When you're an introvert, socializing is often easier when you have—or take on—a role to play.

Socializing When You Don’t Feel Like It—A Few Tricks of the Trade

Sometimes you’re basically forced into socializing; you don’t really have a choice. But you do have some options for handling it skillfully.

When I was a kid, church on Sunday mornings was typically followed by a lengthy visit to a relative’s house, usually that of my Uncle Dick and Aunt Betty.

I never wanted to go (to Dick and Betty’s, that is, although the same was true for church).

It had nothing to do with Dick and Betty specifically.

I just didn’t want to go see anyone.

I wanted to go home and read a book. Or watch football on TV. Or do anything else, really, that didn’t involve more socializing than I’d already done at church and Sunday school.

But I had no choice.

I was a kid, and I did what I was told.

Stealth Socializing

I never knew why I felt the way I felt.

I was a couple of decades from even hearing the term introvert, let alone knowing what it meant, so I had neither the words nor the gumption to try to change the situation.

Instead, I almost unconsciously found ways to adapt—to ride out the many social circumstances I found myself in that were thrust upon me.

The first strategy, which I perfected amidst the Oreos, black coffee, and secondhand cigarette smoke at Dick and Betty’s house, was to be—and be seen as—The Pet Person.

Dick and Betty had an ageless old dog named Putt Putt and a cat with a damaged ear named Taco.

Putt Putt and Taco became my go-to “people” during each visit.

And an amazing thing happened.

I was left alone to be with them, but I was still viewed—or so it seemed—as being sociable with the other people who were there.

It was socializing via osmosis and proximity!

It was fantastic. So fantastic that I use this tactic to this very day.

It’s one of several introverted tricks of the trade I’ve developed over the years for those situations where you find yourself having to socialize when, shall we say, it isn’t necessarily your idea.

Here are a few others you can try.

The Kid Person

Being The Kid Person is quite similar to being The Pet Person, with the obvious bonus being that kids frequently behave like cats and dogs anyway, thus making it easy to shift from seeking out the animals in the room to seeking out the ani…—I mean, the children in the room.

At holiday meals, I try to sit at the “kid table” when I can.


Because I can generally—though not always, I’ll admit—have a nice two-way conversation with a kid, one that stays away from difficult topics and doesn’t force either one of us to engage in draining small talk.

The Helper Person

Need a break from the family reunion?

Offer to wash the dishes. Or to take the pets/kids (same difference) for a walk. Or to run to the grocery store to restock the supply of beverages.

Want your professional gathering to be a little less draining—dare I say, perhaps even be energizing?

Offer to be the person who welcomes people to the event and gives them their nametag, conference folder, and meal ticket.

People will be coming to you to interact.

That alone will make your socializing easier.

The Game Person

Games are particularly big at family gatherings, and in two contexts.

For starters, there’s the ball game that a group of people are watching on TV.

Join that group.

Grab a spot on the couch or in the reclining chair. All you have to do is sit there and watch the game with everyone else and presto: You’re socializing.

If you actually enjoy the sport being televised, so much the better.

You can also participate in the games people are playing at the event.

Maybe it’s cards. Maybe it’s a board game. Maybe it’s volleyball. Doesn’t matter. If you let yourself be part of the game, you’re seen as part of the group and part of the fun.

The Periphery Person

This one is for weddings, dances, wedding dances, and similar events.

The Periphery Person is the person who is at a gathering, but who is off to the side and out of the direct spotlight.

It’s the person who is taking a break on the patio of the event hall while the DJ blares the music inside.

It’s the person who finds a near-empty corner table to get slightly away from the bulk of the people in the middle of the facility.

One thing I have learned over the years, having been The Periphery Person many times: Nobody cares. As in, nobody cares that you’re off on the periphery.

In fact, it’s doubtful that most people even notice.

Who does notice?

It’s almost always a fellow introvert, who might then come join you in mutual respite. And that frequently turns into the engaging one-on-one conversation we introverts crave.

Sometimes There’s a Trick to Socializing

When Putt Putt died, my uncle and aunt got a new dog named Myrt who could sit with a potato chip on her nose until Dick shouted “Get it!” She’d then flip the chip in the air and eat it in one swift movement.

I helped Myrt practice this amazing trick every Sunday for years.

Who knew that in the process, she was helping me master an amazing trick too?

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