Parties. You love them. Or hate them. For introverts they can be torture.
If you tend to be a 'quiet' person, it's easy to convince yourself that staying at home is the better option. It's not.
A successful life is down to how adept you are at attracting personal and professional opportunities into your life, and the lives of everyone else you know. Meeting new people face-to-face is the single best way of doing that. It applies equally for purely social events as well as work related parties, drinks receptions etc.
You don't have to be someone you're not. So, here are some simple tips for introverts on how to navigate your next party, whilst still being the 'real' you.
In my conference talks on networking, I usually joke that it's the fault of our mothers for not initiating conversations with strangers because who hasn't had it drummed into them from an early age "DON'T talk to strangers! It's dangerous!"
From now on, make the following decisions;
• Think of strangers merely as 'friends you haven't met yet'. It is highly possible some of these strangers could become your closest friends in the future, a lover or even a spouse. This mind-set shift can have a profound calming effect.
• Promise yourself that you won't spend all your time only talking to people you already know. This is called 'clumping'. It usually takes place in the kitchen at house parties. Don't do it.
• Realise this; the vast majority of people feel anxious talking to strangers. Walking into a party makes a lot of people feel self-conscious. If you feel anxious or nervous - it's OK. Everyone gets butterflies in their stomachs. The trick is to get them to fly in formation!
'Nerves' are a form of energy. When that energy is directed inwards it can feel crippling. So direct that energy outwards by helping others to feel more at ease. Focussing on other people not only helps them of course, but it's a great distraction for you. You will stop thinking so much about how awkward you feel.
Arriving late, when a party is in full swing can be incredibly intimidating for a shy person - so don't do that. Instead, get there early. Offer to help the host/ess. Use that time to find out who else they have invited and who they think you should meet. Ask the host to introduce you to a few people.
Being among the first to arrive, you also increase the likelihood that you become part of a small group, who newcomers will tend to join too. This way, you increase the probability of meeting more people without having to start 'cold' conversations with strangers.
This is a powerful technique; imagine your best friend will arrive at some point and expect you to introduce them to the people you are talking to. This way, you will be far more likely to make a concerted effort to remember every name of those you meet.
Always offer your name first when you meet someone for the first time. Ask for theirs. Then slow down and make a conscious effort to remember the name. If you didn't catch it first time, don't let it go. Ask for it to be repeated. If it's a foreign name, even ask them to spell it for you. It shows you care about who you're talking to. Once you're confident you know the name correctly, use it occasionally in your conversation. By embedding the name in your mind, it can become invaluable later.
If or when you see someone on the outskirts of the group who look as if they'd like to join - be proactive and invite them in. After offering your name, ask for theirs. And then, one-by-one introduce the new person to everyone else in the group by name.
It is so impressive.
Not only will this be appreciated by the newcomer, it will also impress the hell out of everyone else in the group. Because most of them, even though they've been chatting to new people for a while, have no idea who they are! So you'd be helping them too.
But what if you can't remember the names of some of these people? That's not a problem. All you say is "I don't actually know your name. What is it?" Or if you had been told, but had forgotten, be honest and say "I've forgotten your name. Sorry. What is it?"
If you're not in a group, spot people who look on their own. Play 'host/ess' with them - it doesn't matter that you're not. Start with a warm smile. Welcome them. Ask how they know the host. Find some common ground. Ask who else they know at the party. If they don't, you can say (if its true) that you already have something in common, because you don't know anyone either.
Listen attentively. Give them your undivided attention. Be genuinely interested. Too many people don't listen, using the time someone else is talking to work out what they are going to say next, in order to sound interesting. Perversely, the more interested you are in others, the more interesting others will think you are.
Quiet people can be brilliant at building relationships in this way.
If you meet anyone you feel you really connected with and would like to stay in touch, its critically important you capture their contact details in that moment. Ask to send an SMS message to them right there so you can follow up in the future. Someone I know asks new people what social networks they belong to. They have apps on their phone for most sites. Opens the relevant one, hands over their phone and gets their new friend to 'invite' them.
One final thing; if you find yourself starting to enjoy yourself, remember to tell your face! A smile is free.