Your company's holiday party is coming up and you're dreading it. Your long-time friend has invited you to a dinner that will include people you don't know and the thought of it makes your stomach turn. If you can identify with these, chances are you're an introvert.
According to Susan Cain's bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, "…introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating." This is not to be confused with being shy. She writes, "Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation."
With the holidays come the expectations of increased socializing with friends, families, and co-workers. Whereas some people look forward to this festive time of the year, for an introvert, the word "socialize" can evoke shivers.
Take a deep breath! There is no need to despair. It's possible to enjoy your social engagements during the holiday season provided that you put thought into how you will navigate this jolly good time of the year!
First, I want you to ask yourself, "What am I afraid of." Are you afraid of starting a conversation, do you hate small talk, or maybe you're concerned about being judged. Being aware of your fear will help you develop a plan of action.
Have a Plan and Work Your Plan
Go with a game plan. Start by connecting with people you know. However, I encourage you to engage with at least one person you do not know. Before you get to the event, decide that you will talk to at least three or four people and don't leave until you do!
Similarly, you can set a minimum amount of time to stay at the party. But make sure you don't jet out until you achieve your goal of talking to a certain number of people. Who knows? You may end up staying longer!
Even though it can be tempting, don't channel Houdini and disappear. When it's time to leave, make a graceful exit. Find the host and thank him or her for the invitation. You can briefly express to them your experience by saying, "I had a really good time." People like to know that you enjoyed yourself.
Look Forward to Conversations
Typically, introverts are good at having one-on-one conversations. Focus on having meaningful conversations with a few people instead of feeling the need to work the room like a social butterfly. It's not necessary to do this in order to have a good time.
If starting a conversation make you uncomfortable, be equipped with a few conversation starters, such as, "Are you enjoying the party?" "How do you know the host?" or "How long have you worked at ABC Company?", etc. Unless it's someone you know well, stay away from topics that could become emotionally charged like politics and religion.
After the initial pleasantries, try and find something you have in common with the other person. It could be sports, a certain hobby, or you might enjoy the same genre of music. This will allow you to expand on the conversation by relating what you know on the topic. In contrast, it's also important to know how to move on when you realize there is not a connection. Simply say, "It was nice speaking with you, I'm going to check-in with other guests."
Rehearse. Practice using your conversation starters at home. I urge you to practice while looking in a mirror. Pay attention to your tone, volume, and rate of speech. It might sound silly, but it will help ease the anxiety.
Nervous people have a tendency to interrupt others when they're speaking. You think about your response before the person finishes their thought. Don't do this. Listen intently to what the other person is saying and respond accordingly.
Check Your Thinking at the Door
The thoughts you have about going out for the holidays might need to be adjusted. In other words, you might need to have an attitude adjustment. For instance, if you tell yourself that you will not have a good time, that no one will talk to you, or that people will find you boring, then chances are likely this will happen. Instead, go with the intention of having an enjoyable time, and the odds are likely that you will.
Tell yourself repeatedly to think differently. This can be done by reciting prayer or repeating an affirmation. You might choose something very specific, such as, "Socializing is enjoyable." Or, something a little broader, like, "I can do all things through Christ."
Once you've worked your plan you can leave feeling accomplished. Great job! You made it! Something you dreaded turned out to be something you enjoyed. Sometimes things are not as bad as you think.