope not.)?
Either way, talk to the person you’re attending with so you have a general idea of when it’s an okay time to leave. Then, you can begin the countdown in your head as the event goes on. Headed solo? When you’re ready to go, say your goodbyes, perhaps mentioning you have another commitment to attend (i.e. watching Netflix with a glass of wine.)
Don’t guilt yourself into attending.
While not a strategy, it’s important to remember: you do not have to attend every event you’re invited to. Let me say that again. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND EVERY EVENT YOU’RE INVITED TO. Being an introvert typically goes hand-in-hand with being a people pleaser. We all find ourselves having to attend events out of obligation, but if you find you’re guilting yourself into going to an event you’d rather not go to, say no and save yourself the mental and physical discomfort.
Master small talk.
With every social situation comes small talk. If you’re like me, I see someone approach and quickly start thinking of things I should remember or things I could ask. This usually leads to becoming tongue tied, stressed, and so deep inside my own head that I’m not actually listening to the person speaking . . . resulting in looking ridiculous when I stand there having no idea what they just said.
People enjoy talking about themselves. To take the spotlight off of you, ask them open-ended questions that require more than a one-word answer. Rather than just asking where they work, ask about their position and what details it involves on a day-to-day basis. Instead of asking how many kids they have, ask them to tell you about their family and what they enjoy doing together. Listening to their answers will help guide you through the rest of the conversation.
Take a break.
Need a breather? Go to the bathroom. The amount of times I’ve escaped to a bathroom stall without actually having to go, but simply needing a moment’s peace, is too many to count. Scroll social media, text a friend who understands what you’re feeling, or run some cold water over your wrists. Anything you might need to take a moment to reset and prepare to head back to the event feeling a bit more calm.
Find fellow introverts.
Finally, look for other introverted people. We’re always around; we’re usually the ones listening rather than talking, watching and observing, or getting a drink solo. Introverts are masters at reading body language, and getting a feel for the energy in the room. You’ll be able to notice fellow introverts and might be lucky enough to escape to a quieter area of the event together and lament on all the things you’d rather be doing. You might even make a new friend!
Social situations can be extremely daunting for introverted people. Rather than bowing out of every event, try some of these techniques to keep yourself sane. And, always look for the balance that best suits your needs. What are your favorite ways to navigate social situations? Share your ideas in the comments!