Introverts are a special breed. I should know--I am one. Over the past few years, I've learned a few tricks to help me survive tech conferences, group meetings, and other social interactions. In most cases, it means asking the right questions so you know the plan. For introverts, this helps us figure out how we should act or if we should strategize about how to avoid awkward situations where we're expected to be extroverted.
If you know an introvert, listen for these questions--they are a sign that person is trying to prepare for a social setting. If you are one, try asking these questions as a way to help you cope and as a way to understand yourself.
1. "Is this going to be a sit-down dinner or a buffet?"
It seems like an odd question, but it makes sense to an introvert. A buffet is always preferred because it means more flexibility. You can get food, sit, eat, and leave. A formal sit-down may be structured (which is a good thing) but it forces social interaction.
2. "Is this a meet and greet?"
Introverts like there to be a formal structure if it means we can predict what will happen and what is expected of us. If things are too loose, it means we might have to engage in spontaneous conversation or even speak in front of a group.
3. "Do I have to speak in front of a group?"
If there is a speaking role, we can make it work. We will prepare and practice. If we're going to be put on the spot, we at least like to know that might happen.
4. "Will I need to partner up with anyone?"
This is the worst predicament. It reminds us of a middle school dance. Introverts are not good at spontaneous, instant connections that are forced and required. If people will pair off to discuss a topic or even go to lunch, it's like prison sentence.
5. "How long does it last?"
Introverts like to know how long something will last because we have a limited supply of energy. If it's an all day activity with a large group, we'll need some breaks.
6. "Who will be there?"
We also like to get the lay of the land. Is there a meeting that involves new social interactions, or is it with a team of people we already know? It helps us determine if this will be a room full of extroverts that make us stand out even more as a loner.
7. "Can I bring a colleague?"
The number one strategy for any new social interaction for introverts is to bring someone along, preferably an extrovert. It relieves a lot of stress to know there is someone who can carry the conversation. It gives us someone to lean on.
8. "Is there a rule about using a smartphone?"
I've heard more and more companies making rules about smartphone use during meetings. Don't do it. You will make the introverts even more stressed. We like to be able to turn to a phone to catch up on news or text with people during awkward conversation pauses.