From Wallflower to Life of the Party?

Happy Sunday, Katy Lee here. This past week my business-type husband announced he was going to send me to a media networking conference. For some reason he thought this was an exciting idea, but me? Not so much. It took all I had in me not to run for the hills. You see, I am an introvert; a solitary person by nature. Just for the record, though, being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-sociable. It just means, please, for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t throw me into the middle of a crowded party and tell me to go mingle…or worse, go network.

Coming up with that opening line – that small-talk starter – is the biggest problem an introvert has. And what can make other people think we are anti-sociable.

But as a writer I’ve got pages and pages of witty dialogue to prove I know what sociable looks like. The clincher being, I’ve had hours to work on those scenes. And yes, I am one of those people who will come up with the perfect comeback or topic hours after the conversation is over… when it doesn’t matter anymore.

Now I’m not saying all writers fall into this personality trait. In fact, I have met many authors who are just as quick with their words in person as they are on the page, and I am unabashedly envious of you all, but I believe more writers than not would say they are quite content to barricade themselves into a room with nothing but their computer and their characters to talk to for days on end.

Sound familiar? You just might be an introvert.

Admitting it is the first step. The next is getting prepared to overcome it–because as much as you want to disappear into the shadows of the party, you can’t.

I attended a conference once where you had to write your name on your name tag along with one topic about yourself. Something that the other person could ask you about and you felt comfortable talking about. It was a great icebreaker, and it took the pressure off of me having to come up with something. They then could ask me about my topic, and conversations just bloomed from there. Before I knew it, I was mingling.  

Unfortunately, we don’t walk around every day with name tags with topics about ourselves on them. I do think the world would be a friendlier place if we did though. Just saying. So how can you keep yourself from being a wallflower?

First off, you don’t need to be the life of the party. It’s okay to find a table where a couple people, probably people just like you, are sitting. But if they are just like you, it could end up to be a pretty quiet table…unless, you come prepared.

Think of a few standard questions you could use when you find yourself in a social situation. I read once a mystery writer who was a self-professed introvert had a standard question she would use in social atmospheres. She would go up to a complete stranger, ask them about their career (a very standard icebreaker for strangers) and then, she would tell them she was a mystery writer and ask, “Why would someone want to murder a person in your profession?” She said it never failed to lead to great conversations and even business relationships. Obviously, though, make sure you’re in the right setting for a question like that, or you could end up being removed from the building.

The Unlocked Secret: Starting the conversation is only the first step.  It is critical that once you start it, you have an obligation to listen. When people realize you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will be more apt to listen to what you have to say after. Before you know it, your conversations will be blooming, and you’ll be networking.  

Question: Do you have the perfect icebreaking question? How do you overcome the bothersome personality trait of being an introvert?


29 thoughts on “From Wallflower to Life of the Party?”

  1. As much as I would love to stay locked away with my computer and my characters, I am a born extrovert. I’m one of those annoyingly affable people who can walk into a room and converse with anyone–and I mean anyone. I usually start conversations with the wait staff, bar tenders, door men, anyone who looks like they need cheering up or is somehow down trodden. As much as I’m an extrovert, I’m also a nurturer, so I’m drawn to the people who most need someone to talk to–very often those wallflowers.

    I start with my name and a smile…simple as that. From there, it usually gets easier for both of us.

    1. Yes, some of us have seen just how extroverted you are with the bartenders…especially the cute foreign ones. 😉

      Seriously, I love hanging out with you because you’re braver than I am, and make it a fun night for all

  2. It’s funny. I land in the middle. I’m pretty outgoing in social situations. I don’t mind starting up conversations with strangers. But, getting me to that party is another story. Most of the time, I just want to be a hermit and stay home. Conversation starters for me usually center around me asking the other person about themselves. I find that a lot of people love to talk about themselves and I’m always happy to listen.

  3. I’m an introvert too! My worst nightmare is going to a party where I don’t know anybody. I love staying at home, reading, writing, talking with a few friends. Crowded bars and night clubs make me uncomfortable. My mother who was born a social butterfly doesn’t understand this about me and thinks it’s odd that I enjoy being alone with my thoughts.

    1. Never been a bar person either. When I was dating my husband he would just kiss me good night and go without me. On the few occasions I went, I did enjoy the pool table in the back.

  4. I used to be an introvert, but now I’m able to hold my own in almost any situation. That doesn’t mean I’ll go willingly to a large gathering, but I will go! Still, I need and enjoy time alone.

    As for openers. I usually introduce myself. Within seconds I can usually zero in on a topic that makes the other person feel comfortable…and then we’re off!

  5. I think I’m in the middle too. I do love “my” time. But I really don’t a problem talking with strangers. I wasn’t always that way. In school I was that non-existent kid in the back row. I took a speech class three years in a row in high school and only lasted a week each time. I couldn’t even stand up and say my name. After school I worked as a dispatcher for a police dept. That was perfect. I could talk and talk and nobody would be looking at me … or argue with me. After that, I didn’t become an extrovert but I am less of an introvert.

    1. Ooh, dispatcher, there’s a story in there somewhere… 🙂

      And there’s a story in you’re own journey too, Kathye. Good for you. I think I am slowly approaching where you’re at. Although, sometimes I am exhausted by the end of the night. It’s almost like I’m putting on a show.

  6. I’m not an introvert, not by a long shot. I do, however, have a tip for you to get to know new people or to help with introductions of people you know little about. If you and I were standing together and I knew PJ Sharon and you didn’t, its helpful I said, “Katy, I’d like to introduce you to PJ, she writes YA. and PJ, Katy writes Inspriational, for example.” When you give out bits of info during an introdcution, should either one of the people be an introvert, it helps throw them a lifeline to start a conversation. Rather than, PJ this is Katy. Katy, PJ. That put too much pressure (should one be an introvert) to pick up the ball and run with it.

    Hope this helps.

    1. I have to come back to this post, but thanks for the laugh on the one below.

      Seriously, I love your idea. This is a great thing for people to do for each other. Usually, I’m trying to focus on the person’s name so I don’t forget it, so this idea not only gives a topic to converse on, but it also helps with name recognition. The person can put the name, PJ Sharon with the clue YA author, and that’s a bonus.

  7. Hi Katy.
    I’m not an introvert by any means either. I will start a conversation with someone in the checkout line at the grocery store or bank! Usually I start by saying “Hi,” simple right? Usually I will ask a question about them such as, “what do you do for work?” I find that people like to talk about their favorite subject …. themselves. I also find a smile goes for miles. However, that said, I do enjoy my behind the closed door time writing. Lately more than ever. Thanks for the post. Hope you get lots of helpful hints.

  8. Hi! I’m an extravert – but I’m much more…oh what’s the word…articulate…when I have had a chance to re-read and edit myself. I often speak without thinking…a terrible trait that I can’t seem to lose. I’m fine in a big crowd and can work a room or a table, but I’ve got to be in the mood for it. Sometimes, I just don’t want to put the effort in…wow…what does that say about me? And I’m better with kids than adults. Kids usually don’t have an agenda. What you see is what you get. I’m not sure how often that’s the case with adults.

  9. Hello. My name is Jon and I’m an introvert. Total introvert. I will show up 30 minutes early to be sure to find an empty table. The ironic part is that I love parties, bars, concerts, conventions and other loud busy events. I’m just not comfortable talking to new people. So I rarely go alone. Thankfully Robyn is more comfortable mingling so I can stay in the background.

    1. Welcome Jon, and I’m with you on finding the empty table. Sometimes it is easier to start with the empty table and hope someone wants to join you. That seems to be a little easier for me to start a conversation when the person has approached me first, and not me feeling like I intruded.

  10. I’m an introvert too, Katy Lee! So many writers are. And yet there are some that are the life of the party. Have you ever noticed it’s easy to start a conversation if the other person is walking their dog. I often have conversations with neighbors that start simply by them asking about my crazy labradoodle. It’s the same with my kids. I can talk to other moms very easily about their kids or ask questions about a shared interest that our kids have like theater or fencing. In fact, my kids would never think I’m an introvert b/c I talk to other moms so much when I take the kids to their activities, but I’m always trying to learn more about their interests and how to help them. But stick me in a room where I’m supposed to network and I can’t think of anything to say. Or tell me I’m supposed to promote myself and I want to go hide in the bathroom! But even in those situations I’ve learned to ask questions of the other people. If its a writer, ask about their books or what they’re writing or wanting to write and soon the conversation is off and running. Great topic!!!

    1. Maybe that’s what I need to do..get a dog! 🙂 Thanks Leanna! And I love that your kids fence. Mine have always wanted to try their hand at it. They have a friend who has done it for years, but have yet to try.

  11. I can’t believe writers are introverts. I pictured them have so much to say it wouldn’t give the rest a chance. I fall in the middle. I love to stay home, there is always so much to do. But, alas, life goes on. I enjoy listening to what people think, what they do, so I ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, but if we run out of conversation, its fun to talk about spiders, sports, and travel. Great post!

  12. Oh, I love the mystery writer’s ice breaker question. Will definitely try that one! Flying home from the ACFW conference, my friend and I had great fun imagining suspense stories for the “characters” we saw. If you want a great icebreaker for your next conference, though, I highly recommend forgetting your roommate. That’s what I did (well, was accused of doing) at ACFW and the entire assembly heard about it. For the rest of the conference, I didn’t have to start a conversation, because as soon as they saw my name tag, they said, “Oh, you’re the one who forgot your roommate!”

    1. Can’t wait to hear all about the conference! And what do you mean you forgot your rommmate? Forgot her where? It must have been nice to have a reputation that preceded you though. That can be helpful in social situations…as long as it’s not a bad one. 😉

  13. It’s kind of a long story. But basically, I had a different roommate for Wednesday night and she didn’t officially check out of my room, so it was in her name instead of mine. But neither did I add my new roommate’s name to the room. So…when she arrived and they did a search on my name, they didn’t find me, which they should have, but probably spelled it wrong…why I have a pen name! So my roommate couldn’t check in.

    With 750 people at the conference, she had little hope of running into me, so…Brandilynn announced from the stage in the first general session that “I’d locked out my roommate” and could I please meet her after the session at the doors. Well, we connected immediately. The next day I played it up when Brandilynn was giving out door prizes. She asked for the person who forgot something important. I stood up and she looked at me puzzled and asked what I’d forgotten. My answer: “I forgot my roommate!” When I agreed to share the stack of books with my roommate, they awarded me the door prize. 😀

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