There are different levels of introversion for an introvert, sometimes in their full nature or just depending on the circumstances. While some are fine being out of the house daily, that doesn’t mean they will feel the same about getting out to socialize at a party. Going shopping is not the same as attending your spouse’s work dinner, and running errands isn’t the same as a wedding reception.
Introvert Problems: Going Out
I’m a functional introvert, so I can leave for work (I work from home now), run errands and go on most road trips, but if leaving the house is for the sole purpose of socializing in a large group, then it’s an entirely different story because that’s not usually my idea of a good time. I will, however, be confronted with certain situations that call for my participation, like family celebrations, holidays, and even some work dinners.
So, how does my husband, friends, or kids get this introvert out of the house?
With a considerable amount of understanding and compromise.
If I break down my following “party issues”, then the things that make me uncomfortable can be identified, and thus understood, allowing for a possible compromise that satisfy both sides. Understand, though, that if an introvert truly does not want to attend, you should not force the issue. Forcing them to do something they don’t want to do will not be fun for anyone, and I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate it if the shoe were on the other foot.
The Small Talk
In many social situations, I feel uncomfortable because I know that I’ll be confronted by strangers and acquaintances, and I’m not very adept at small talk, so I just come off awkward and inept.
Small talk feels fake to me, but unfortunately, there are business dinners that I need to attend with my husband once in awhile. Honestly, I do not look forward to it, but there is a small part of me that wants to help him connect with his clients on a more personal level.
What I do: Something I can do to help myself in these situations is to prepare mentally. I can come up with some topics that are easy for me to talk about, and keep them in the back of my mind, should I need them. I can also use questions to my advantage. Questions are awesome because they direct the conversation back to the other person, while I do what I do best – listen. Doing this also shows interest, which makes the other person feel good, allowing them the opportunity to open up about something deeper. Deep is where I live, so getting them to this point allows us the possibility of connecting on a more personal level.
What they do: My husband compromises by assuring me that he’s perfectly fine carrying any “drops” in the conversation (he’s a chatty extrovert), and that he’ll keep the dinner to a minimum, meaning no cocktails or hanging out excessively after dinner. This is agreeable to both of us, and we set off on our dinner, which usually isn’t as bad as I pictured in my head.
Socializing can breed “anticipatory anxiety” in me because I don’t always know what to expect and that “not knowing” can cause me to play the “what if” game in my head, which just increases said anxiety. I don’t have a fear of judgment, just a discomfort of not knowing who will be there or what it will be like. I am an introvert who likes to be prepared and it’s hard to be prepared for something that you know nothing about.
What I do: This one is a lot harder for me to deal with because there’s usually no easy way to know what to expect until you get there. If I’m invited, it usually means that I know the host, to some degree. One thing I can do is contact them and ask who will be there, what can we bring, and get some clues about the party or event. If I don’t know the host, then this is no longer an option and I must prepare in other ways.
I make sure that I have had some time to myself before leaving for the party to recharge and talk myself in to having an open mind. I’ve had a lot of fun at some parties and family get-togethers in the past, even when I didn’t expect to, so I know there’s a good chance that I’ll have a good time again, and need to open my mind up to that possibility.
What they do: My husband, friends, or family members can join me – especially if they’re an extrovert! Extroverts love to talk, while I love to listen, so it’s a match made in heaven at a party! Most of the time, I fair much better with a couple of close friends or my spouse because it instantly raises my comfort level. I know and trust them and they know me intimately, so they completely understand if I want to leave early or need someone to talk to.
It’s easy for an introvert to feel overwhelmed at a large party of any kind, because they will be in a large group and probably in a chaotic and loud environment. I’m a highly sensitive introvert, so silence is golden to me, and a big party is quite the opposite. It can overwhelm all of my senses with loud music, bright lights, crowds, crying babies, etc.
What I do: If I feel myself getting overwhelmed, Plan A is to go outside to chill for a few, in hopes that will calm my nerves enough to stick it out a little longer, but if that doesn’t work, then it’s on to Plan B.
If an event is especially difficult for me, I will take the initiative and give myself something to do by offering to help out the host (clean up or dishes) or I will focus on playing with some of the smaller children or family pet, if there are any. I love animals and children, so that also gives me something else to focus on comfortably. At some point, though, I’m going to reach Plan C.
Before I left my house to go to the party, I gave myself permission to leave whenever I’m ready, even if it’s only been 45 minutes. I also made sure to drive myself or make arrangements with someone who’s also fine with leaving early. If I do decide to leave early, I apologize to the host, tell everyone to enjoy themselves and that I’ll look forward to seeing them again another time.
What they do: Whoever I came with knows me well enough to understand that I have a limited amount of energy to give, and if it gets to be too much, I will likely want to leave early. I would never attend a party with someone I barely know or a carpool full of extroverts because I know that wouldn’t end well for me.
Exhaustion is an overall feeling that surrounds any large party or event for me. I feel exhausted thinking about the party before it even happens, which is why it’s important to recharge before I go. I can feel it creeping in during the party, when I’m expected to do things like come up with clever things to say. And, I feel especially drained afterwards – so much effort goes out to small talking, listening, tuning out chaos, avoiding the awkward silence or fake laugh.
What I do: I make time for myself several hours before the party to mentally and emotionally prepare. During the event, I take little “time outs” as many times as needed. This can be a breath of fresh air out on the deck, a break in the bathroom, or I just find a place to hide for 5 or 10 minutes to calm down and enjoy the quiet for a little bit. I never schedule anything after a gathering, so I’m able to relax and let go of everything, and do what I want, like read or craft.
What they do: There’s not much anyone can do for me here, except to try and understand how I’m feeling. Not everyone will, but that’s ok.
Just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we’re not social. We’re just social on a smaller scale than the norm, and I’m perfectly happy with that. I know there will be days when I have to adapt or adjust to the situation, but I think most people have to come out of their comfort zone once in awhile or you could miss out on some amazing experiences. Broaden your horizons, as they say.