My husband and I were invited to a party this past weekend. My friend Mel was co-hosting, and this party is a pretty big deal among those who’ve gone in the past. What used to be a small gathering of co-workers has turned into a group of 45-50 people. It’s turned into quite a yearly event. We were invited last year and I can’t remember why we didn’t go but this year I decided that unless I was downright bedridden, we were going. My decision, per usual Ellen-Style fashion, left me fidgeting days before the party. I knew that getting out of the house would be good for me and that I’d consider it a huge achievement when it was over (like climbing Mount Everest) but that initial feeling I get beforehand, that cocktail of nerves and butterflies – that’s what I have a hard time working through.
Introverts get a bad rap by most standards. We tend to get labeled by those who don’t know us as being rude, pretentious weirdos who don’t like people. I suppose all is fair in love and war however, because extroverts get just as bad a rap by being labeled as overly energetic, attention-seeking socialites who hate to be alone.
I will admit, I used to consider myself completely and utterly flawed as an introvert. I wanted nothing more than to be an extrovert for many reasons, but specifically because I was fascinated with their ability to gain energy from large groups of people. As an introvert, being in large groups has always been very draining for me. Over the past few years, I’ve started reevaluating my personality, my nature vs. nurture behavior. I am learning to embrace the fact that I am who I am, and if that’s an honest to goodness introvert then so be it.
This is my house. Welcome to where I live.
1. I’m not a recluse. I love people. In fact, the few friends that I do have, I value intensely.
2. I don’t dislike going out in public. I just view social engagements differently; I don’t like being out in public for as long as extroverts do. It doesn’t take me very long to see what’s happening around me, so I can assess situations fairly quickly. I ‘get’ what’s going on and once I’ve experienced enough of my surroundings, I’m ready to go home. It’s not that I’m bored or that I think the outing is lame. It’s just that I get a bit drained of mental energy; I need to go home, soak in the experience and recharge.
3. I am not boring. I prefer the term ‘exotic’ or ‘unique’! lol I have plenty of things that I love to do. It’s just that I tend to enjoy doing things that challenge me mentally and emotionally more than socially. How many unique exotics do you know that are boring?
4. By definition, I am not shy. I can certainly talk to strangers; I just need to have something to talk about. I prefer to engage in a conversation, not small-talk. Unfortunately, small-talk is what generally drives conversations where groups of people congregate.
A dear friend of mine recently provided with me with a list of tips on how to engage in small-talk when it doesn’t come naturally. You can find the full article here. Basically, it involves asking questions that will encourage a conversation. I received this list after my party this weekend but upon reading it I was glad to see that I’d used some of the conversation-starters on my own:
‘So, how do you know our host/hostess?’
‘Have you been to this party before?’
‘What line of work are you in?’ (an oldie, but it works!)
What I liked about the article most was being reminded of this line: Your words may be forgotten, but how you make people feel will be remembered.
That is completely and utterly true.
So, you ask – how did the party go this weekend? I was glad that I went, and it helped solidify some newly found friendships which is always a good thing. Plus, when we get invited to future events it won’t be so stressful beforehand because I will have already seen most of these people before. In true introvert fashion though, I was ready to go home within 4 hours of arriving, apparently just as the party was getting started! The thing that I learned about my friend Mel that I really value: she takes no offense when I’m ready to leave, nor does she make me feel guilty for not staying longer. She’s just happy that I’m there. In other words, she lets me be me.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you find that people label you inaccurately? What’s your best tip for breaking the ice at a party?