If the thought of going to a social event on your own terrifies you, take a deep breath and stop stressing. We’ve got some pointers for you
Not everyone loves a party. For some of us the thought of braving a crowded, noisy room filled with strangers causes sweaty palms, dry mouths and racing hearts. And not in a good way! And yes, Party-related Stress Syndrome is worse when you’re attending on your own. But you know you’ve got to go, don’t you? You’ll never meet a soul or have any fun or adventures if you choose to stay in and watch reruns of House on the Hallmark Channel instead of facing your party fears. Here’s some help to get you through the door:
1. If you’re really nervous about braving a social event alone, ask the host or hostess whether you can bring a friend. Unless it’s a catered, sit-down affair, most people won’t mind. But if it is don’t even ask – you’re on your own. Don’t panic, though. I’m at your side. Read on.
2. If you’re not sure of the dress code, check. It helps to know you’re not going to stand out in a sea of chic cocktailwear like Bridget Jones in her bunny costume. If you’re still uncertain, you can’t go wrong with something well cut, simple and dark. Get your hair done and put on a fresh face of makeup. And heels make us feel more confident – don’t ask us why.
3. Be half an hour late. No more. Half an hour allows enough time for the room to fill up and warm up, and for the party to get going. Later than that is impolite.
4. Before you enter the fray, stand back and check out the room. See any friendly, familiar faces? If so, save them for later. Everyone needs a social security blanket for awkward moments – and they will be yours.
5. Ignore the roaming waitrons with drinks on trays and head for the bar. Having a destination gives you time to do a sweep of the room without looking lost. And you can stand at the bar and observe the scene without feeling exposed.
6. One glass of wine should take the edge off your anxiety if you’re nervous. Resist the urge to down three mojitos for Dutch courage.
7. Put your shoulders back and smile. You might believe you look like a spare part – to someone else you might look frosty and unapproachable.
8. Looking for someone to chat to? Avoid breaking up a conversation between two people, as they may not welcome the intrusion. However, most people in bigger groups are just making small talk and that kind of group is easier to infiltrate. A group of three is often your best bet – a ‘spare wheel’ could be grateful for someone new to talk to.
9. It’s perfectly okay to ask the hostess to introduce you to someone friendly. Not knowing anyone does <not> make you a loser.
10. Never allow yourself to get trapped in a conversation with your back to the room. At parties you have to be free to move on – and it’s difficult if you can’t see what’s happening behind you. Equally important: don’t sit down if you’re not happy to be stuck.
11. Read signals. If someone you are chatting to is not making eye contact and is not asking follow-up questions, they’re not interested in spending more time with you. That’s okay. Guests are meant to circulate at parties.
12. You can open a conversation by saying, ‘Excuse me for interrupting but I love your bag/shoes/haircut. Where did you get it?’ You can say, ‘Wow! What an amazing venue/crowd/X is such a brilliant hostess – she always knows the best places/has the best ideas. Where do <you> know her from?’ Don’t say, ‘Excuse me, would you mind if I talked to you? I don’t know anyone here.’ No-one – except you – knows you aren’t confident. And no-one wants to be glued to a stranger all night.
13. Take your own car. It’s always better to be free to leave when you want to.