By Alexia Larcher
It was a Christmas family dinner in May. When my mother-in-law offered me to meet everyone at once on my first visit, I jumped at the chance. I had already met my in-laws a year before and my mother-in-law and I discovered we were fellow introverts. She wanted me to meet everyone over the party so that her son and I did not have to spend most of our vacation visiting with relatives for hours at a time. We had the party a day or two after we arrived.
Over the party, the music was so quiet I don’t remember it at all. I was able to head outside to the patio, or head over to the circle of couches. My mother-in-law offered to run friendly interference with the extroverts in the family if I asked for it. I was able to spend some time one-on-one with most of the other guests before we all sat down at the dinner table for a wonderful feast (cooked by my father-in-law). After the party, my boyfriend and I were then able to spend a good amount of time exploring the area on our own. (Yes, I feel very lucky to have them as in-laws.)
This is what I consider an ideal situation for parties. When I go to parties, I like to know a few people before I go, because it is hard to make a good impression on strangers when you are exhausted from the stimuli of daily life and then get bowled over by the hustle and conversation. It’s hard to hear anything in loud places too. My in-laws also didn’t play music at their party, which made it easier to talk to anyone without shouting. I also don’t like the pressure of having good superficial conversations with complete strangers (compared to friends of a friend), since there is no indication that they will reciprocate the courtesy or the effort.
In my case, I also had a few people who understood when I had enough. You can try to find “excuses”, such as walking the family dog or running errands for the host, to escape for an hour earlier in the day. As a host, you can also try to set up your “party space” into smaller areas where people can both stand around and talk or sit down in a small group and do what they want. (And people gravitate to sitting areas at some point of all parties anyway.) As for New Year’s, you can even choose to go to comedy clubs instead of bars and enjoy the show over a few set hours, which can be more pleasant than spending several hours in loud, crowded bars with no end in sight.
If you are planning games, do rotate between games that involve large groups looking at one person (what I call “spotlight games”) and small teams competing against each other (what I call “team games”). Invite enough people so that not everyone has to participate for the game to start. Some more tips about selecting games over the holidays: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/11/gaming-tips-for-the-holidays/
To recap, if you are hosting:
– Tell everyone who is supposed to come
– Don’t play too much music, or play it softly for most of the party
– Schedule downtime for yourself to be alone at some part of the day
– Prepare quiet seating areas for introverts
– Rotate between spotlight games and team games
If you are a guest:
– Ally with people who will understand when you’ve had enough and who can pull you out of unending conversations
– Do offer to run errands for the host outside the party area so you can catch some time alone
– Plan some downtime between parties that does not involve traveling
– Try to avoid parties where you know you will have a hard time meeting your friend’s friends and celebrate on your own terms too