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When You Must Attend an Event You Wanted to Avoid

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What You Need to Know

  • COVID-19 created a great excuse for shy people to stay home.
  • This holiday season, parties are back.
  • You might like some of guests. Others, perhaps, less so.

Have you seen this shirt? “Sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to come.” No, you can’t buy it and wear it to the party.

When we were young, parties were a big thing. As you get older, you become more discriminating. If you are going to attend an event (especially one where you pay for your ticket) you want to be around people you really like.

But sometimes you are attending an event because it’s important to your spouse. Maybe it’s a family wedding. It could be your school reunion. That little voice in your head says: “Must I go?” The other little voice says “Yes, you must.”

Here are 10 ways to make the best of a bad situation:

1. Dress well.

If you are going to meet up with your high school rivals or socialize with the side of the family that never thought you were good enough, you want to look your best. Details matter. Get your hair done and your shoes polished. Wear your best watch. Now is the time to bring out the designer purse.

2. Research the guest list.

You don’t dislike everyone! Maybe there are a few folks you wanted to avoid, but there might be movers and shakers in attendance too. Figure out who they are and prepare a few talking points to carry you beyond “I just wanted to introduce myself.”

3. Prepare to put in the time.

You don’t need to stay the full three hours, but you can’t leave after 15 minutes either. Plan to stay at least an hour and be an active guest.

4. Greet your hosts.

Someone put you on the guest list or organized the event. They are the guest of honor of master of ceremonies. Shortly after you arrive, approach them and thank them for including you. Repeat the process to say goodbye once you are ready to leave. This shows respect. It also establishes you were there.

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5. Circulate.

There might be people you wanted to avoid, but that impossible. It’s a better strategy to seek them out and greet them in a polite, upbeat manner. Compliments are very useful right about now. You might feel both you and they are playing a role. You are. It’s called being civil. This defuses the tension of wondering if they are going to find you first and say something uncomfortable.

6. Meet the person you wanted to meet.

You have gotten the sticky encounters out of the way. Now find the person you researched before arriving. Introduce yourself. I’ve found “You don’t know me…” is an excellent icebreaker. Make conversation.

7. In the room vs. in the mood.

Years ago, a California advisor shared the distinction between those two terms. In the room means “you had to be there” and you aren’t happy about it. You aren’t likely to be the only one. Look around and find that other person. They might be the grumpy looking one. You can immediately bond because you have that factor in common. It’s easy to be civil to each other. You might even hit it off and laugh a lot.

8. Things to talk about.

You’ve found someone to talk to, but what are you going to talk about? “What brings you here tonight” or “How are you connected to the organization” are good icebreakers. “How do you know our host” leads into “Who knows who” and identify friends in common. You can comment on the quality of the food or music, but not within earshot of your hosts.

9. Watch your drinking.

It’s tempting to indulge, especially when it’s top shelf booze and it’s free. Remember your audience, those folks you don’t like and the feeling is mutual. Drinking too much gives them something to talk about. Don’t make it easy for them.

10. Ease out slowly.

If it’s an event, there might be short speeches. There’s a eulogy if it’s a funeral. It’s difficult to disappear before that point. When you feel you’ve stayed long enough, don’t rush for the door. Circulate around, saying goodnight to your friends and your hosts.

It’s going to be tempting to dissect the event the moment you leave. It’s a better idea to wait until you are safely inside your car and the windows are up. You and your partner will have fun laughing and releasing the tension, but you might also say: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I met a couple of really interesting people.”

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