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Call it the paradox of the introverted party. You’ve been invited to a big social event — say, a friend’s wedding. You’re full of warm feelings about their wedding and you’re excited to see people you haven’t connected with in a while. You have an incredible outfit planned.

The night turns into full-on party mode, but at a certain point, a few hours before the end of the day, you start to feel a nagging feeling that your energy and enthusiasm for engaging with people is starting to wane. With each introduction of a happy couple’s family member, each smiling friend begging you to come dance, you feel a strong urge to disappear to the nearest staircase and sit in silence for a while. If you want to enjoy the party, you have to leave the party.

When we talk about a person’s ability to socialize, we are referring to how introverted or extroverted they are. Laurie Helgo, clinical psychologist and author of the book Introverted Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden PowerDescribes introversion, in its simplest terms, as inward orientation.

“We go in to make sense of the world. An extrovert is more likely to make things happen through interaction and direct experience,” says Helgo, who identifies as an introvert. People who are introverts are most effective when exposed to little external stimuli, while extroverts like a lot of external feedback.

Among personality psychologists, introversion and extroversion are viewed as broad traits that include many narrow components, not all of which are clearly related to an individual’s socializing interests. There’s no single working list of these aspects, but extroversion typically includes things like “assertiveness, high activity levels, some dominance and agreeableness, some sociability, some cheerfulness,” says John Zelensky, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. who studies extroversion, happiness, and prosocial behavior. Introversion is often defined by low scores on the same metrics.

Although it’s often satisfying to categorize ourselves as one type of person or the other, most of us have shades of both introversion and extroversion. These traits exist along a continuum, says Zelensky, with the majority of people falling somewhere in the middle of the bell curve, and a smaller number of extreme introverts and extroverts at either end.

If you tend to be more introverted, you may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed that your social battery isn’t charged for the duration of a social gathering. You may worry that you’re suppressing emotions or that people will come off as mean to you, even if your need for some quiet time isn’t met. But by accepting what your battery life is and knowing the different factors that support or strain it, you stand a better chance of having a stress-free night — and actually enjoying yourself in the process.

Measure your social battery through trial and error

There is nothing inherently good or bad about being an introvert or an extrovert, says Jennifer Kanwiler. Creating introvert-friendly workplaces. Still, many introverts get the message that at an event, they should blend in and party with the crowd — and if they don’t feel that way, there’s something seriously wrong with them. It doesn’t help that most large group gatherings are really geared toward extroverts. “We plan all kinds of events, whether it’s social or business, always leaning heavily toward the extroverted ideal of excitement,” says Kahnwiler.

Researchers have paid a lot of attention to the negative aspects of time spent alone, and for good reason, says Robert Koplan, Zelensky’s colleague in Carleton University’s psychology department. “Unwanted loneliness makes you feel lonely, and we know that chronic loneliness is not only bad for your mental health, but also bad for your physical health,” says Coplan.

But we can get far less solitude than we’d like, a phenomenon that Coplan, who studies the benefits of solitude, calls “loneliness.” When people want alone time but are forced into prolonged social situations, they can become irritable, sad, stressed, and tired.

Everyone needs time spent in community and time spent alone. Although research on loneliness has not advanced to the point that Coplan can predict how long people typically or optimally spend alone, studying your own behavior and moods closely can help you find your ideal balance. “What we ask people to do is simply track your solitary and social experiences over a two-week period – how much time did I spend alone, how much time did I spend with other people, and how did I feel?” Coplan says. “And then you can calibrate. It’s really going to be trial-and-error for each individual. “

Both the number of doses of loneliness and the length of those doses can play a role in how refreshed a person feels afterwards. “Not everyone has time for a two-hour hike in the woods, but if you take a micro dose of 10 minutes of solitude and center yourself by holding your breath, that can be just as effective for some people,” Koplan explains.

Tracking your experiences with solitude can help you better understand your needs — and in turn give you a better handle on how to prepare for and navigate longer social engagements — an important complication when introverts have to spend time alone: ​​introverts People underestimate. How much they will enjoy being around other people.

According to Zelensky, an introvert himself, research suggests that people who are introverts can actually feel very positive emotions when they behave in an extroverted manner. Some of their own work is based on this idea: their team found that introverts’ positive emotions were not tinged with negative emotions or mental exhaustion after an increase in extroverted activity. But, Zelensky notes, the research also showed that when people were asked to be as extroverted as possible for a week, introverts showed signs of stress. “So I think it’s possible to overdo it,” says Zelensky. “It certainly relates to my personal experience.”

Before an event, spend some time preparing for socializing

When it comes to managing your social battery at an event, Kahnwiler says, “The real key is preparation.” Thinking ahead about how you can make a party less overwhelming takes some of the pressure off the moment you’re already feeling stressed and burned out.

If you’re an introvert, you already know that taking a break from the hustle and bustle is the most effective way to rejuvenate yourself. As the event begins, Kahnwiler recommends looking for places where you can relax on your own. You can also plot out the extent to which you have a formal evening schedule when You will take advantage of those opportunities.

When you’re attending an event with a date or other people, it can be helpful to tell them about your plans, so they know what’s going on and normalize it, for yourself and others. “You can tell them: ‘You might not see me twice. I’m fine, I just want to take a break,’ says Kahnwiler, a self-described extrovert. In the early days of her relationship with her husband, who is an introvert, Kahnweiler did not understand why he would disappear at parties and became frustrated when he did so. Now she knows all he needs to do is take a breath and their friends expect the same. “He owns it,” she says.

Beyond creating a space for solitude, Helgo suggests familiarizing yourself with the social context of the party before you arrive, which can make the event itself less overwhelming. If you’re close to the host, that might translate to asking for a copy of the guest list, so you can get an idea of ​​what the scene will look like and who you’re excited to talk to. If you know other people attending, hit them up to ask who will be there.

Of course, it also pays to charge your batteries before the event starts. If I could plan my perfect party, it would consist of talking to my boyfriend for four hours, during which I would curl up on the couch drinking tea and scroll through TikTok, go for a run, and then take a long nap. Shower Sometimes life gets in the way of your dreamy quiet afternoon, it’s obvious. This is where Coplan’s suggestion to track your solitude experiences comes in handy: If you’re aware of what kind of alone time you feel most focused on, you can prioritize it before you go out.

At the event, take your breaks – and remember that no one cares if you disappear to the bathroom for 20 minutes.

You’ve prepared, you’ve arrived at the venue, and when you feel like you need a break, you’ll take the quiet rest you’ve built into your mental plan for the evening. Meanwhile, you may want to keep in mind that for many introverts, not all conversations go down equally. According to Kahnweiler, introverts prefer deep, one-on-one interactions rather than flashing through the crowd.

Helgo says talking about ideas instead of people can also be a little less taxing. “Social data is kind of demanding, and we sometimes like to have a side-by-side experience with someone, where we see an idea or a shared interest,” says Helgo.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid group conversations or personal history in the name of keeping the party going. Instead, it’s a suggestion to take an active role in your experience. For many introverts, big events can have an edge of conflict, as if we must protect our small flame of sanity from the impositions of the socializing crowd. It’s easy to forget that, in many situations, we choose who we talk to, when we take a break, and how long we wait.

The truth is that these decisions usually mean a lot to you and less to everyone else. “We put too much pressure on ourselves,” Kahnwiler says. “People don’t always think about you.”

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