Some people are just “party animals.” They love gathering people together for no other reason than it’s a Wednesday (better known as “hump day”), its Groundhog Day, or it’s Mozart’s birthday. Any excuse will do.
They plan parties in advance, and they also have “spur of the moment” gatherings. These are gregarious extroverts who love having people around, who never have a shy moment, and who really don’t even need to plan a party – often it’s just a spontaneous thing.
Then, there are the introverts – those people who get their energy from being alone with themselves. There is actually scientific evidence that shows how and why the introvert brain functions this way. They are thoughtful, often creative people, whose mental processes are in high gear as they analyze situations and problems and come up with great solutions on their own. They often take positions that allow them to spend time alone working on projects or resolving issues. But party planning and hosting? Probably not something they ever look forward to.
And yet there are times when an introvert must plan a party – either for family, for work colleagues, or a neighborhood. They may be called upon for this task because they have important skills – they are organized, they are reliable, and they will meet deadlines. If you are an introvert who must plan a party, here are some suggestions that will not just make it easier but will help ensure that your guests will have a good time.
Introverts need guiding “rules” or principles to work with. These provide a type of baseline for focus, and allow the introvert to do some research to find menus, activities, etc. that will match that theme. This puts you in your best “mode” – doing individual research and grabbing great ideas from others who have planned parties around the same theme. Introverts tend to want a high level of organization, and getting that theme will provide something to “invest in.” Choosing a theme and announcing it to the attendees does a lot to take an introvert “off the hook.” The theme itself will provide avenues for great conversation and activities, so that guests will not rely on the host to “entertain” them.
Suppose, for example, you should host a Halloween party. Think of the endless possibilities for games and contests. And the ideas for menus and “witches’ brews” are endless. Suppose you decide on a 1920’s theme. Oh, the costumes and the “bathtub” creations - card games and other typical Prohibition activities are all over the Internet. Maybe a murder mystery theme appeals to you. The goal of the party is to solve the mystery, given clues. A trivia night is another great possibility. This will keep guests occupied for hours.
The point of having a theme is that the introvert can plan activities in which everyone participates and no one is just hanging out waiting for the introverted host to entertain them.
Sometimes this is not possible. If, for example, you are charged with planning that office Christmas party, you have no choice. These types of parties have rather bad reputations – co-workers drinking too much, embarrassing themselves, etc. If you have to plan such an event, your sense of organization will kick in. You can plan activities that will keep everyone involved and entertained without the event devolving into the infamous drunken bash that everyone would rather forget the next day.
Having a “white elephant” gift exchange, turning it into a charity event, or setting up a karaoke event with some of the newest party speakers, will entertain for hours on end. This type of planning will let attendees have definite activities other than drinking, and finding that gregarious MC from among the office staff, lets the introvert off the hook and lets those extroverts “shine.”
For gatherings that are smaller and over which the introvert has control of the guest list, party planning is easier. If you are able to invite those people with whom you feel the most comfortable, then more than half of the anxiety of throwing a party is already resolved. You know their interests; you know what they enjoy doing. You can plan activities that suit their fancies – trivia, adult “clue” games, Star Wars theme, etc. When you plan themes, music and food that all revolve around a theme, your guests will carry the activities and the conversation, and you won’t be on the spot trying to come up with conversations.
And, if your guest list includes people with the same interests and who already know one another, the pressure is definitely off of you to make introductions and to ensure that everyone is included in the activities. If your guest list includes people who do not know one another, then make sure that you plan the activities so that strangers have the opportunity to interact with one another. You can even plan an “introduction” activity” which will take the onus off of you to make the introductions. A sit-down dinner, for example, is the perfect way to place strangers together by way of place holders.
It’s easy to get anxious and think that you have to plan every minute of a party, so that there is always some activity going on. What you need to understand is that many of your guests will not feel intimidated by not knowing other guests. They are comfortable introducing themselves and engaging in small talk, so don’t project your own discomfort on them. It’s good to have a theme, and it’s good to have food and decorations that coordinate with that theme. It’s also fun to have activities that relate to the theme you have chosen. But do not feel that you have to plan every minute – let guests control some of their own time.
If you have a close friend or two who understand your aversion to large group gatherings, enlist their help and support. Co-hosting a party with a more extroverted friend is an ideal way to entertain and show others that you do appreciate their friendship and social interaction. But it will then not be all on you to plan and to be the “social butterfly,” something you are just not comfortable with. You will get the recognition for having a party, and with a lot less anxiety.
One of the best pieces of advice for an introvert who hosts a party and yet has anxiety about what to say, particularly as guests are arriving or during a time when people are just milling around and talking (such as before or after the meal is served), is to make the effort to compliment each guest about something. It may be something as simple as, “I love your shoes,” or, if a co-worker, “you really made my day with that great joke you told yesterday.” If the party was a pot-luck of sorts, be certain to compliment a guest’s contribution to the menu. You will find that as you pay compliments to others, you will get outside of your own inner anxiety and make each guest feel special in some way.
Introverts do charge and re-charge themselves by having alone time. If you are facing a party, you will have anxiety. The best therapy for reducing your stress is to have all of your preparations finished well in advance, so that you can take an hour or so before your guests arrive, for some alone time. This may be soaking in a tub, doing a short meditation, or relaxing with your favorite music – whatever you know works. Scurrying around until the last minute is something that only increases your anxiety, so avoid it.
You are an introvert. This means that you have much to offer, both personally and professionally, but it also means that you do best when you can have time to yourself and be with smaller groups of people, usually those with whom you have close relationships. When you are thrust into a situation of planning and hosting a party, think through your planning well in advance, rely on close friends to help you, and avoid the last-minute “rush” of preparation. If you can do these things, you may find that you can actually enjoy the event and your guests.