Myers-Briggs is my first love. Well, after Jesus. And Nutella.
That there was a test with little check-boxes, the purpose of which was to quantify my emotions and provide me with a category was just…well, obviously I’m a J Type. To put it simply, it blew my mind. I tested as an INTJ, heavy on the I and the T, from the very beginning. Like, I was 85% introvert. And, I thought to myself, “This is why. This is why I have such a hard time with parties and people and community!”
I lay back in a little trash pile of introverted activities, rolling around gleefully in excuses for why I couldn’t go here, or wouldn’t do that, or didn’t have any interest in meeting new people. For a while, I felt good about justifying it. Then I started looking over one shoulder, then the other. I began to crave variety in society. And I realized my life wasn’t getting anywhere in some big ways, both personally and professionally.
The trouble is, parties and events and group activities are where people meet, mingle and eventually become each others’ families of choice. I love my family of not-choice. But I need to have a family of choice, too. People who I’ll share my life with, on a deeper level than just weekly or bi-weekly interactions, with unsatisfying hello-how-are-you-I’m-fines.
So here is a quick guide for how I’ve learned to not just tolerate but appreciate and *gasp* enjoy parties, events, people and new places.
#1 – Ditch the box.
Knowing your personality type is helpful. But that’s not all you are.
Since I first tested with Myers-Briggs, and this is actually fairly common, my personality has changed–HUGELY. I’m still introverted, but only in the 60% range, and my T function has been superseded by an F, bordering on 50%. Right down the middle. So what’s my point?
If you walk into every room actively thinking that You Don’t Like This Kind of Situation or This Is Awful, guess what kind of time you’ll have? And what kind of vibe you’ll give off to potential friends? About what you’d expect–one you don’t like. And, if you are always living into a category, how much air do your less dominant personality traits have to come out and play? Bingo! They don’t. Abandon your categories long enough to give yourself a chance to have fun.
# 2 – Set your expectations.
Ugh. The worst. I go to a party, put myself out there and discover that *poor me* no one wants to have a rEAl ConVERsAtiOnnn, just vacuous titter about weather and work and pop culture and WHYYYYYYYY?!
Get over it.
Look at social interaction like that dumb food pyramid that has long been debunked (maybe because ketchup was considered a vegetable). Behold, my creation:
*this is not exhaustive and took me 5 minutes
So parties are basically just quantity of relationship and quantity of opportunities. Don’t expect quality. You probably won’t get into whether China’s cultural history will enable it to graduate from economic power to a long-standing, world-defining superpower. Fine. But maybe you get past the hello-how-are-you-I’m-fine stage with even one person and you talk about travel, or their family, or something funny that happened today. Take it! You’re one step closer to a coffee date or making an actual friend, or to realizing that they aren’t going to be an actual friend–which is just as useful. Clarity is a beautiful thing, my dudes.
Be realistic in what to expect from different situations and people.
#3 – Find people who are ready to make connections.
Oh man, oh man. I used to torture myself at functions, with people who were one-word-givers and entirely non-reciprocal. I’d try to think of clever questions, try to draw them out, and find that I was putting out all the emotional energy. Why are they there? No one knows. Clearly, it’s not to talk to you and that’s all you really need to know.
So move on. Find someone who at least looks interested in what you’re saying, someone who will be vulnerable and put a little piece of themselves on the table when you put a little bit of yourself out there, too. If someone can’t do that, bless them, but you need to gently terminate the conversation (getting another plate of chips will do) and engage with someone who can make eye contact, nod and reply beyond the word “good.”
Caveat #1: If I sound cruel, know that I understand shyness. Speaking in even the smallest way was once accompanied by butterflies and misery. So, yeah, I was a dreadful, one-word conversation partner. I don’t blame people for not sticking around. They weren’t my therapists. They were there to talk and enjoy themselves!
Caveat #2: The other danger is finding someone who monopolizes your time. I assume you know the difference between non-talkers, over-talkers and people who want to talk as much as listen. In other words, you need to find *and be* someone in the goldilocks zone of sharing and listening. Make the call and act based on your conclusion.
I could go on, but these action-steps are fairly easy to implement. Let go of your self-definition and give your less-used traits a chance. Set your expectations properly, based on where you’re going rather than on wishful thinking or introvert fantasies. Spend your energy on people who spend back equally. Trust yourself. You got this.
Go. Have a better time at parties! 🙂