Friday, January 23, 2015

Introverts and parties

The myth of introverts as a minority

Recent books and studies are finally debunking the myth that introverts are a minority. Around half of the population consists of introvert - yet introverts often feel as if they are the only ones - after all, our society teaches us "the more the merrier", "parties are fun", and that being social and having fun come hand in hand. For extroverts, that is true. For introverts a hell of a party is more like hell indeed. Considering that half of the population is introvert, you might imagine that plenty of people do not have much fun during parties. But are introverts automatically party poopers?
It depends very much on how you look at it - and when both sides have respect for each other, even introverts can have fun. In certain doses. They might still be the first ones to leave a party, or to look for a quiet spot.

Introverts and parties

When you ask an introvert to go on a part, you probably have no idea how much you push that person into a corner. He or she has a few options:

  1. say yes to be polite and appear as normal - after all, parties are soooo much fun, right?
  2. say no and pretend that he/she already has other plans
  3. say no and be honest about why he/she does not want to go, risk being misunderstood, laughed at, ridiculed, maybe even bullied

I am an introvert myself, and I know what goes on inside me when people invite me to an event that I will not feel comfortable with. "But," all the extroverts think, "what is wrong with a party? It's soooo much fun." Let me tell you: the bigger, the louder, the busier it is, the more of a hell it will be for the normal introvert. Introverts prefer quality of quantity when it comes to interaction with other people. We like to be able to focus on the other person, and we want the other person to pay attention to us, too. We are looking for connections on a deeper level, more thoughtful connections.
During a party, especially when we hardly know anybody, we can easily feel abandoned and uncomfortable, because:
  • we can't expect our friend who invited us to hang out with us all the time, and we are also realistic enough to know that our friend loves socialising with others and most likely also is far more popular than us,
  • we aren't good at small talk, and we have problems with getting conversations with strangers going. Not because we are shy (shyness is actually - believe it or not - a problem of extroverts), not because we don't like talking to other people, but because small talks bores us, drains us, and leaves us feel empty, and we are also worried that the other person might think we're not fun enough,
  • social interaction drains our energy pool. We need regular breaks, we need to be able to retreat, and during parties this is often not possible,
  • everybody wants to make you believe that parties are fun, and as an introvert, you do not express fun in the same loud way as extroverts. The introvert then looks at all the other happy people, and blames himself/herself for not being like them, for not being fun enough. We introverts don't want to keep people from having fun, we might even have fun, but we just are not as expressive about it. We are quiet people, and when we feel pressured into being different, it makes us feel miserable,
  • introverts like to think before they speak, and during parties, conversations are often rushed, and the void - i.e. when an introvert thinks about what the right thing to say would be - will usually quickly be filled by the extrovert who talks and talks and talks without ever considering the introvert.

The right to say "no" - make it your right

This is for the introverts: You all know what I am talking about, you all know what it's like to be invited to a party, and to feel like the person who has the least fun during a party, the person who feels pressured, and the person who even feels alienated from himself/herself - asking yourself: "Why can't I be like them? Is something wrong with me? Why don't I have more fun? Why don't I yell, and sing, and dance, and have superficial conversations?"
You need to allow yourself the right to say "no" if you really do not feel like going to a party. Say "no" to self-alienation. Say "no" to stress. And if you are not sure about whether you would like to go to a party, because it actually is about something you like, then make sure you make a well informed decision, e.g. how big is the party, what is the setting, will you have a chance to take a walk, have a break, how can you leave the party without imposing on someone else (i.e. organize your own transport, don't share a car with someone, be independent!).
During the party, try to be a spectator. Instead of forcing yourself to be like the extroverts, enjoy the party in your own way. Take a break when you need to. Leave as early as you want.

How to make an introvert friend feel more at ease during a party

If you are the extrovert who really, really wants an introvert friend to come to a party, then try to understand how an introvert feels. After all, we introverts are forced to be like extroverts often enough - so why not make the effort as an extrovert to understand the other side? You could even talk about it to your introvert friend.
One thing you can do to make an introvert friend feel more at ease is to have an agreement that you will not totally abandon your friend, i.e. talk to him/her, check in on him or her every now and then if you socialise with others, etc. Ask him/her how he/she feels, and let them go home when they want to go home. Don't try to make them feel bad about wanting to go. When an introverts says he/she wants to go home he/she REALLY means it.

In general see it that way: The introvert doesn't bully you into joining him/her when he/she goes to places that are special to them, so maybe you should also respect their decisions? Don't stop asking them, don't stop being a friend - but respect it when they feel that a party is not the right thing for them to do. And if they go to a party that is very important to you - to be your moral support -, then maybe you could offer them to do something with them that would be special for them.

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