Bar/Party Survival Guide for the Introveted
August 27, 2007 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Teach a shy person on how to behave in a bar/party full of unfamiliar people

I will soon be attending a 4 year post-graduate professional school where I won't know anyone. The main social activities at this school, as far as I can tell, will be post-exam keg parties and pub-crawls. I am a pretty reserved and shy person and never enjoyed bars and big parties with a lot of strangers. However, in order not to become a social recluse, I feel I need to force myself to go to these events just to introduce myself to people.

The problem: I went to few bars or big parties in the past and am kind of intimated by them. Walking into a bar full of happily conversing people makes me very anxious. All I hope to get out of this is to meet some new people and have some decent conversations. But what do you do when you walk into the bar and see bunch of strangers already talking? How do you "join the flow"?

I am a guy, by the way, and the people I will socializing with will mostly in their early twenties.

posted by Pantalaimon to Human Relations (16 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I feel the exact same way, Pantalaimon. I think the key is to make sure it's not all strangers in the bar. That is, find some friendly people in a less intimidating setting (such as between classes), and plan to go with them when they go to the bars. That's what most of the happily chatting people already in the bar are doing, anyway: chatting with people they already know.
posted by HeroZero at 7:54 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wait, you don't know these people and apparently won't meet them in the regular course of studies. Why, then, would you want to meet these people who primarily do things you don't enjoy doing?

I guess I'm saying that you should accept your likes and dislikes for what they are, rather than conforming to other people's ideas of fun just for the sake of meeting said people.
posted by Phyltre at 7:55 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why, then, would you want to meet these people who primarily do things you don't enjoy doing?

...because a large portion of B-school seems to be networking, at least according to my friends who went (mind you, only 2 people, so YMMV).

Some thoughts: smile a lot, alternate alcohol with water (or equivalent, to avoid drinking too much because you're nervous), listen carefully, look for small groups of people (more than 3, less than say 6), and start immediately.

That last one is important. For the first few weeks everybody is new, so get out there while the cliques are still forming.
posted by aramaic at 8:07 PM on August 27, 2007

If I'm understanding the scene correctly, you'll be going to bars and parties along with other people you go to school with. Which is good, because as time goes by, you'll know more and more people. Try going to parties with people you already know- you could mention to someone in class, hey, I hear people are meeting up at That Bar, I was thinking of going, you want to go? Then you'll know one person at the party. And maybe when you get there, you'll know 2 people and he'll know 2 people, and you can chat them up. The first few outings will probably be the hardest, but as you begin to know people, things will begin to snowball and it'll be a lot easier.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:07 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

This might not be helpful, but I am very shy during parties. I am also a lightweight who started social drinking last (freshman) year. With one cup of beer, I become very social but not stupid. Of course, results vary and you're in a different situation.

Also, starting immediately is great to do, but not required. I had a very bad fall semester freshman year; my roommate was one of those who never went to anything and just stayed in the room with the lights off, the door closed, and the computer on. I am very shy and that really put a damper on everything. I wanted to make friends with other hall guys but thought they formed their groups of friends and I couldn't join their groups. Spring came and I busted out of my shell and became friends with everyone in my hall. I was part of everyone's groups. Hell, I remember one week I went to the dining hall with five different groups of people for five nights in a row. Anyway, I'm just saying it's possible to start late, but it puts a strain on possibilities.

If that makes sense. Sorry, I'm tired.
posted by daninnj at 8:30 PM on August 27, 2007

I have a lot of problems with this as well, though I'm getting slightly better at it. It does get easier as you go.

My problem is that I'm introverted, not very good at small talk, and very easily intimidated by large groups of people. I often can't think of anything to say, or worry about what they will think of me if I say something stupid or fail to keep the conversation flowing. For years I just laughed at everything everyone said... which tends to weird people out after a while.

Introduce yourself to people talking to the folks you already know. Ask questions, most people like to talk about themselves, their interests or something they've seen or read recently that interests them. No one's going to snap at you for being interested in their life.

Really, try not to be too scared of saying the wrong thing. Lots of people say lots of really stupid things, especially at parties. Try not to censor yourself, what you think is what makes you you, right? No one is going to attack you for your party chatter. (Well, almost no one. There was this ass hat at a party recently who academically graded my boyfriend's bullshitting about fashion history. He got a C- for not citing sources. Asshat.)

If you see any others who seem to be having a difficult time, maybe try to strike up a conversation with them? Once you get past the awkwardness of two people trying very hard not to be awkward, you'll both be relieved to not be hanging on to a more sociable friend or sitting alone.

It's hard, definitely. Work on it in all your social situations, try to talk to people you wouldn't normally, or those who intimidate you a little. It's not going to suddenly be easy at the next party you go to, but it will get better, and you will find yourself having a much better time at parties.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

arrive early, when people are just scoping each other out. you should be able to find a congenial person to strike up a conversation with. (hi, i'm brian. i'm doing advertising management. what about you?) and go from there. even if you split off, you might reconnect.

talking to someone of the opposite sex can often be a good conversation starter. it will also draw other people in who are curious--is he single? is she? who's available? is the cute friend available?. it's very primeval, but it works.

above all, ask people about themselves. everyone loves to talk about themselves, especially after a few drinks.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:45 PM on August 27, 2007

Don't forget that everyone is having the same feelings of anxiety and the like that you are. Top to bottom. For the more experienced, it lasts only a second or two because they've been there. It isn't that you have unique feelings, its just that you are still working on your reactions to those feelings, that's all.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2007

I agree with trying to get to know as many people as you can in the first couple of weeks - you'll feel much more relaxed about socializing that way, I think.

Once you know some people, and they know who you are, you can organize something casual that's not a hang-out-at-the-bar night. Not everyone likes to hang out in bars, ya know.

One more thing is to remember that it's not about the bar and the drinking and all's about getting to know the people you'll be around for the next 4 years. The bar is a backdrop to that. I know it can be hard to feel comfortable in places where there are a lot of people around, but realize that it's not a big deal. Be friendly, introduce yourself to people, and stay cool (even if you don't feel cool)!

I think this is more a mindset thing than anything else - I am very introverted, sometimes shy, and definitely not a fan of social settings where lots of people I don't know are milling about. However, when I consciously decide to get into a mindset where I'm going to jump in and just talk to people, it becomes much easier than I usually imagine it to be.
posted by splendid animal at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2007

In grad student mixer situations, it's easy to start with the basic questions of where are you from, what is your area of interest, how do you like living in whatever town/city, what sorts of things do you do for fun. Not particularly creative questions, but you start to learn bits of the person's biography and usually the conversation builds from there.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:29 PM on August 27, 2007

I usually try to find the chattiest person and talk to them. That way the chatterbug can talk, talk, talk and it takes some of the pressure off me. Plus the chatterbug usually is really good about introducing you to other people since they usually know a lot of people.
posted by GlowWyrm at 10:08 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just having started post-grad professional/graduate school, I will have to agree with what yellowbinder said above. You need to have enough confidence in yourself that the experiences that you've had are enough to chat about. If you listen carefully, you can always work in a thought or comment to keep the conversation going.

Maybe this isn't exactly the best way to disengage yourself, but if you find the conversation turning to something you don't find interesting, I usually excuse myself and try to mingle with some other folks.

Keep it light, don't take it too seriously, and try to learn something nontrivial about each person (especially your classmates) that you talk to.
posted by scalespace at 10:11 PM on August 27, 2007

Previous AskMefi question about mingling.
posted by junesix at 11:00 PM on August 27, 2007

As an introvert myself, I'd make very different suggestions. Seek out other wallflowers to talk with, rather than hanging around the extraverts. Look for gatherings which take place in less-stressful settings. Start a study group and get to know those people well.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:03 AM on August 28, 2007

Do a couple of shots for courage, announce you are buying a round for the whole bar. Instant friends, long lasting celebrity.
posted by poppo at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2007

Walk into a bar and form an opinion about something. The posters on the wall are neat. The drink menu is the longest you've ever seen. There are tons of people here. It doesn't matter, just come up with some sort of opinion about something in your surroundings.

The second you come up with this opinion, turn to the person closest to you that is not already engaged in conversation and state this opinion. (The best place to do this is at the bar, because people will break away from their groups to get a drink.) Have a brief conversation about this trivial opinion of yours, then extend your hand and introduce yourself.

posted by turaho at 9:19 AM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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