December hits and it's officially "holiday season." This also means the onslaught of party invites and the dreaded office party, which many introverts dread. While many businesses are opting out of elaborate holiday party celebrations as they feel the year-end budget squeeze, most offices will try to do something to mark the end of a year together as a way to thank employees.
You have two options: quit your job, move far away, and try living off the land so you never have to do this again; try to make the most of an opportunity that has been handed to you. The solitude of option one may seem inviting if you're an introvert, but it's not very practical for most people.
If you have chosen to tough it out through your office holiday party, here are some tips to help ensure that you will have fun, despite your introverted tendencies.
Volunteer to join the decorating or planning committee. This will help you feel you are part of the event and give you something to talk about with your colleagues as the party is starting. Ask them what they think of the theme or the choice of venue. Once you start talking about something you have in common, you will be more relaxed.
If the event is to be held in an unfamiliar venue, visit in advance. You will feel more at ease if you familiarize yourself with your surroundings in advance — that includes your travel route to get there.
Start conversations with easy topics
Ask people about their holiday plans and other easy conversation topics. Be ready to share your plans. Consider saying, "This season, I'm planning something really different" and explain what you'll be up to. You will get their attention with your fresh approach to the holidays and you can have fun sharing your plans. For example, "I'm going to enroll in a hot yoga class. It's something I have never done because it sort of scares me." This may open the conversation as others talk about their yoga experience.
Avoid leaning on "liquid courage"
You might think that drinking large amounts of alcohol will build up your courage, however it might have you leaving a terrible lasting impression. If you don't eat at the event, even a little alcohol will affect you and the fun will be lost. Keep your consumption to one drink per hour and sip slowly.
Meet someone new
Resist the temptation to hang out only with people you work with. By using some of the conversation strategies above, you will be surprised how easily conversation will flow with other introverts and extroverts as well.
Put yourself in the middle of the action
Being the middle of the room doesn't mean you have to be the life of the party, but it will make you feel less self-conscious than hugging the wall. There is more safety there because that's where most of the conversation takes place.
Connect with senior management
As the event goes on and you start feeling more comfortable, initiate conversations with senior management. They will probably welcome the attention as other employees shy away from them for fear of appearing ill-informed. Ask them how they got into the industry and about their first job. Don't feel you need to "talk shop" but focus on their holiday plans and if they mention children or grandchildren, ask them about their plans with them.
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Build on your conversations
You will come up with new topics of conversation as you speak with different people. For example, you can always start a new conversation with, "I was just talking with Terry and he has seen the newest Marvel film. I'm going to check it out. Have you seen it?'
People are generally more interested in how they come across at an event than assessing your performance. Once you get past the idea that people are not going to judge you, you will feel more comfortable in your skin. You'll have more fun if you can be yourself and draw on the above tips as the event goes on.
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