In the zone: Tips for introverts at social events and parties

Having to be social can put introverts squarely out of their comfort zone. Here are some strategies to socialise with ease.

By Monique McKenzie
Ever turned up to a social gathering and realised you didn't actually want to be there? Does the word 'networking', and being faced with a large group of strangers, bring out your insecurities?
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, "The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamp-lit desk." If you prefer the latter, here's how to flourish…

1. Arrive to the function early

This way you can get a feel for the room and have people coming in to meet you, rather than you going in to meet them.
This allows you to face smaller interactions to begin with rather than being faced with a big group all at once.

2. Ask for an introduction

If you make a connection at an event, it's tempting to stick with them for the duration. Force yourself out of your comfort zone by creating a goal.
Set a number of people to meet within a certain amount of time. If you know someone there, join their group and ask for a warm introduction. If you're nervous in conversations, remember you don't have to speak the entire time. Use well-placed insights to demonstrate intelligence rather than speaking continuously.
If you're nervous, you don't have to speak for the entire time. (Image: Getty Images)

3. Baby steps

If approaching even one person scares you, take it one step at a time. According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, people are happiest when doing something slightly outside their comfort zone. Begin with a safety net.
For example, walk up to a stranger with a friend in tow. Start the conversation and let your friend take over. Once you've done this a few times, take the conversation further – tell a story.

4. Act like an extrovert

"Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly," says Susan.
When needed, you can act like an extrovert, and still maintain your authenticity while doing so. Just remember to reserve the quiet time you need for balance later on.
WATCH: Seven tips for making small talk. Post continues...

5. Take note

Bad at remembering names, even immediately after being introduced? It could be because while people are introducing themselves, the little voice in your head is saying "Don't forget their name", and consequently drowns out the very thing you were listening for.
Help avoid this by repeating their name back to them, and then later writing a quick note on your phone. Remind yourself of context – where you met, or what the person was interested in. You can then reconnect with them via social media or email afterwards.

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