Some of us take to social situations like sharks to water — the bigger the hunting ground and the more people involved, the better. But others aren’t that delighted by the prospect of hanging out with people they barely know, regardless of the reason they all find themselves together.
For the introverted, socially anxious, depressed, or people who simply prefer small groups or solitude over social situations, navigating these waters can get extremely hard.
The first line of defense should always, always, be looking for professional help with a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychologist, a life coach, a priest – anyone who is competent to advise people in need. But if all you need is some online advice to give you an idea or two about how to handle the upcoming office party, here are a couple you might try.
Get Ready for Lots of Small Talk
Can you prepare for small talk? It’s a skill you can acquire, sure. On short notice, however, you’ll have to do some last-minute cramming. For example, you can go over some questions to spark a conversation and try to remember a few you think might come in handy.
Remember to keep it low-risk – that’s the whole idea behind small talk. It shouldn’t give you an opening to feel overexposed, and it should be lite enough to always give you room to back away.
Most importantly, it’s talking without having to talk – it’s just going through the motions in a socially acceptable way without saying anything of substance. And you might be surprised how comforting it is to simply chat about something that says nothing about you and has no consequence.
Watch Your Body Language
If you’re having trouble getting your thoughts and feelings into the right mood for a party, how about you start with your body? Adopting a combative, defensive, aggressive, or overly protective stance might send signals to your brain that you’re ready to pounce into action, or defend yourself, or run away, or just freeze — none of the things you want to do at a party.
Instead, try to adopt a relaxed stance. Sit comfortably, and try not to cross your arms and legs, or maybe just arms. Try to sit asymmetrically and back into the chair. If you’re leaning against something, really lean against it. Give up some of the control over your posture and be mindful of how relaxed your body feels. If it starts relaxing, your thoughts might start doing the same.
Prepare a Couple of Coping Techniques
Sometimes, just getting into a social situation can be an incredible leap. But you should know that you don’t have to take those leaps without safety nets. When you’re having problems with social anxiety, those safety nets can help take incredible strides you never thought you could make.
For example, having a friend come with you might make it easier to find yourself in any sort of situation. Having a plan to leave – a getaway plan, if you will – is another coping technique that might increase your likelihood of showing up in places. Talking through a couple of scenarios with a therapist can also help immeasurably. Having earlier knowledge of the place where you’re going can also help.
You see the principle – if there’s something you can do to make it easier for yourself, you should consider doing it. If it’s not self-destructive and a crutch you don’t want to give up, it might be a good thing.