11 tips for introverts who are already freaking out about holiday party season

Think of it as a fun challenge — not the bane of your week.

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Think of it as a fun challenge — not the bane of your week.
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Kirill Kolchanov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

  • We’re quickly coming up on perhaps one of the most dreaded times of the year for introverts: The holidays.
  • That’s because just about every company is throwing holiday parties.
  • Here’s are 11 tips for introverts and shy folks to help them deal with the onslaught of party invites.

Most introverts gain energy from being alone, while extroverts tend to thrive while socializing in large groups of people.

Unfortunately for the former category, who comprise around a third to one half of the population, holiday party season is coming up. That means huge crowds of unfamiliar folks, a lot of mingling, and probably not the sort of in-depth, one-on-one chats that introverts tend to enjoy.

Still, introverts can survive holiday parties aplenty – and they might even enjoy them.

Here’s your survival guide:


Show up

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You might be tempted to skip. Don’t do it.

To show that you’re committed to the company, make sure you show up for at least 30 minutes. Always assume company gatherings are “must attend” events.

“If you never show up at company events, you lose brownie points,” Karen Wickre, author of the recently published “Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count,” previously told Business Insider.

Read more: Even if you’re dreading your office holiday party, you still have to go. Here’s your survival guide


Think of it as a fun challenge — not the bane of your week

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Deciding ahead of time that you’re dreading your holiday party is a top introvert mistake, said Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit.

Instead of thinking of the party as something to totally dread, mentally frame it as an interesting challenge to which you can apply your skill set and that you can overcome.

“Anything that doesn’t come naturally to you, you can pull off temporarily if you apply your other strengths to solving the problem,” Boyes told Business Insider. “For example, someone who has a love of learning, can learn some conversation skills. If you’re a naturally helpful person maybe you apply that skill by helping out the host. If you love children, maybe you entertain the kids at the party. Use whatever strengths you have.”


Brainstorm some conversation topics

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Kirill Kolchanov/Strelka Institute

Before the party, think up a few icebreaker lines to keep in your back pocket – like asking folks if they’re local, a quip about the food, or their hobbies.

“This is something people can easily test to see if they find it helpful or not,” Boyes said. “Sometimes people find it helpful to briefly think about potential conversation topics, as long as it doesn’t lead to being rigid or overtalking about a topic other people aren’t as intensely interested in.”

You might even plan to talk to a senior manager or another person you’re interested in building a connection with, said Alexandra Dickinson, careers expert and membership strategy lead at SoFi.

“Take a few moments to prepare by thinking about what topic you might like to raise with them and what you can ask or say that makes your message unique,” Dickinson said.


Set a ‘networking goal’

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Dmitry Smirnov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, said you might think of setting a goal of how many new people you want to talk to.

“Set a goal of meeting, say, three people at the party or handing out X number of business cards, so the process is not overwhelming,” Taylor told Business Insider. If you exceed that threshold, great. Remember to follow up afterwards, too.”

The key is making the goal easily reachable so you don’t get overwhelmed – and you might even feel inspired to keep talking to new folks.


Go with someone

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Wickre recommended getting together a group of your coworkers to meet before the party.

Or, you can go with one extroverted coworker who can help you break the ice once you get to the bash.

“(It’s) better to get a work friend to go with you if you need backup,” Dickinson said. “It’s best to choose someone who knows you well and will be supportive.”


But don’t get too bogged down in planning ahead

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Vitaly Mum/Strelka Institute/Flickr

It’s definitely possible to overplan, experts said.

“Too much rehearsing can backfire,” Taylor said. “It can cause unnecessary jitters if you fear ‘forgetting your lines.’ It may also come off as insincere or awkward.”

Instead, Dickinson advised that you stay in the moment. Ask your coworkers open-ended questions about themselves, their work, or a topic you’d like their opinion on.

So, while you should plan some conversation starters and perhaps some topics you’d like to address with certain folks, don’t try to follow a script or get too bogged down in planning ahead.

As Taylor said, “Ultimately, you want to be yourself; just be prepared with some casual conversation starters.”


Try not to be too self-conscious

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Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Some introverts or shy people might focus too much on themselves and how they’re being perceived. Change your mindset, Boyes said, to focus on other people and what they’re about, rather than making your goal for the evening “charming everyone around you.”

“Try a goal, like to make people you interact with feel good about themselves through your interaction,” Boyes said. “It’s sometimes good to have a positive/other people goal to focus on e.g., to find out one thing that’s interesting about each person you meet.”


Play to your strengths

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bbernard/Shutterstock

Introverts are known for being particularly insightful and noticing trends and behaviors that others might not pick up on. Use those ideas to your advantage.

“Introverts tend to have insights that others may not be aware of since they are watching others closely but not always participating by talking in a group setting,” Dickinson said.

Taylor added, “Introverts typically possess a high degree of emotional intelligence and great listening skills. Because you probably spend less time talking and more time observing, that can suit you well.”


Don’t get too drunk as a way to get over social anxieties

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Maksim Fesenko/Shutterstock

As Business Insider previously reported, getting drunk might seem like a good way to loosen up. But you don’t want to get so loose that you, for example, tell your office nemesis just what you think of them.

It’s better to a bit little stiff than to ruin your entire reputation at a company.


Ask lots of questions

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Grigory Galantny/Strelka Institute/Flickr

If you’re not a naturally verbose person, that’s actually good news. People usually just enjoy talking about themselves – and you can charm them if you just keep asking them questions.

“This is a great time to deploy your quiet confidence, and go on a quest to learn more about people, given your … inquisitive personality,” Taylor said. “Ask open-ended questions as you chat with people, so the conversation flows, and isn’t a ping-pong match.”


Understand that you’re not the only introvert

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Remember, introverts make up a third to a half of the population. You’re not going to be the only partier who would rather get away from the noise and have a subdued, one-on-one conversation.

“Others are shy, too,” Taylor said. “You are far from being the only introvert at the holiday party. That should give you some solace as you try to engage in conversation.”