Having just come off the three day 4th of July festivities, I am glad to be back into the workweek. I had anxiety at a party on Saturday and decided to forgo fireworks for the rest of the holiday weekend.
The family was in full agreement with me on this one. For one it was sweltering out this weekend. We have a really nice in ground pool and no one wanted to sit in a scorching field just to get their eardrums blown out. But back my ordeal…
On Saturday I had social anxiety at a party my sister in law had at her lake house in Pennsylvania. There was a fairly large assortment of people there, and although I have been going to the lake house for as long as I’ve known my husband (17 years), these people have all grown up together. I had the “outsider looking in” feeling.
It felt awkward mingling from group to group, but that’s exactly what I did. When I started feeling anxious, my husband was nowhere to be found.
I have never been really comfortable going to parties (except in my 20′s, when I was a very heavy drinker, and I’m sure that wasn’t too graceful, lol ). Now when I get anxiety at a party, barbecue, outing, or gathering of any kind, I usually find my husband and join in his conversation, or just hold his hand.
Since he was out of sight, I tried to make the best of the situation. I did the stuff from How to Win Friends and Influence People (the grandfather of all people skill books). I asked a lot of questions, and acted genuinely concerned about the people I was talking to.
When I tell you I have nothing in common with my 24 year old nephew and his girlfriend who I barely know, I am not kidding. However, I used these simple principles and was easily able to “hang out” with them for awhile. I asked them about what I know: my nephew’s job and recent graduation, his new car, his girlfriend’s upcoming semester in England, and their recent vacation. That’s all I needed to do. I asked about the things that were important to them, and I genuinely listened and acted concerned.
What I have found is that most people love to talk about themselves, and the people at this party were no different. The best part was my anxiety quickly subsided and I stopped looking around for my safe person (hubby).
For the people I didn’t know – all the summer folk who grew up together – I just asked them about the basics: where they lived, what they do, their history of coming to the lake, and about their kids and pets (or grand kids). I was sincere and it was surprisingly easy.
I purposefully kept the focus off any anxiety symptoms I had and stayed engaged in the conversations. This worked like a charm.
And basically, that’s how I was able to have anxiety at a party and deal with it. We ended up staying for 8 hours (my choice). Even with the first 45 minutes of feeling anxious and awkward, I have to say I enjoyed myself and was really proud.
I wish you peace,
p.s. If you’ve ever suffered with social anxiety at a party, How to Win Friends and Influence People is wonderful. It’s not a book about social anxiety per se, but it was recommended to me years ago by my psychiatrist to help me with social anxiety. It teaches time tested principles of dealing with people so that they feel appreciated and understood. It’s great as a quick read before going to a barbecue, gathering, or any social event where you are expected to mingle.