Here's the bad news. If you're an introvert, going to work parties, networking events, and conferences is probably never going to be your favorite activity. But here's the good news: you're really not alone.
A huge number of incredibly successful professionals and entrepreneurs have similar introvert tendencies and have collectively already attended thousands of such events, developing a ton of clever coping strategies, survival tips, and helpful advice to make your next work party at least bearable... and maybe even fun.
And what's even better, many of them have generously shared their wisdom online. I've collected some of their best suggestions here.
1. Don't go.
Several experts stress that the first step to surviving work functions as an introvert is to pace yourself and only go to those events you really need to attend. "Socialization is as inevitable as it is healthy, even for introverts. However, as with any diet, there are certain things that are good for you and some stuff you can probably leave out," claims Lifehacker, noting that skipping things like celebrations for people you hardly know or regular (and noisy) weekly get togethers is often healthy.
This is also the top party survival tip of entrepreneur and investor Guy Kawasaki. "The purpose of a party is to have fun. If you can't have fun, don't go," he says.
2. Practice beforehand.
You might feel a little lame brainstorming introductory questions and conversation topics before you head out to an event, but get over it! Coming armed with some small talk starters/ extenders will make your life a lot more pleasant.
If you know who will be attending, you can even personalize your preparations a bit. "Refresh your memory for stories that involve some of your colleagues. Also take a moment to remember details about their personal lives--like their kids and hobbies. That way, if a conversation veers into awkward pauses, you'll have a few life boats ready to go," suggests The Week.
3. Recharge before and after.
"One of the key differences between introverts and extroverts," Lifehacker points out, "is that introverts recharge their metaphorical batteries by being alone, while extroverts tend to enjoy crowds and stimulation. While your extroverted friends are coming to the party to get energized, as an introvert you need to come prepared with your own fuel."
That means it's a good idea to recharge your batteries with some quiet time before you head out to the event. And while you're at it, plan to give yourself some space to unwind after the party and before you have to rejoin the social world.
4. Find a fellow introvert.
This tip from Bustle combines effectiveness and kindness: when you're struggling to insert yourself into conversations at an event, skip trying to elbow your way into happily established groups and seek out others who are struggling instead.
"Look for the people who are drifting themselves, and having a quiet introductory conversation. You can bond over how few people you know," suggests the site. You'll ease their tension and probably your own too.
5. Recruit a wingman (or woman).
If a work event is going to involve lots of people you don't already know, a bit of preparation can make all the difference, say a number of experts. If at all possible, ensure that you go to an event with at least one person who knows both you and other attendees. "Let your friend start conversations with someone you don't know, then offer your input as they discuss," instructs Lifehacker.
Problogger's Darren Rowse recommends the same strategy: "Where possible make a connection with someone who will be at the party before you go. If it's a conference, watch hashtags on social media and reach out to others who will be at the event. You might even want to plan to meet before the event for a drink so you can go in together."
6. Wear a conversation starter.
Struggle with small talk? Leverage your clothing and accessories to help. "Wear ONE great necklace/timepiece/pair of earrings that might function as a conversation-starter. (It's easy for others to start chatting if they have something to compliment you on)," says style expert Jacqui Stafford.
"Wearing a distinctive clothing item can be a great icebreaker, whether it's a Madeleine Albright-style signature brooch (which can spark a conversation about the trip to Italy where you bought it), a tie from your alma mater ('you're a Longhorn, too?!?'), or colorful socks," consultant Dorie Clark agrees.
7. Have an escape plan.
For the love of all that's holy, if you're an introvert don't carpool to an event. You need to be able to leave when your social energy reserves are depleted. "An exit plan is an introvert's kindest gift to herself," notes Bustle. "Don't pin it on anybody else--they may want to stay and enjoy the vibes. Have timetables, bus money, and cab fare sorted so you can jet when you like."
8. Be helpful.
The more unfilled time you have at an event, the more time you'll have to fret. So consider keeping yourself busy by being useful. "Chances are you know the host or whoever's trying to hold the party together--and that they'll appreciate your offer to chop cucumber, run out for ice, or stir the sauce," Bustle claims. If it's a catered event there may be less scope to be help out, but you can probably still offer to make an introduction, point someone towards the bathroom, or grab an additional canap.
Or consider taking on some responsibility for planning or running the event. Self-proclaimed introvert and author of You Majored in What? Katharine suggests this in Psychology Today: "I navigate the holiday party season by creating my own smaller parties. Because I'm the host, I keep busy with all the preparations and cooking, and I let my guests do the talking and mingling."
9. Hide in the bathroom if you have to.
The more dignified term for this is "taking a breather" and it's a strategy endorsed by a ton of experts. "The key to keeping a healthy energy going is to take frequent timeouts," says party-hating entrepreneur Aaron Lee, for instance. "Find a quiet spot and spend time alone to re-energize. Don't rush it."
"If you run out of steam early on, don't feel weird about taking breaks--bathroom breaks, smoking breaks, e-cig breaks--whatever it takes to get away for a second," concurs The Week. Even try "texting' breaks, where you really just play a little Candy Crush and zone out for a sec."
Can't physically slip out of that crowded room? Make a little bubble of peace for yourself by checking out some aspect of the decor or a nice informational display, suggests introvert coach Michaela Chung. "Looking at a bulletin board, bookcase, or coffee table book allows us to refocus and calm our mind," she explains.
10. Arrive early.
It's harder to break into established conversations, so introverts should definitely think twice before arriving fashionably late. "Always arrive early," Lee also advises. "It's easier since there aren't many people there and you can engage in a small group of people first. I find this the best way to survive a party."
Do you have any tips to add to the list?