I stand on the threshold of the door, hands sweaty and the corners of my mouth all twitchy. I’m about to enter a networking event, and I literally have to remind myself to breathe: I’m pretty introverted, and the thought of going into a room where I know absolutely no one is daunting.
But here’s the thing: my friends and family think I’m at totally at ease and I’m the life of the party. Sound familiar?
Here's my advice on how to be charming when you're awkward and introverted:
But before we get to the first tip, here's the first cardinal rule:
Get in the right mindset, babe. If you can't go with a good attitude, then don't go.
Ok. Ready? Let's begin:
1) Wear something comfortable.
Wear your "safe" outfit. Trust me on this one, babe: now is not the time to try the metallic hot pants. Because no matter how cool you feel at home, you'll get to the party and feel like this:
2) Why are you there?
Know what the event is AND what you want to accomplish. No one wants to see Saturday night sexy at a Sunday afternoon child's birthday party, and no one wants Tuesday kindergarten chic at a midnight bachelorette dinner. Know the event and know the players. Do you want to network? Meet the future in-laws? Have a quick drink with friends, then make a graceful exit? Know what the purpose of the event is, and you can plan how you want to fit in (or stand out) accordingly.
3) Start with "Hi."
I once jokingly introduced myself to a group of strangers as former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice. Let's just say it did not go over well. My best introduction, ever, is when I said, "My name is Erica and I oppose mayonnaise in all forms." Instant conversation starter. Or the oldie but goodie: "I don't know anyone here, and I'm pretty awkward in groups. Do you mind if I talk to you for a few minutes?" That's right, I said it: make the other person be a jerk...make them say 'no'. They won't do it, I promise. No one wants to be a jerk.
4) Ask questions.
But not about what he or she does for a living. My go-to question that never, ever fails are either of these two: ”What should I add to my Netflix queue?” or "I'm about to [fill in the activity here] and I'm making a playlist... which songs should I add?" Everyone loves to offer their opinion - I LOVE giving my opinion, and will often offer it, even if no one asks. But the BEST thing about these questions, is you'll either a) find new stuff to watch or listen or b) you'll find common ground.
5) Shhh...really listen to the answers.
Don’t try to overtake the conversation, and don’t try to be the most charming person. This is hardest for me. Once, after an elderly woman told once she lived in her hometown her whole life, I said, "Wow, that's a REALLY LONG TIME." Learn from me: be quiet and just let the conversation flow naturally.
6) Rejection sucks, but you'll live. I promise.
So you're trying to make conversation, and every attempt falls flat. It happens. They are either a) mean people who probably hate puppies (probably not true, but still), or b) more awkward than you. For the sake of your sanity and the future of humanity, try to assume it's "b." It'll make your world a happier place. But! If they're rude and dismissive, just channel Lucille Bluth:
7) Alcohol helps. But not as much as you think.
Pro: it gives you a bit of courage and is perhaps a conversation starter, if you’re drinking something interesting. Con: it makes some people a bit too over-the-top friendly (stands up and waves hello), waiting in line for drinks can make even very nice people crabby (avoids eye contact, yet still raises hand).
8) Have an exit plan.
Don’t proclaim the call of the bathroom or the “I need a new drink”…everyone knows they’re getting ditched when you pull out that excuse. Everyone knows. Instead, I say, “Well, I don’t want to (take up all of your time) or (bore you anymore)…it was great talking to you.” then I get the hell out of there. Or if I'm done with the whole event, I tell them that I'd love to stay and chat, but my Netflix queue is waiting. It’s more self-deprecating and allows me to beat a hasty retreat with a bit of humor.
9) You did it, honey. Now go home and embrace your solitude.
Do you have any party tricks? Tell me in the comments.
The Princess Diaries, Austin Powers, Blackish, Disney Parks, Never Been Kissed, RuPaul's Drag Race, Pretty Hurts/Beyonce, The Prince And The Showgirl, Arrested Development