7 Social Situations All Introverts Fear

By Paul Michael on 31 August 2015 4 comments

Some of us are social butterflies, happily flitting from person to person in social gatherings and loving every minute of it. But not everyone is so comfortable in these surroundings. In fact, to some introverts, social situations can be a living hell; particularly (but not limited to) these seven stressful situations for soloists.

1. The Wedding Speech

Whether you're the best man, the father or mother of the bride, or the maid of honor, a speech is mandatory. And as this is a wedding, although there is obviously room for sentiment and love, there is an expectation of humor; especially from the best man.

Comedians spend years perfecting their skills in front of live audiences, testing material, and honing it until they get laughs. If you're chosen to do a speech, you have one shot at it. There are places to improve your skills, including local toastmasters clubs, but it's still nerve-racking for an introvert. With the entire wedding party looking your way, the cold sweats and shakes can come on quickly.

If you want to get through this, practice, practice, practice. And unless you are 100% sure that your bawdy joke or embarrassing true story about the bride/groom will go over well, don't tell it. You do not want to upset the happy couple in front of everyone they care about.

2. The Long Elevator Ride

Or worse, trapped in an elevator… aargh! Elevators are not fun for introverts. They are small, claustrophobic spaces filled with strangers. Getting on at the first floor and riding to the very top can feel like an eternity. There is this pressure to acknowledge the other people, but if you make eye contact they may just want to have a little chat. That's when you, as an introvert, will be looking everywhere for a way out. Some people will get off on the wrong floor and walk the rest of the way, just to avoid the conversation with a complete stranger.

If you take a daily ride in an elevator, and it takes more time than you're comfortable with, bring something to look at. A phone is great, and so is a magazine or newspaper. With your head buried, you can avoid conversations and eye contact.

3. Alone at a Bar

There is something that stings true whenever an introvert is alone at a bar, party, club, or any other place where people gather for fun and drinks; the worst time to feel alone is in a crowded room. For extroverts, it's no problem. If they're alone, they remedy that by talking to strangers, sparking up conversations, and dancing with people. Introverts don't have that ability.

As an introvert, being alone in a crowded place is tough. Really tough. You see conversations everywhere. People are laughing and joking with each other, having a great time, and you're stood, or sat, cradling a drink and looking at the exit sign. It's not easy. If it's not too busy, talking to the person behind the bar can bring some relief, as you have a legitimate reason to interact. There's always the phone as a standby, but that can be depressing. Your best bet here is whenever possible, arrange to meet people at the place you're going, or always go out with a group.

4. The Eulogy

Seinfeld said it best: "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two… is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy." 

As social situations go, this one already has some major baggage. There has been a death of a friend, relative, or loved one, which is bad enough. There are a whole lot of people gathered in one place, trying to make conversation to relieve some of the tension. And to top it off, making a speech to a crowd of people, many of whom you don't know, is a social nightmare of an introvert.

Luckily, there is no pressure here to be funny, although you can be. But still, with all eyes on the speaker for a few minutes, this is not good for any introvert. Once again, you should definitely try your eulogy out on a few close friends, if you are nervous about it. At the very least, practice in front of a mirror, and work out any kinks. Plus, take note cards. No one will fault you for having a memory aid.

5. Packed Trains and Buses

Commuters who take the subways every day will know this pain all too well. Train compartments are not designed for personal space. They have seats, they have standing room, and at rush hour in big cities, they are filled to the brim with people trying to get to work, or get home. It's bad enough when you have to sit next to someone who is a chatterbox, but when you're standing elbow-to-elbow with a bunch of complete strangers, the anxiety can increase tenfold.

These situations are definitely best handled with either reading material (a phone, paper, puzzle book) or music and headphones. If you are in your own world, people are less likely to try and start any kind of conversation with you. And of course, try and avoid eye contact; especially with those people who seem eager to chat your ear off.

6. Surprise Parties

Introverts often have to attend social functions, there's just no getting around them. But, with enough time to prepare for the event, it's something that can be dealt with. A surprise party eliminates that buffer, and throws a big social event at someone who may not be mentally ready to be there.

Whether it's a birthday, a baby shower, a retirement, or anything else, these events put the introvert at the center of the gathering. The spotlight is on them, and they want to duck inside their shell and crawl away. If you are an introvert, you may want to drop hints that you really don't like surprises; especially surprise parties. If one is suddenly thrust upon you, take some deep breaths, smile, and try and find just a few people to focus on, instead of the whole crowd.

7. The Open Plan Office

So technically, this may not be a social situation like the others, but let's not beat around the bush… it forces introverts to be more social, regardless of how they feel about it. The basic issue is a lack of privacy. Introverts do not want to live their lives in public. They don't want to make calls in front of other people. They don't want to be seen doing their jobs, especially if the open plan makes it very easy to interrupt them with idle chit-chat.

If you are an introvert in an open plan office, you need to find ways to get the personal time you need. Don't eat lunch at your desk; instead, find a way to take a walk or go somewhere else. Wear headphones if you can, or even ear defenders, to block out noise and create your own space. And find creative ways to build a more private area for yourself, even if it's in the way you position your computer or the furniture.

What social situations are tough for you? How do you get through them?

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Guest's picture
IBikeNYC

Even for a woman:

#3 = Standing there with, uh, "IT" in one's hands.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is more to do with phobias not introversion. I'm an introvert and I have no problem with any of these. Please research before publishing. Thx

Guest's picture
Not shy introvert

I second what the other guest said. I'm an introvert. It is not synonymous with shy. I'm fully capable and comfortable interacting with people in all the situations described, I just don't enjoy doing it all the time and can sometimes find it tedious or draining.

Guest's picture
RustBeltRick

Number 7 is the only one that bothers me. Public speaking is pretty easy for some introverts, like myself; we don't mind it because we are in control of the situation, so its less nerve-wracking than a one-on-one meeting with someone new. And as someone else said, these seem more like phobias than anything else.

Guest's picture
Guest

I remember the open office situation, about 20 people. When I'd ask my supervisor a question, 6 people would answer. The desks were very close, sometimes I'd think of something, briefly, which would elicit a quick smile from me. The woman across from me (three feet away) would say "Ah, what are you thinking of, I saw that smile!" She'd go on and on. She was always watching me because, working, we were facing each other and not one twitch escaped her attention. Finally, the office got partitions, which was a relief!