Imagine: It's Friday and you're just hours away from clocking out of work and crossing the finish line into your weekend. There's an after-work social that you've been looking forward to attending all week with your bestie, but as soon as you press "Send" to your last email of the day, your girlfriend texts you letting you know that she's no longer feeling up to going. Bummed out by the last-minute change of plans, you're now faced with a decision: stay in for the night and pass on the event or ride solo?
Has this ever happened to you? As much as we love our friends, sometimes they're just not down for the count to partake in spontaneous – or planned - escapades. There's joy and power in assembling your squad to take on the night together, but don't think you have to miss out on an evening of fun just because you don't have anyone to accompany you. Attending the function by yourself may come off as an intimidating task, but allow me to assure you that it's nothing to shy away from.
Take it from me, I've learned a thing or two from not being confined to the leesh of friend's failed commitments. I've gone to music festivals like Afropunk and Broccoli City Fest, as well as mixers in New York City all by my lonesome, and I'm proud to report that, I indeed, survived.
Maybe your palms get all clammy at the mere thought of attending a densely populated social gathering alone, or you just have attachment issues and find security in the presence of people you know. Whatever the case may be, if the desire to gain experiences exceeds the fear to flee to your bed, then here are a few pointers to get you through the night:
Set your intentions.
Now that you've mustered up the courage to go through with your plans to attend that party/mixer/social solo, ask yourself: What do I want out of this? Leaving the house with a goal in mind can lessen the anxieties that may creep up when you're trying to find your place in a room full of strangers. It's like your own little secret that acts as a compass to guide you through the night. Do you want to meet some new people in your industry? Is there someone you've been hoping to "run into" that's going to be in attendance? Make a mental note of what your goals for the evening are and once you feel like you've crossed off list, you'll feel more confident about your presence.
A lot of the awkwardness that comes from attending an event by yourself is not knowing what to do with yourself, literally. It brings up the age-old quandary: What do I do with my hand? Start by grabbing a drink: a cocktail, water, cranberry juice, it's up to you. Not only will it help calm your nerves, but it will make you look apart of the room and ready to engage and have a good time. I know you may feel the urge to grab your phone but looking down at your feed can make you come off as unengaged and preoccupied, like you'd rather be somewhere else but here. That's not the signal you want to send if you're hoping to meet new people. Take a few sips while you work the room until you find someone to engage with.
Talk that talk.
Now that you've spotted who you'd like to spend the next 20-30 minutes chatting with, what are you going to talk about? It may be easy to fall into conversational traps about the weather, but your time is precious and you don't want to waste it on dead-end small talk. Try leading with a compliment to break the ice and be genuine about it. Once they've opened up a bit, follow up by asking what they do or what brings them here. People love talking about themselves and love it even more when they feel like there someone who actually wants to listen. Just be sure to avoid touchy about politics, religion, and relationship status, this is charted territory for the uncomfortable and intrusive feelings to emerge. Remember that a conversation takes two willing participants, so be an active listener, give eye contact, and share the conversation.
Time to leave or take a breather?
If it's your first time attending an event by yourself, it's natural to feel overwhelmed throughout the night. After you've gotten a drink, worked the room, and survived a breezy conversation or two, you are more than welcome to take a moment to recharge and regroup with yourself. In these moments, find a place like the bathroom or balcony to determine how much "party" you have left in you. Have you met your goals for the night? Have you gotten at least a few new connections? If you feel like you have a few more minutes of mixing and mingling left in you, freshen yourself up and get back on the floor. But if you've given it all you have and checked off the tasks on your personal list, then it's just fine to end the evening a high note and retire in your victory.
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