An Illustrated Guide To Conquering Social Anxiety

How to deal when you show up to a party and don’t know anyone.

It doesn’t have to be alcoholic if you don’t want (though hey, that helps), but getting something – anything to drink is a good idea. Most crucially, holding a drink gives you something to do with your hands.

When you’re getting yourself a drink at a party, you’re on a mission to complete a task, and it’s easier to talk to people about it or for them to talk to you. Ask where the cups are, or what kind of wine it is. It’s a real ice breaker. Of course, if you’re a good party guest, you’ve brought something yourself, and then you can go about asking where to put it. Is there room in the fridge for your six pack? Should you open the wine? Need more red cups for the keg? Where should you put these cool Ranch Doritos?

Like Amy Poehler says, it’s ok to do an Irish goodbye/French exit (leaving a party or bar without telling anyone). Don’t feel hung up on the idea that you have to say goodbye to every single person you know at the party. When you’re feeling weird – maybe your ex showed up, or maybe someone said something rude that upset you or maybe you’re just feeling weird and want to go. Trust me, no one will exclaim they have “the vapors” and faint because they didn’t get to bid a proper farewell to you.

Get ready to have your mind blown: if you think it’s rude to leave without saying goodbye, send the host a text or email the next day saying “sorry I didn’t get to say bye, but thanks for having me!”. You’ll actually seem like the most polite person ever – who sends thank you notes to hosts these days? You just gone from the rude jerk to Emily freakin’ Post.

You know when you spot an acquaintance and you wait for them to say “hi” first? This is the cancer. Stop this. This is the thing that will make you most miserable in the world. I know it’s easier not to go up to people, especially if you’re worried they don’t remember you, but you’ll be so much happier if you do.

If it’s someone you’ve only met once and you’re worried they might not remember you, make it easy on both of you by telling them your name and how you met. Just say “hi, we met at Ted’s wiccan divorce ceremony last year, I’m Katie.” Even if they don’t really remember you, now you have something to talk about right off the bat.

Fear and anxiety around whether or not to greet acquaintances can get really poisonous when it metastasizes, and the longer you let it go, the worse it gets. I have a friend who holds several grudges for people who never say “hi”, but she doesn’t seem to get it that it takes two to tango here. Perhaps these other people are sitting around thinking she’s a real jerk for not saying hi to them first.

It’s funny how much the simple act of very briefly say hello to an acquaintance gives off the impression that they’re “nice”. You can be a secret puppy murderer and people will still have a good opinion of you if you can just be a little genial when greeting them.

Chatting up both sexes is a classic trick from the skeevy pickup-artist community: striking up a conversation with a mixed gender group makes you seem less like a creep, and people will be open to including you. Whether or not you’re actually trying to get laid, the truth is this kind of works. If you’re in a relationship, it can sometimes be awkward talking to people of the opposite sex at a party – you don’t want to accidentally lead someone on who’s looking to meet someone.

Try chatting up a couple – often they’ll be thrilled to have someone new to talk to. Any weird tension is diffused, and you can have a pleasant chitchat. Unless it turns out they’re swingers, in which case the social awkwardness of that encounter is way beyond my pay grade.

Not remembering someone’s name creates fear for saying hello to them, so get better at names, and then you won’t feel as anxious. A trick that really really does work is saying that person’s name out loud back to them right after they introduce themselves. This also clears up any chance you’re mispronouncing it right off the bat.

If you have forgotten someone’s name, just grab someone you do know, say “have you met my friend Ted? He’s really into Wicca, too.” And then the mystery person will say their name out loud to Ted. You’ll be laughing all the way to the memory bank.

An oldie but goodie. Sometimes, if you’re feeling awkward, just killing a minute or two by pretending to check your phone gives you the chance to check out the room, text a friend to see if they’re already there, or decide if you want to bounce. Just make sure to make it look convincing.

I know it might seem like a good activity to do because you don’t have to talk to anymore, but no one likes the guy who futzes around with the iTunes playlist all night. If there’s some other guy doing that, do not go talk to him – he is a social black hole. If you want an activity to keep yourself busy, see if you can help out with drinks or snacks.

More specifically, the bathroom line. It’s the easiest way to make a new friend.

Illustrations by James Jajac for Buzzfeed

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