The Extrovert's Guide to Partying with Introverts
I was speaking to an extrovert friend the other day and was surprised to learn that sometimes extroverts feel like they have to walk around on eggshells around introverts. What is invasive? What is obnoxious? How on earth do you avoid small talk 100% of the time? Do introverts really dislike being around people?
No. Introverts need people and relationships too, but introspection is our thing and we must have times, places, and spaces to do it in. Certain things wear us out. I guess you can call that the need to recharge if that floats your boat, but the term seems to imply to you that seeing people is a burden. Goodness no. We're just taking extra time to process things to prevent piling up on ourselves, and eventually on you if it gets to be too much.
There are <gasp> even times when we return from hanging out with people refreshed. I know, all the introverty-introverts are probably going to kill me for saying this, but for many of us it's a limited truth nonetheless. There's a few things that go into this magic.
1. THE SETTING
Introverts often need a cozy corner and the (unspoken) permission to withdraw during a party. I promise you, we are not being anti-social, just taking a moment to reorient a bit. I don't know why exactly, but it takes effort to contribute meaningfully to a social gathering for an introvert so sometimes it's that breather that keeps us from wearing and disappearing completely.
Also, for the love of all that's hospitable let us help you cook or finish setting up the party, or give us a drink to hold.
The takeaway: something to do with our hands is essential. I know it's rude in some settings, but sometimes I hold on to my phone just a little longer because I'm nervous about the party. If we offer to help, you can be pretty sure we mean it.
2. THE SMALL TALK
Contrary to public opinion we are capable of small talk, but it is not where we feel alive. To me at least, it is the means to an end and not an end in itself. Despite what we say about hating small talk, we know there is a place for some warming up before running a marathon with someone. You'll tear a social muscle with that kind of talk and we can acknowledge that with a mumble if we have to.
The takeaway: semi-personal stories are a safe place. it's ok to ask us about that scar on our arm, or what we enjoy most about the area we live in, or if we know how the best craft beers are made? Believe me, we don't in the least mind small talk that is infused with a story, or if that can't be achieved, learning something new. Most times we'll definitely be trying to meet you halfway.
3. THE ENTERTAINMENT
Group games at parties terrify me if it requires going into the spotlight. This isn't all introverts but generally scares quite a few of us. For the sake of the party we often try, though occasionally several people may disappear to go talk over the meaning of life in a corner. I understand that there's a lot of good sportsmanship in playing anyway, and that trying uncomfortable things is good, but please be kind to us and have some games that are a little less "out there."
The takeaway: Down time is appreciated. A good way to to do this is maybe 1-2 rounds of an ice-breaker game that everyone can participate in, but also create space in the evening for smaller groups to talk or play a quieter version of something.
I apologize in advance if I have overlooked saying goodbye to someone at a party. Perhaps this isn't true of everyone, but unless it's a small and intimate party I would rather slip out quietly. The reason is pretty simple: for an introvert the end of an evening often signals an intense need to be alone and for me it is often because I don't have the mental energy left to say goodbye to everyone in the room. I usually just hope and pray no one will be offended by a simple wave and exit.
The Takeaway: a lack of goodbye is not intended as an offense. Of course it is polite to at least thank the hosts and say goodbye, but if someone is suddenly missing and it's pretty much the proper time that someone would be going home they probably just left.
PERMISSION TO BE OURSELVES
With that, I have one last thing to say. I like you and hope you know that. I don't think my way of doing things is any better than yours. Maybe I'm shy, maybe you're not. Maybe I have to introspect to figure the world out and maybe you do it by going to a party. It's two different ways of arriving at a conclusion, but either way, good human connections have always taken effort from both sides.
Meet halfway? No eggshells needed, but is anyone bringing brownies? Brownies speak all languages.
Hope to see you there,