Do it your way

Do it your way

New Year’s Eve is an extrovert’s dream holiday. You party all night long in Time Square or some other overly crowded place and kiss strangers at midnight. As an introverted single, I would never do these things unless I had a lot of alcohol. Result: New Year’s was always a mixed bag. Going to a bar to try to generate relationships with complete strangers takes a

lot of energy, and did I mention alcohol? Luckily, only once did I spend way too much money on a crappy club party, watered down drinks, and a midnight breakfast with the hope of meeting someone special. I would rather have spent the time dancing and dining with a small group of friends.

Why didn’t I do what I really wanted? I blame it on a whole list of “shoulds.” The two biggies were: “I should get out and try to meet someone,” and “I don’t feel like I have a lot of options, so I should take whatever plans I can get.” My social life was in flux and any plan was better than no plan at all.

I’m an advocate for doing what you really want on New Year’s, but if you can’t let yourself off the big party hook, be kind to yourself.  Many a party I berated myself for not being a social butterfly, bouncing from person to person. Try not to compare yourself to the extroverts. They need a high level of face time to feel energetic. They can stand in a group throwing out jokes, quips and one-liners at the speed of lightning and get more and more energized by it. Extroverts use their short-term memory, so when they think something it pops out of their mouth simultaneously. Introverts tend to wilt in this situation. Our one-liners come from our long-term memory, and by the time we come up with our witty reply, the conversation has moved on.

Engaging in a deeper conversation with one person is a comfy situation for an introvert. Learn to spot other introverts to chat with.  They’ll be relieved to be exempt from working the room, too. Also, try to find yourself a chair—you’ll feel more content and grounded if you can sit down. 

If you run into someone worth meeting, it’s golden if you can get introduced. If not, consider taking the initiative. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be assertive. You’ll just want to break the interaction into small chunks. Make eye contact and smile when you’re one on one at the food table. A little later, say hello and smile. Think of a few easy comments to make, initiate chit-chat again, and introduce yourself. Move away to regroup and breathe. After some time, say hello again and have a longer conversation. You’ll feel like old friends by the end of the night. 

There are plenty of resources out there for introverts to help you succeed in social situations. The trick is to look for strategies that take advantage of your strengths, which may be very different from an extrovert’s social strengths. While they might meet more people, you probably can get to a deeper level of interaction very quickly. For more on this, I frequently recommend The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Laney, to my clients.