Hosting for the socially inept

September 23, 2012

I went to two parties yesterday. This is twice my monthly allotment so I’m feeling a little oversocialized. Due to the differences in how the events went, I’d like to take this time to rant about hosting parties where people don’t know each other (especially for the socially inept).

As the host, cooking is not that important. Talking to your BFF is not that important. Fussing with this or that is… let’s see…. not that important. The highest priority of the host should be to pawn the guests off on each other. Given your guest list, you can even think of some of the connections ahead of time.

“Oh, have you met Kershohsdaf? She’s in the same field as you are.”

“Let me introduce you to Uoweirj. He’s interested in the XYZ as you’ve mentioned before.”

If you can make them amuse each other, then you can do all that other stuff without wallflowers growing. Especially for the stand-around-and-chat parties, the host can’t be the center of attention; they’ve got too much to do. Introducing people helps a ton. Another method of clearing the walls is to give shy people jobs so they have a good reason to talk to others.

“What I need you to do is take this to everyone and tell me what they think of it. If they like that, we’ve got more but if they don’t we’ll switch to another bottle.”

“I’m afraid Ldsofai and Jsdfa don’t know anyone here. I know you don’t either but I’m hoping you can introduce them around. They are so shy on their own.”

The best a host can hope for is to make people talk to each other. If the partygoers can find new people to talk to on their own, even better. And as an attendee, you have to be willing to use social ploys to keep thing going so your host doesn’t have to baby you through everything. But for that, do as I say, not as I do.

At the BBQ event yesterday, sponsored by my college alumni association, the host said hello, asked if we enjoyed the aquarium, pointed us to the snacks, and resumed her previous conversation.

I grabbed a water and stood on the periphery of the group near the snacks. Then I got bored (and uncomfortable, like I was eavedropping) and went to look a the pictures C and I had taken before we got there. Then, feeling chilly and sunburned and useless, we left. We didn’t talk to anyone else. I thought it was because everybody else was talking to each other. After we’d left, C pointed out that they were all in groups of two or three so they probably weren’t talking to each other either.

It shouldn’t have been hard to start conversations. Most of the people had been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium that day. Most of the people had all gone to the same college (though not in the same years). Most of the people had science or technology jobs. Some had been whale watching that morning.

Maybe I was already socially feeble from going to the aquarium and interacting with people there. Still, I’m kind of embarrassed that we didn’t talk to anyone. I mean, I did re-load business cards into my wallet in hopes of meeting people. But they were talking to each other. I didn’t want to interrupt.

This is somewhat a couples’ problem. If Jack and Jill come to a party and are too shy to introduce themselves to others, they will talk to each other, thereby making it hard for anyone to come talk to them. It is even worse if one half of the couple is less excited about meeting people.

At the second party, I went solo. I had to interact or look like a complete loser.  My host there was more helpful, spending a little time making me comfortable and then doing the big group name-only introduction (sadly, those don’t tell me who I might be able to chat with). There were lots of other solos there.

Even so, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen refilling the water jug, feeling like an idiot, particularly after I hit shoals in the conversation (Hint: “So, what do you do?” is not always a safe conversation starter. Sigh.)

Fish not swimming together

One comment

  1. Great blog – I stumbled on it and enjoyed reading it. I’m one of the party wallflowers too but I didn’t realize you were (I was in your class at HMC). Sometimes at parties nobody talks to the wallflowers. Once at a party I was at, many extraverts came by and talked to the wallflowers for a few minutes and moved on – seems like at parties the extraverts will talk to the wallflowers and the introverts are the wallflowers.

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