Fifty people gather for a party in a small space. It’s intimate but not cramped. You look around and notice everyone socializing. Then you realize everyone but you has someone to talk to. You go grab a drink because holding a drink makes you feel more secure.
You say hello to a few people. They counter with a polite, yet cool acknowledgment.
Hmm. Did I not shower this morning? Did I offend someone?
Those thoughts clouded my mind as I stood there by myself. What do you do in those situations? Technology to the rescue. You pull out your phone and look busy. Every so often, put your phone away and speed walk towards a destination. That makes you look like you’re headed somewhere specific.
Safety In Hiding
Both these activities allow you to hide. They allow you to go unnoticed. You avoid the difficult task of walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself. You avoid the even more awkward task of engaging in conversation.
I kept up this charade for an hour. I wondered if everyone gossiped about the weird guy walking around and staring at his phone. Maybe I wrote a blog post six months ago that angered all of them. Ah, I knew it. I figured out the source of their disdain.
I am the pariah of the party. How do I reconcile that with my psyche? Maybe I should call it a badge of honor? It makes for a good story.
Things Take A Turn
An hour and a half into the party, someone approached me and introduced himself.
“Hi. I’m Tim. Have we met?”
“Hi. Barry. No. I don’t think so.”
We engaged in a conversation about work, family and our shared contempt for the constant bombardment of falling leaves this time of year. Fifteen minutes into the conversation, someone else joined in. From then on, my popularity soared — at least in my own mind.
Here’s the truth.
I was the pariah of the party. It was not because of some nasty gossip floating among the crowd.
I made myself unapproachable.
From the minute I walked in I repulsed other party goers.
In the beginning, I felt uneasy, unsure. People pick up on that. As I built up the story, I acted in a way that enhanced my unapproachable vibe.
I played with my phone. I walked fast towards a mythical destination — as if someone called me over to talk.
An hour and a half into the party I tired of the game. I threw out my drink and settled for a bottle of water. I relaxed. Things happened.
Do you find yourself alone in the corner at a party? Do you sense the others gossip about you? Look at the vibe you put out to the world. Playing on your phone, off-putting body language and avoiding eye contact send a message to others.
Closed For Business
If you’re the kind of person who struggles to engage at a party, try what I did.
- Put away your phone
- Make eye contact