[Adv] Going to a small party tonight

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Post by The Wisp on Thu May 21, 2015 6:06 pm

So, I was invited to what is essentially a small party at my friend's place tonight in about four hours, and I am going. The friend, A (the same A I talked about in other threads), said there would be EDIT: actually he was more vague there could be up to 8 or 9 people, but I'm not exactly sure, it could be lower, probably not higher. I do know two of the others, one is a not-super-close friend that I met in a class A and I had with her (I call her H), and the other is a guy I have hung out with just once with him and A last week. The latter guy seemed kinda awkward when we hung out, not making much eye contact with me and not making much of an effort to include me in the conversations he had with A, but he seems like a laid back guy so I'm not holding that against him. I think he just felt awkward around me and wasn't sure what to do (he seems like the type how is pretty social among the right social groups, but not with complete strangers). But other than that I won't know anybody there.

Knowing A, this won't be a wild party with blaring loud music or binge drinking or anything, though I can't say for sure that there will be no pot use.

I'm not sure exactly how to navigate this environment. Sure, worst case is that I can sort of just follow A or H around and take breaks off to the side, but I really want to practice meeting and talking to new people. I don't expect any deep connections, but I'd like to have reasonably pleasant interactions with people. This will be good practice for me and also leave open the possibility of connecting with others at more than a surface level.

I'm not sure I have a specific question, rather my question is: I'm going to a small party, OMG WHAT DO? Razz
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Post by eselle28 on Thu May 21, 2015 6:23 pm

So, if you want to be a super polite guest, a good way to start off is to bring a six pack of something A likes to drink (whether that's alcohol or soda) or some potato chips. Even at casual parties for young people, the people throwing them appreciate stuff like that. That'll be doubly the case if A lives by himself, since having people over can cramp a student budget.

If there are only 9 people at this party, a lot of it will probably take place with people sitting down, which weirdly can give you an opportunity to meet new people. Even if you stay fairly close to A or H, you'll probably end up sitting near someone you haven't met before. That's a great opportunity for the unoriginal but very useful, "So how do you know A?" opener, which can then proceed to the usual student small talk.

If things start to get awkward in the living area or the conversation just stalls, good ways to break up the action are to head to the bathroom or to the kitchen. At both small and large parties, there will generally be at least a couple of people hanging around the fridge, and that can be a good opportunity to say hello to guests you haven't been introduced to yet.

Beyond that, I'd say go along with the flow of the party. If you haven't been to one of A's parties, you don't really know if he tends toward putting on movies, or if there might be something more structured like a video game, or if it will just be conversation with some background music. Oh, and remember that you don't need to be the last person to leave. If you get a little socially overwhelmed and a cooldown in a quieter area doesn't do much, it's just fine to thank A for inviting you over and then head out.

Oh, and congratulations! It seems like some of the work you've put into improving your social life is really paying off!
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Post by The Wisp on Thu May 21, 2015 7:22 pm

I wouldn't have thought to bring anything, so thanks for mentioning that! Now I think I'll pick up some ciders or something to bring along.

So, when I first walk in I assume I should find A, say 'hi' to him, and then go with the flow from there?

Thanks for the general tips!  Also...

eselle28 wrote:Oh, and congratulations! It seems like some of the work you've put into improving your social life is really paying off!

Thank you for this too! Smile

I think my attitude and body language is just so much better now. That allowed me to really hit it off with A (whereas before we had just been acquaintances for a good 6 months), and since then I've been getting more and more social opportunities Smile
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Post by Hirundo Bos on Thu May 21, 2015 7:29 pm

The Wisp wrote:
eselle28 wrote:Oh, and congratulations! It seems like some of the work you've put into improving your social life is really paying off!

Thank you for this too! Smile

I think my attitude and body language is just so much better now. That allowed me to really hit it off with A (whereas before we had just been acquaintances for a good 6 months), and since then I've been getting more and more social opportunities Smile

This is really great (and also personally encouraging) to hear.
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Post by eselle28 on Thu May 21, 2015 8:05 pm

The Wisp wrote:
So, when I first walk in I assume I should find A, say 'hi' to him, and then go with the flow from there?

Yup - say at least a brief hello to whoever opens the door, and if that's someone who's not A, then go find A and say hello to him. Then one of you will put the cider in the fridge, and after that you can just go with whatever the general tone of the party is.

The Wisp wrote:Thank you for this too! Smile

I think my attitude and body language is just so much better now. That allowed me to really hit it off with A (whereas before we had just been acquaintances for a good 6 months), and since then I've been getting more and more social opportunities Smile

Oh, that's good to hear! Have fun tonight!
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Post by jcorozza on Thu May 21, 2015 10:43 pm

Glad the social stuff is going well!

Seconding Eselle on the idea that people will probably sitting in one room as part of the same general conversation with 8 or 9 people - at most two small groups, so you probably won't have to stick to A for long. If you show up on the later side, it may be easier to take cues from the others for what the party dynamic will be.
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Post by The Wisp on Fri May 22, 2015 2:37 am

Debriefing and processing time:

It was a very interesting experience, some positive and some "meh". When I first arrived there were four others there: A, H, and two guys I didn't know, so five including me. The two new guys seemed like pretty nice people. One was kinda zany and got us to play sorta-stick ball in the little yard outside the apartment building about 15 minutes after I arrived. This was the best part in my opinion. The group wasn't too big and I gelled with the people a little better. I was still probably the quietest person of the bunch, but I managed to interact a reasonable amount. I still wish I had shown more of my personality in the earlier part of the party. I still feel like I do a poor job of that around strangers, even in relatively congenial settings.

After about 30-45 minutes of that, three more showed up, making it 8. There were two I didn't know and the one friend of A's I had met last week. This is when we went in and where it turned into basically what jcorozza said it would be. There were the eight of us sitting around a coffee table, with conversation oscillating between the whole group and 2-3 smaller groups. Three others trickled in as it went along, so the party peaked at 11 people, but the dynamic was essentially the same. This lasted a good two hours. We also played Cards Against Humanity in the last half hour, which was very fun (I've never played before)!

As I predicted, there was no loud music, only moderate drinking (nobody had more than 2 beers/ciders; personally, I had two ciders over about a two hour span), and though one of A's friend brought out the bong, A vetoed that and said "not tonight".*

I have to say that the middle two hours between the stickball and Cards Against Humanity was more "meh" if I'm being honest. I sort of entered this altered state** that I get into when I'm interacting with groups of people larger than 4 or maybe 5 people (including me) that I haven't felt in a long time because I've avoided these situations. Essentially, I followed the conversations well enough and laughed at the jokes and maybe threw in a short comment once every 5-10 minutes, but I felt like my mind largely shut down and I felt a bit overwhelmed (but not enough to have wanted to extract myself from the situation or that I felt anxious). I was following what was going on instead of zoning out, yes, but I wouldn't say I was either enjoying it or not enjoying it. I was sucked into the moment as a passive observer. I certainly wasn't really engaged with the others, showing much of my personality, or even directly interacting much. This state isn't one where I really can make any social connections, even shallow ones. Overall it just left me feeling tired in a neutral way afterwards.

Maybe I'm just too introverted and sensitive to really be able to actively participate in non-structured social situations with more that 3 or 4 others at a time, or maybe I just don't have much experience and don't know what to do?

At about 10:30, 3.5 hours after I had arrived, 4 people left at once, and I took that as an opportunity to leave as well.

So, a mix of positive and neutral-but-draining stuff. I think the three takeaways from this are:

1. I can go to a smaller party like this one and have it be at least a neutral experience.

2. I want to be able to show more of my personality to strangers, and I'm still working on that and am not where I want to be with that.

3. I struggle to be an active participant in social situations with more than a small group of people. I'm not sure if I can learn to do better in these situations, or if I just have to accept that these may not be ideal places for me to meet people.

Anyway, I'm glad I went. New social experiences are good for me.

*Wow, I'm getting really specific, if A read this he'd know who I was immediately! Good thing he's not one who really has struggled with finding dates or relationships Razz

** I don't think the alcohol had anything to do with this. One, I didn't drink that much for the time frame, two, I'm not super sensitive to alcohol anyway, three, I've felt this way before even when there wasn't a drop of alcohol in my system.
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Post by jcorozza on Fri May 22, 2015 8:03 am

[quote="The Wisp"]

Maybe I'm just too introverted and sensitive to really be able to actively participate in non-structured social situations with more that 3 or 4 others at a time, or maybe I just don't have much experience and don't know what to do?

I think that's the key here. I'm not a big fan of unstructured time with larger groups of people I don't know very well, and I don't think it's that uncommon to feel that way. Unstructured time with close friends? Sure, we have tons to talk about.

So maybe some things to think about is how to potential add structure, or good ways to get smallish groups together. In my groups, it's pretty rare to have tons of unstructured time, because someone usually has a board game, or a movie they want to watch. Or the unstructured time will follow a more structured activity - we'll go out for drinks after Capture the Flag. In that situation, you can always stick around for the structured part, and then bail before the drinks part - quite a few do, and no thinks anything of it.
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Post by jcorozza on Fri May 22, 2015 8:05 am

Quote fail. ::hangs head in shame::
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Post by reboot on Fri May 22, 2015 11:25 am

Late to the party to say "Way to go Wisp!"

My guess is it is not the lack of structure that caught you out in "meh", it is lack of structure with a group you do not know the majority of the people. I would hazard a guess that you will do better at the next party with this group if, say, you have met 8 of the 11 people before, partially because if you felt the need for structure you would feel comfortable asking to do something and partially because you would feel less guarded around familiar people.

Overall, though, the night sounded successful as a data point/learning experience
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Post by Enail on Fri May 22, 2015 11:37 am

Good job, Wisp! Glad it went well, or at least well-ish, and it sounds like you're getting a lot of information and practice out of it as well! It's really cool to see how successfully you're developing a social life from scratch!

I think showing your personality more with strangers is a useful thing to work on, but don't forget also that, in situations like this where these people will probably be part of your orbit to some degree and you're likely to encounter some of them again, gradual can be a fine way to bring yourself out more as you get to know them a little better.

Do you think when you get into that zoned out state, it might help to take a short break and clear your head a bit to wake yourself up?
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Post by Guest on Fri May 22, 2015 11:45 am

I don't see a real problem with that zoned out state: maybe I'm unusual in that? I spend a chunk of every social event there, tipped into a "alien naturalist" mode, observing the humans in their natural state. In general, if you're tracking the conversation and occasionally able to contribute, you'll read as good company in that mode: people like people who let them talk. If you spend some of the party actively engaged and part being a neutral sounding board for others, I think you're doing great.

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Post by reboot on Fri May 22, 2015 11:54 am

ElizaJane wrote:I don't see a real problem with that zoned out state: maybe I'm unusual in that?  I spend a chunk of every social event there, tipped into a "alien naturalist" mode, observing the humans in their natural state.  In general, if you're tracking the conversation and occasionally able to contribute, you'll read as good company in that mode: people like people who let them talk.  If you spend some of the party actively engaged and part being a neutral sounding board for others, I think you're doing great.

I check out too, especially if it is a conversation I am not too interested in. I think it is only a problem if you want to be more engaged and your mind keeps checking you out.
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Post by Enail on Fri May 22, 2015 11:56 am

Oh, yes, I do it too sometimes, I was addressing it b/c you sounded like it bothered you or like you felt like it was a large enough chunk of time that it made a big dent in your ability to enjoy yourself, not because I think it's a big problem!
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Post by eselle28 on Fri May 22, 2015 2:26 pm

Hey, Wisp, add another congrats on attending and successfully completing a party to the pile! Like Eliza and reboot, I also sometimes check out for periods during large parties. The exception is if I'm the hostess, which is one of the reasons I like throwing parties more than attending them. That being said, it sounds like on balance, this was a moderately rewarding if draining social interaction. You met a few new people and did some fun things, and if you see those folks again, you'll have a doorway into inviting them to do things on a smaller scale that are more your speed. Also, you learned that you like Cards Against Humanity (one of my favorites!).

It sounds like this might not be a way of interacting with people you'd want to do constantly, though. I think it might be helpful for you to think about how often you'd want to have this kind of social interaction. Never again? Once a year, if your presence made a friend happy? A couple times a year? Every month? Every week? I'm at a few times a year, so no pressure to think you should want to do this think often. I just think it's good to think about it in the context of friendship. There are ways to be The Friend Who Can Never Come to Parties and ways to be the Friend Who's an Introvert But a Good Guest.
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Post by The Wisp on Fri May 22, 2015 10:06 pm

First, thank you all for the positive support! You all are great Smile

jcorozza, I think you're right that I'd do better in more structured settings. I'll have to keep that in mind for the future.

As far as the "alien observer" state (great way to describe it, Eliza!) I agree that it is fine in itself, I just felt like I was in that state the whole two hours and that that was hindering my ability to enjoy myself and connect with new people. My main social goal right now is to figure out how meet people in ways that are both relatively congenial to my personality and that open up the possibility of connecting with people as potential friends, sexual partners, or dates. So I felt a little disappointed that I was in a state where that didn't seem possible.

But, enail, you are right that maybe I'll gradually get to know some of these people if I run into them again. And maybe I'm being unrealistic to expect quick connections. It did seem there were subgroups where the people were mostly interacting with others in the subgroup, who not-coincidentally were the people they showed up with. The "zany" guy I mentioned earlier, for instance, knew nobody except A, and though he was a high energy and outgoing guy, even he was pretty quiet in the larger group setting.

It is nice to know that people generally view somebody like that as good company, at least.

eselle28 wrote:It sounds like this might not be a way of interacting with people you'd want to do constantly, though. I think it might be helpful for you to think about how often you'd want to have this kind of social interaction. Never again? Once a year, if your presence made a friend happy? A couple times a year? Every month? Every week? I'm at a few times a year, so no pressure to think you should want to do this think often. I just think it's good to think about it in the context of friendship. There are ways to be The Friend Who Can Never Come to Parties and ways to be the Friend Who's an Introvert But a Good Guest.

Yeah, I'm not sure I would want to attend such events regularly. I think right now I'm probably at 2-4 times a year for these sorts of things. Of course I may be tempted to go to another sooner than that (which I'm not sure is that likely) if it seems like it will have a different flow to it just to experiment with these sorts of events.
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Post by The Wisp on Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:03 am

So, A is having another party at his place tomorrow, and I'm going. It seems like a similar deal as last time, though there may be a few more people. It seems like there will be some of the same people from the last party, though I'm pretty sure there will be newer people as well. I'm not sure H will be there again, and I'm positive the zany guy I mentioned won't be there (he was staying with A from out of state at the time), and those were the two people besides A there who I liked the most.

To be honest, I'm not super enthusiastic about going, not that I'm actively repulsed or dreading it either (though I do feel slight anxiety around it). I suppose the reasons I'm going are twofold: one, I haven't done much socializing since that party (well, except for sometimes talking to my brother's friend who is staying with us for the summer to take a summer class), and I tend to notice that my mood tends to sour if I live this way too long (e.g. my generalized anxiety acts up, I feel more lethargic, etc.); two, I know that if I want to pursue my goals of making more friends and finding a sexual partner, I'm going to have to actually meet and interact with more people.

I actually talked about this with my new therapist yesterday, and one of the things he told me was to essentially to stop overthinking things, focus on what's going on around me rather than my emotions or body language, to not worry about using cliche small talk to start interactions (the ones we talked about: how do you know A?, where are you from?, [observation about recent weather event], what's your major?), and to focus more on asking questions and reflecting the other person to avoid putting pressure on myself (putting pressure on myself to speak up more ironically probably leads me to talking even less). Hopefully, doing those things will help me avoid being in that paralyzed observing state I was in last time for the whole event.

So, my gameplan is simple: My goal is that I want to initiate small talk with one or two people besides A. It doesn't matter if they reciprocate or not, or whether it leads to any super interesting conversations or not. I just want to initiate. Additionally, I'm only committing to myself to staying for 1.5 hours. After 1.5 hours are up, I will let myself leave at any time without feeling guilty or like I wimped out.
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Post by PintsizeBro on Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:26 pm

I think your plan is good. An hour and a half is about the right amount of time to figure out if you're going to be able to get into the swing of things and enjoy the rest of the party or not, without looking like you're really leaving early if you decide not to stay.

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Post by reboot on Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:34 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:I think your plan is good. An hour and a half is about the right amount of time to figure out if you're going to be able to get into the swing of things and enjoy the rest of the party or not, without looking like you're really leaving early if you decide not to stay.

Cosigned. This is a great plan. Your therapist's advice is also good, but do not sweat it if you cannot implement some or even any of it at this party. The things he is suggesting take some practice because you kind of have to retrain your brain.
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Jun 20, 2015 3:06 am

Thanks for the reassurance guys Smile

I was really nervous before the party, which manifested as weakness and feeling detached, but I pulled out of that feeling and went in anyway.

The party was actually much better than last time. There were only 4-5 of the same people from the last time (though the same number total), and the whole vibe was much better. It was more low key (I think, in large part, that was due to the absence of the loudest and rowdiest person from the last party). I didn't exactly initiate any one-on-one conversations per se because the flow of the party didn't seem to leave much room for that, but I did talk a lot more than last time and felt like an equal participant in things. The party was more of a low-key group game night than a traditional party, which is why there wasn't much room for one-on-one conversation. We played Cards Against Humanity again, which was awesome, and we also played a group game called goldfish.

There was minimal drinking. Three of the people did go off to smoke pot, but they hid out in a separate room, and when they briefly came out weren't disruptive or annoying.

I also stayed the whole time, which ended up being 3.5 hours, and didn't feel drained at all. I barely noticed that 1.5 hours had passed.

I think following my therapist's advice and focusing my mental energy more on what was happening and less on my body language and emotions really helped.

So, a positive experience overall!
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