In Writing

I am what is known as an introvert.  A lot of people think that means I’m shy.  If you’ve ever seen me holding court at a gathering, reveling in making a group laugh, you know I am decidedly not shy.  Being introverted just means that groups of people feel draining, especially over long periods of time.  Being in a group, for me and millions like me, feels like running down a battery.  At some point I’ve got to go away and recharge.

Psychology Today says this about introverts: “Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness… but many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to. In fact, the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts.”

So, as you might imagine, a tendency to be introverted often makes December a challenge, especially if you have a bunch of extroverted friends who (sweetly, delightfully) invite you to parties.  Here’s how to get through:

1.  Decide on what kind of arrival you like, and then plan for that.  Some introverts like to arrive right at the start of the party to feel like the crowd starts small and manageable and they then adjust more easily as new folks arrive.  I personally like arriving at a party in full swing so I can blend in more easily.  I always arrive at least an hour after the party’s start time.  Of course, this only works for “open house”-style parties.  Don’t pull this at a dinner party.

2.  Buy the gift you’re going to bring ahead of time.  You don’t need another excuse to drag your feet in getting to the party.  Feel prepared by buying the gift ahead of time.  While you’re at it, plan your outfit in advance too.

3. Give yourself permission to only stick around for as much of the party as you can take.  Part of the reason I grew to dread parties is because I used to think I had to go at the start and stay until the end.  It’s not an endurance test.  Stay for as long as you can.

4. Find the host as soon as you arrive.  Any host worthy of the title will usually introduce you to someone.  Start the socializing with that person. Don’t linger around the host, who has a whole party full of people to attend to, as much as you might crave spending time with the only person you know at the shindig.

5. Don’t be afraid of feeling awkward.  It’s bound to happen.  One trigger for me is the weird way in which conversations end at parties… or rather, how they don’t.  The fluid nature of how people drift in and out of groups feels very strange to me.  I have come to accept that’s just a feeling I’ll get at a party at some point.

6.  Don’t wonder what people are thinking about you.  They’re usually not giving you much thought past the superficial.  So don’t let it stress you out.

7.  Don’t drink too much.  We often drink to “loosen up.”  If you do, you’re much more likely to do something that will make you cringe the next morning thereby increasing your dread of parties.  Keep your wits about you.  I have a one-drink rule at parties.

8.  Plan an easy escape.  I always leave my coat in the car, even in coldest day in winter, so I don’t have to rummage through a pile of them before I can get out of Dodge.  I’ve stayed at parties longer and more comfortably just knowing all I had to do is get up and walk out.  It’s worth the short, cold walk to the car for me.

9.  Have fun!  All these coping mechanisms might make it sound like parties are torture, but they can be a lot of fun.  It helps to accept that, as an introvert, you’ll get something different from a party than your extroverted friends.  I usually have a handful of deep, meaningful conversation with interesting people.  I’m not one for small talk.  I won’t wind up talking to half the party, but the conversations I do wind up having are amazing.

10. Recover.  Just because it was fun doesn’t mean it wasn’t draining.  After a party, I like to snuggle up in my fuzziest blanket and read a book.  Because… I’m an introvert.  Books give me power.

This holiday season I have five parties to get through.  Five!  I’ve survived four admirably.  Now I’m just resting up for the fifth.


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