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An Introvert's Guide to Terrifying Social Situations: Part One

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How to Rock a Party Full of Strangers

By Kathryn Schuyler

As my friends know and my BK coworkers have quickly come to discover, I am an incurable introvert. And, like legions of my fellow introverts, words like “network,” “party,” and “talking” send me running to my closet, to either A. dig out my handy-dandy extrovert mask or B. lock myself in and hope no one notices my absence.

But in her book The Introverted Leader , Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler offers a third tactic for handling uncomfortable circumstances.

She helps introverts in leadership roles by taking a closer look at their potential responsibilities like public speaking and team management. But I’ve found that Kahnweiler’s advice can be applied even beyond the realm of the workplace. Let’s take a lesson from The Introverted Leader and find out how you and I can becomes senseis of social situations.

It’s as easy as the 4 P’s:

  • Prepare : Putting in extra work ahead of time helps ease some of your nerves and makes you more effective
  • Presence : People sometimes think introverts are in their own little world and you can be perceived negatively. Learn how to show you’re engaged.
  • Push : No matter how much you prepare, this stuff is just out of your comfort zone. You have to push yourself to do things you feel uncomfortable doing.
  • Practice : Practice makes perfect? Well, not really. But it does make things easier over time.

The 4 P’s can help us master any potentially awkward environment. Here’s a situation that scares the bejeebers out of me:

Parties with people you don’t know very well.

Scenario: You get invited to the wedding of the only high school friend you’ve kept in contact with. It’s in her college town and your significant other can’t possibly attend. Translation: You’re headed to a wedding where you know no one but the bride. Introvert translation: You’re shark bait.

  • Prepare: Look good. Trust me, you’ll be under enough pressure without worrying if that dress is your color or that tie is too reminiscent of the early 90s. Study up on the news and other weird facts to zest up your small talk. When the ceremony starts to drag, think of some conversation starters for the reception.
  • Presence: Introduce yourself to everyone at your table. Ask questions, take genuine interest, react to everything, smile. Resist the temptation to stuff your face with food every couple of seconds or pretend like you have important text messages to field (extroverts can sense when you’re just playing Candy Crush).
  • Push: Start a conversation out of the blue. It feels foreign, but social gatherings are actually for making connections you didn’t have before, so take the opportunity to form new friendships. Hit the dance floor, or if you’re not much of a dancer, join the punch table posse. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
  • Practice: Sometimes I have to pep myself up a bit to get comfortable. Start by making conversation with less intimidating people, like an elderly person or a chatterbox. When I’m feeling social-interaction deprived, I usually talk to small children because, well, they never judge. (Disclaimer: If you’re going to talk to children, make sure not to look like you’re about to abduct them. Nothing will make a party even more uncomfortable than protective parents trying to get you arrested.) If you don’t want to risk it, just find an extrovert and piggyback off of their conversations.

And, just like that, you’re a party-going guru.

Be sure to read Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler’s The Introverted Leader for an in-depth study on the 4 P’s and how to put them into practice in your workplace.

Check out Part 2 of this post on how to rock difficult phone calls!

What social situations make you wet your introverted pants? Comment below!