I dreaded the end of season party for my son’s football team.  I actually lost sleep over it.  Here’s why:

1. I didn’t know any of the other parents. It was the first middle school team my son had played on and the families came from all different neighborhoods and elementary schools.

2. I was going without a partner while my ex-husband would be there with his sweet and effervescently extroverted girlfriend.

3. The hosts’ home was ostentatious which made me think this could be a grand show of posturing and I am so uncomfortable with and uninspired by schmoozing.

4. I thought the conversations would all center on sports, kids, and “What do you do?”.

The two-minute body language tip that will change you

Wonder_WomanI geared up for the event by practicing my newfound confidence and enthusiasm postures compliments of Amy Cuddy and her TedTalk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.  I laughed at myself as I stood in the bathroom, hands on hips, feet planted wide ala Wonder Woman. I felt goofy as I mirrored the Boston marathon winner with his hands thrust in the air in a V shape, chin tipped toward the sky. Did you know that blind people do this same pose when they succeed at something even though they’ve never seen it done by anyone else? Anyway, you are supposed to practice these postures and take up a lot of space with your body for two minutes before entering a setting where you need to shine. Studies show it works, not only affecting how others see you but how you feel yourself. I so wanted this magic to be true.

You glow girl!

Another secret weapon on my utility belt of extroverting super powers — Do what you need to do to feel beautiful (or attractive).  Before any special occasion — first date, interview, anytime I have to speak in front of others — I exercise.  It gives me a healthy glow and my body and posture feel and look stronger. I also carefully pick out clothing that I feel good in.  For the party I wore an oatmeal colored sweater with flattering neckline, good fitting jeans and tall leather boots.  I love boots.  They say, Yes, I am confidently sexy.  I made sure to apply makeup in the shades that compliment my skin tone and eyes. I accentuated my best features.  At 43, I know what those are. All of this is surface but it enhances the true beauty of being comfortable in your own skin which I feel more and more these days… but still have lapses.

Lamb to the slaughter?

The night of the party arrived.  My kids were so excited.  It was awesome to see and feel their joy. I did my best to feign the same level of eagerness.  I plugged the address into

Not actual door.

Not actual door

my GPS and before we knew it we were using the wrought iron knocker to knock on their impressively large door. The hostess let us in with pleasantries and offers to take our coats. We walked through a well-appointed living room with a beautiful fireplace and framed pictures of lions taken while on an African safari a few years back. I placed my suddenly weak and underachieving store-bought fruit tray (still in plastic container) next to Wilton Armetale bowls of chicken salad and silver trays of shrimp cocktail. Someone obviously went all out and it wasn’t me. The hostess offered me a glass of wine.  I took it eagerly hoping it would relax me or at least make me appear relaxed.

Find the other introverts

I quickly spotted the one woman I’d had any type of conversation with on the sidelines during the football games. We stood clinging to each other with our daughters at our elbows in a corner of the room while a group stood in the middle of the room circling the bar. The owner (husband) of the home stood in the main circle with his older daughters, a few of the parents and my ex-husband and his girlfriend. I thought, this could be a long night.

Warm smile, engaging questions and non-judgmental listening

I disentangled from the corner introvert and headed toward another woman I had seen many times at the games.  She was often alone and had an approachable warmth about her.  I walked up to her and smiled.  I told her she seems like a warm and kind person I should know.  Her shoulders eased and her face softened.  She smiled back and we slipped into a comfortable conversation. She is a single mom with stories to tell about her years struggling as a waitress and her years as a successful real estate agent.  She introduced me to another man who was in the restaurant business. Eventually a well dressed Indian man joined our group and spoke openly about the frustrations and complications of having your kids in so many sports and activities. Much head nodding from me on this topic.

boston marathon winner 2010 finish lineThe main dinner food was set out and the coach gave a speech.  We clapped for the team, the coaches and ourselves (the parents). I stood against a column and tried use big/confident body language.

Let an extrovert help you 

After the speeches I touched base with each of my children.  I went out onto the deck to watch my daughter jump on the trampoline.  As I turned to go back into the house, I heard a woman’s voice say, Brenda, I want to talk to you about introversion. It was my ex-husband’s girlfriend.  Let’s call her Kathleen.  It was obvious she had taken the time to find something in my wheelhouse to discuss.  She reached out and I liked her more for it. Kathleen has a friend who is an extreme introvert. She was hoping to enhance their relationship by gaining some understanding of her friend’s proclivities. We had a kind and open conversation that felt respectful and mutually beneficial.  I didn’t even feel the need to do any big Wonder Woman poses. 😉 For part of the conversation my daughter stood between us.  This could have been awkward — two mother figures vying for the child’s allegiance and attention — but it wasn’t.  A silent peace pact passed between us, an alliance of sorts.

Feeling relieved and way more at ease, I still opted out of jumping on the trampoline with the kids and Kathleen. I didn’t feel the need to make myself that BIG.

I spent the rest of the evening talking with various people:

A 73-year-old grandmother who could relate to my divorced-with-children position. She’d been through it and survived.  She gave me hope and a sweet feeling of support.

A single dad photographer.  We talked under the watchful eyes of everyone else at the party — or at least that’s how I imagined it.  Oh look, the single people are talking…

The team coach who wanted to talk about mutual friends and partying stories (introvert brain struggled here).


Before I knew it, it was time to gather children and go home. I freakin’ made it!

My ex-husband hugged me by the door and quietly said, Thank you. 

I thanked the hostess for everything. She replied with a solid, Oh sure! This is fun!  I am so grateful for people like her and her husband who consider hours of prep work;  chatting with large groups of people; having their house trashed and chaos in general, fun.  Because of them, I get to socialize enough to satisfy the urge for connection, and then leave. 😉

Contrary to normal introvert behavior, I left the party energized.

What have you learned to do to get through challenging social setting? How do you cope?