Event Etiquette for Introverts: How To Attend & Survive
Attending social events, like weddings, funerals, birthdays and office parties, can be challenging for anyone to get through, but is likely harder for an introvert. From conforming to uncomfortable, antiquated social customs to seemingly endless small talk, if you are an introvert, you may struggle to take care of yourself while still expressing your thoughts and emotions appropriately. However, despite these difficulties, it’s possible for you to get through these events without feeling drained and spent. With a little preparation, you can attend, support your friends and family, and survive to tell the tale — and you might even be able to enjoy yourself.
Why Events Are Difficult for Introverts
Introversion and extroversion occur on a spectrum. While you may lean heavily toward one end of that spectrum, no one is entirely introverted or extroverted. You may have preconceived notions of what being an introvert means, but the main difference between introverts and extroverts comes from how they regain energy. Extroverts tend to re-energize from spending time around others in high-stimulus environments, while introverts prefer to recharge by themselves in calmer environments.
It should come as no surprise, then, that introverts and extroverts experience large social events very differently. Extroverts may feel themselves getting energized, while introverts will often feel stressed and exhausted. Common reasons that introverts struggle at large social events include:
- Having to interact with people you don’t know or don’t want to see.
- Feeling trapped or unable to leave a crowded event.
- Struggling with small talk.
- Overwhelmingly loud music and conversation.
- Unfamiliar social situations (especially for younger people with less exposure).
- Fear of committing a social faux pas, either intentionally or not.
- Feeling overwhelmed and depleted.
- Taking a long time to recover and feel energized after an event.
A common misconception is that introverts simply don’t like spending their time at obligatory social gatherings, or attending parties at all. Introverts, just like extroverts, enjoy being social and connecting with other people. They typically just prefer to do it in smaller groups and more intimate settings.
Tips for Surviving at Social Events as an Introvert
Because large social events are emotionally draining for introverts, you may prefer to skip them altogether. However, sometimes attending special events are inevitable. Friends, family, and coworkers may be counting on you to participate, or are looking forward to seeing you. Nearly everyone will have to participate in a wedding or funeral at some point. You don’t have to anticipate these events with apprehension or dread. From how to dress to dealing with meeting new people, here are a few tips to help you survive at these events as an introvert, and play your part appropriately:
Basic Wedding Etiquette
Between mingling over drinks and hitting the dance floor, weddings are often one of the most difficult events for introverts to attend. Though they are happy occasions, being around distant relatives and large groups of people is still draining at best and terrifying at worst. Despite these challenges, weddings can still be fun for introverts.
What To Wear at a Wedding
Figure out what you’re going to wear well in advance. Depending on the couple/theme of the wedding, you may need to be more casual or more formal. Invitations will often indicate one or the other, but you can always reach out to another guest or someone in the wedding party to make sure. Generally, you should avoid wearing white, as that colour is typically reserved for the bride exclusively.
Pick out and purchase your gift to the couple before the wedding. Following their registry is the easiest way to select a gift, but you may want to get something not listed there. You know the couple, so find a gift that you feel is appropriate based on your relationship to them. If you give them your gift before the wedding, consider bringing flowers or chocolates to show the couple that you’re thinking of them on the actual day of the event.
Your Role in the Wedding Party
If you are in the ceremony you’ll have to play a more active role than as a guest. You will probably have to spend more time talking with strangers than a regular guest; often, guests look to members of the wedding party for directions to their seat or ask them questions about the event. Given the opportunity, try to volunteer with a task or role that you are more comfortable with; there may be a chance for you to be more behind the scenes, or to work with a smaller group of people that help you feel at ease.
Attending a Wedding as a Guest
If you are a guest at the wedding, you will not necessarily be obligated to speak to anyone. Other guests may try to speak with you and if you keep to yourself, they may take your silence the wrong way and think you are being rude. You do not owe them anything, but you may want to make an effort for the couple, depending on what your relationship is like.
Basic Funeral Etiquette
Introverted or not, funerals are one of the most difficult events to attend. Everyone copes with grief differently and emotions are incredibly delicate and unpredictable during this time. In particular, introverts may have a hard time expressing themselves and handling their grief at these events.
What To Wear at a Funeral
Funeral etiquette differs between families and cultures, as some will focus on celebrating the life of the deceased and others may be more sombre. Some may request that guests wear the favourite colour of the person who passed, while others will stick with clothing that is black and or another dark colour. When in doubt, check with another person attending the event.
What To Say at a Funeral
As a guest at a funeral, you should offer your condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. It doesn’t have to be an extensive conversation or even a verbal one. Expressing your sympathies can be difficult, but giving them sympathy flowers and a card is an easier way to convey your feelings without words. Often, people will simply appreciate that you came to show your support, and won’t expect you to say anything.
Expressing Grief as an Introvert
If you were close to the deceased or involved in the ceremony, you can expect to be more active than as a guest. People that you may or may not know may initiate a conversation about the deceased or to offer their sympathy for your loss. This may be overwhelming or trigger anxiety on top of the grief you’re feeling, so do not be afraid to step away from the event. Many introverts need to process their grief alone, and you should do whatever you need to cope with this loss in a healthy way. Do not be afraid to express your needs or excuse yourself to leave groups or conversations. Funerals are one of the few events where deviating from social conventions is acceptable, and almost expected.
Basic Birthday Party Etiquette
Whether it’s for a child or an adult, birthday parties can be enjoyable, but incredibly taxing. The excitement, the decorations, the gifts, the cake — it’s all in good fun but introverts need to use a lot of energy to survive a birthday party.
What To Wear at a Birthday Party
Typically, you can wear what you like to a birthday party unless told otherwise. If there’s a theme for the party or a particular location where it will be held you’ll want to dress for it. If it’s a child’s party, be sure your attire is appropriate to wear around children. Other than that, they’re usually very casual, and there is no particular dress code. If you are at all in doubt, ask the host if there are any expectations.
Bringing Gifts to a Birthday Party
Birthday parties also tend to require a gift. Your relationship with the person whose birthday you’re celebrating will determine what that gift is. You may have a list that’s a mile long for your best friend, but for others, it may be harder to decide on a gift. For children, ask their parents what they would like. If you can’t decide on something for an acquaintance or if someone says they do not want any gifts, a fresh bouquet of flowers and a card are often still appreciated.
If you know the other guests at the party, you’ll probably have an easier time interacting and may not find the experience to be as draining. If you aren’t familiar with the other guests, you will have to work harder to participate in conversation instead of making small talk. You can always begin by asking how they know the person you’re celebrating and see how the conversation goes from there.
As a guest, you’re expected to have fun and create a positive experience for everyone involved. For introverts, that can be difficult if you feel overwhelmed or simply don’t enjoy parties. Do your best to stay upbeat and enjoy yourself. Take breaks from the main event to regroup and then spend plenty of time recuperating alone after.
Basic Office Party Etiquette
At some point or another, you will likely have to attend a work party. Office parties have all the usual challenges of a big party, with the added pressure of maintaining professionalism because you are surrounded by your coworkers, subordinates, and supervisors.
What To Wear at an Office or Work Party
First, don’t wear anything to the office party that you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing to work. If you have to dress up because it’s a holiday or theme party, it’s fine to get creative as long as it’s appropriate. Don’t wear anything that is too revealing, offensive, or violates your workplace dress code.
Avoiding Inappropriate Conversations and Situations
Additionally, keep your behaviour and speech appropriate. Even though it’s a party, you are still at work. Don’t have conversations about things that aren’t appropriate to discuss in the office. That being said, do your best to connect with your coworkers about something other than work. It’s all too easy to fall back on work as a topic of conversation, and this party is an opportunity to get to know each other in a new context.
Depending on the nature of the event, you may not be expected to bring anything, but be sure to offer to help in some way. Even if your help is not needed, the organizers of the event will appreciate that you reached out.
Thriving as an Introvert at Large Events
Introverts express and process their emotions differently from extroverts. They need time alone to work through their thoughts and recharge. Their needs are often not met by large, high-pressure social events; while extroverts may naturally thrive in this environment, introverts will often feel weary and depleted.
Self-Care for Introverts in Group Settings
Introverts need to take care of themselves before and after these social gatherings. Take time to prepare yourself beforehand, and then to unwind afterwards. It’s important to prioritize your mental and emotional health, especially during events and occasions that may exacerbate any mental health issues or stress. It’s okay to avoid other social engagements, especially if you’ll be so tired that you can’t enjoy yourself. Set aside plenty of time for yourself to recuperate. Whatever your version of self-care is, do it.
Don’t be afraid to set and enforce boundaries with others in your life. Tell them that spending some time alone isn’t about anyone else but yourself. You aren’t trying to offend anyone or cause drama by not going to a certain event. You simply need to take care of yourself. If anyone in your life gets upset with you for that, explain how introverts need time alone. Explain that it’s like having a cold or feeling under the weather; you need to rest and recuperate for a while before going out again. The people who matter will understand.
Despite these challenges, it’s still possible for introverts to not just survive but thrive, at large events. A little preparation before and plenty of alone time after may not leave you feeling refreshed, but it will leave you feeling like you can survive any large social event.