Many of you will avoid social gatherings at all costs and be surprised to learn that I sometimes actively choose to attend. For me they can be positive and negative in equal measure. They can be generally happy fun occasions but I will inevitably feel like an alien and that I have little in common with the others attending. So, here’s my survival guide:
1) Practise being kind Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for kindness. Think of a kind word to say or action to do, and if you can’t think of one immediately, just spread a smile. Or
2) Find a job to do Pouring drinks or collecting the rubbish can be better than standing round feeling like a wallflower. It is also kind. I’ve just volunteered myself as a raffle-ticket tearer for an upcoming event!
3) Watch and learn There is so much to learn from those around us, in the topics they discuss and how they act, that we can then apply later. Sometimes it can be tips on what not to do!
4) Look for others on the edge There could be others there like you. Go up and say hello and smile at least, if you have the courage. Although talking to them could be awkward if like you they’re not natural conversationalists.
5) Take time out Go outside for fresh air (but watch out for the smokers corner if like me you can’t stand smoke). Or
6) Toilets are great places for stimming! I find after a few moments shaking my head and flapping my hands where I can’t be seen, I’m ready to go back out and mingle.
7) When you’ve had enough, and as soon as it is polite to do so, leave. I’ve learnt this as I’ve got older. You don’t get extra Brownie points for staying right till the end.
Maybe you have a few fears about social gatherings, eg:
No one will talk to me. If you can, be proactive and talk to them. They might, as often happens to me, politely smile then turn round and talk to someone else. Remember, if they don’t converse with you, it says a lot about them and nothing about you.
No one will care whether or not I’m there. I thought this about somewhere I’m going this weekend. Most of those I really care about, won’t be there. Those who will be there, I don’t have any deep feelings about at the moment either. But I have no doubt that I’ll make a positive difference, as they will to me. I care whether I’m there or not, and I can’t control what others care about anyway.
I will feel different and excluded. You’re a unique and rare individual. Others may find that hard. You’re no better or worse than them. Just different. Enjoy your uniqueness.
It will overwhelm me. Crowds, noise and cliquey groups of people are overwhelming to us without doubt. See 5, 6 and 7 above.
I’ll make a fool of myself We all do that at times. Say sorry if necessary, put it behind you and move on. Life’s too short.
A lot of us are not social animals, and gatherings like I’ve described may to some of us do more mental harm than good. In which case, I’d say avoid them if you can. But many of us also do long to connect with people in deep and meaningful ways, and will gain a lot from social gatherings. Keep persevering I say!