Reader Elizabeth wrote to me:
How do we stay and feel chic when we're in a social situation which is awkward? I am about to go to a large 50th party with lots of people, most of whom know each other very well, and most of whom are acquaintances of mine rather than close friends. They're perfectly nice people but I will feel an outsider and dread getting into those dead-end conversations where I know someone wants to get away (and so do I to be honest!) but I feel awkward when I survey the room full of other people having a jolly time and I don't feel I can break in to their conversations…. How can I maintain my chic-ness in that situation??
Aah, Elizabeth, I hear you. As an introvert I can easily wish for these types of events to not exist at all so that I can simply stay at home every night with a book. Alas, that’s not going to happen, and I do realise I sound quite anti-social right now!
So let’s find out how to make the most of a situation.
My first thought was to treat this party as a kind of acting role. I find doing something like this kicks my creative brain into gear and shuts up the whining ‘Do I have to go?’ side of me.
Instead of dreading the party, I will enjoy it. I will focus on meeting new people and having interesting questions up my sleeve. I will eat and drink elegantly!
Imagine how royals feel when they go to a big event. Do you think they might prepare? I do.
Firstly, if you can get someone talking about themselves, they will love you, because you know how people like to talk about themselves. I do, it feels good! Something that I have to remember is that it’s not too personal to ask questions – people enjoy answering them and it gives you a different angle rather than just ‘how’s that weather, huh?’
I’ve had some excellent conversations with people at parties just because I’ve asked a question I’m a bit nervous of. It might be a serious illness or difficult time they have had. People are happy that you care.
When I am asked questions, I try not to let the answer drone on for hours. Sometimes it does happen though, so when I realise I’m doing that, I cut myself instantly with ‘But enough of that boring old stuff, what about you?’ and you can link that question into the conversation.
I actually love that tack: it sounds very well-mannered to deflect a question you don’t want to answer with ‘Oh, that would bore you to tears, let’s talk about something more interesting’ or ‘Too dull for words, let’s talk about you’ if someone asks what I did that day.
You may find yourself with someone who doesn’t know they are starting to drone on and on. What to do? It’s a bit cheeky, but I like to throw in a completely unrelated question. If they are getting long-winded on an uninteresting topic, I’ll ask ‘Have you been away over summer/winter?’ or ‘Do you have any holidays planned?’ in a gap (hopefully there is one). The vacation question is an excellent standby.
Channel yourself as Jackie Kennedy or some other excellent conversationalist that you have heard of. Play your part and you will find that not only do you have more fun because you have taken the focus off yourself and your nervousness, but people will rave about you to their friends.
They have found you to be fabulous company because you listened well. This works particularly well if you are introverted because you might find it uncomfortable talking about yourself. You might worry about coming across too unexciting because of your quiet life. You might like your privacy too much.
Be effusive in your praise and exclaim in delight at every revelation you hear. A friend of my husband’s is loved by everyone because he is a crazy-high positive person. Everything is wonderful and whatever you are doing is amazing. He almost comes across as comical but it’s just how he is naturally. I channel some of his energy when I need to lift my socialising game.
Just listen, ask questions and be excited. That’s the secret!
I’d love to hear other angles too, because you guys are the best. What would you say to Elizabeth if she asked you the same question at the top of this post? I’m looking forward to picking up some good tips too!
PS. Did you know I have books available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback. I write on living a simple, beautiful and abundant life. My books contains loads of tips on how you can achieve this without spending a lot of money. Pretty much everything I recommend is F R E E of cost, with an upgrade of mindset through inspiration being the way to go.
You can find my books here.