I know. I know. You’re freaking out because you have a friend’s birthday to go to. It’s also that time of year again – the holidays! I understand. Shhhh. I’ve got some ideas and tips.
First, the good news. You don’t have to go out to every event you are invited to. And if you’re anything like me, folks will stop inviting you because you’ll be known for being a homebody. Problem solved!
The bad news is you will have to go out occasionally.
You may scream. I’ll wait.
// the invite
Here’s what I’ve figured out. If it’s a close friend’s birthday, you have to go.
Company parties, it depends. I’ve gone to most of the staff parties, and only one out of three Christmas parties so far. Seems backwards, right? I figured it’s better to make frequent and brief appearances than look like I’m just mooching off of the big event. Frankly, by the time the end of the year rolls around, I can’t be bothered.
Going away parties, yes. When I couldn’t make it because I was sick, I’ve been made to feel horribly bad. People do notice these things as it turns out. Weddings depend also on the closeness, and the cost, so as an expat, I hardly go to weddings. Score!
Okay. So here’s the deciding factor, if you’ve been invited to a function you have to ask yourself: Will I feel massively guilty if I don’t go? If the answer is yes then you know what you have to do.
// when you have to go
This is what I ALWAYS do. I show up, spend some time, then I leave. I’m home well before midnight, and I have time to read in bed. The best.
What I’ve discovered is whinging and whining prior to the event just makes matter’s worse, and often it’s not that bad once you’re out.
Remember, you have to make an appearance. Take some photos, maybe a selfie. Bringing a gift is good, too. It’s the thought that counts.
// what to do when you’re there
I stick to conversations with a friend or two. I’m not a social butterfly, but those who are will usually find you so you don’t have to exhaust yourself running around. (Unless running around is your thing; sometimes I do that and then I get it out of the way.)
Sometimes I see how long I can sit there without conversation and just watch the crowd. I don’t mind. (Recently, I was at a conference, and there were times I sat alone. Practice makes perfect.)
I mean, these days, people look at their phones anyway. It’s kind of weird actually, watching folks at a social event staring at their little screens.
And if you are really terrified about being in a room full of people, you can do just that – look at your phone. But I try to talk and be friendly, and then I quickly get that out of my system and head home. It’s nice when you have a buddy who also is interested in leaving early. If you’re clever, you leave when a bunch of fresh people arrive.
//how to organize your own event
This is what I’ve learned: people are busy, trying to coordinate a time + place for a group of friends = HUGE pain in the A.
Plus, if your friends don’t or can’t come, you can end up feeling terrified that it’s personal and scare yourself out of doing something social ever again.
So here’s how to handle planning a get together. You decide that you are going to be someplace at a particular time and place. Yes, you decide, everything.
“Hey y’all, Katie and I going to check out the new Star Wars flick this Sat at 9pm. Join us if you can, or catch us before at dinner at 7.30 at Ray’s Italian.”
It helps if you and a friend have planned something already. Then, even if no one can make it, it doesn’t matter; you had plans, you simply extended invitations to others.
This is important because people will try to talk you out of it so that it works around their schedule and sometimes you can, depending on the group, but I recommend keeping it simple, testing waters before putting out the invite, and sticking to your plan so you won’t be disappointed.
// the art of conversation
I’m naturally curious about other people. I think that’s because I love stories and consider myself a storyteller. So what I usually do is ask the other person about them. Sometimes I’ve gone entire conversations without the other person learning much about me. I consider this a great success because despite writing memoir, I’m actually not into ME (seen any goofy pictures lately?), but my place in the world, looking behind curtains, and being a nice person, you know?
Also, people act weird when you tell them you’re a writer. It’s okay though. I don’t expect anyone to give a hoot, even though I’m interested in their reactions. I’m also quite bad at selling myself, and I’m still trying to figure out how to explain stuff. Actually, now that I’ve been writing short stories, folks are more keen. Something about memoir REALLY makes people think you’re a nut in a case…
Although since I’m an avid reader, sharing what kind of training bodyguards go through or the latest archaeological discovery can be great icebreakers. (Anyone else thinking of Bridget Jones practicing how to say “Chechnya”?) Sometimes I have a question rolling around in my head about a blog post I’m working on so I can do some surveying in a group, too.
Are you an introvert? How do you socialize?