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Build Your Social Muscles – And Stick To A Drink: 10 Ways To Be Much More Confident At Parties | life and style

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As the great Oliver Cheatham once sang, “I like to party… Everybody does.” Except that’s not true, is it? Not everyone likes to party. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me how many people privately admit to hate parties. It’s actually pretty hard to find someone who’s an avowed party animal, especially since the pandemic.

And yet, the festive spirit continues. People still throw birthday parties, throw parties (even if they can’t pronounce “soiree”), and insist on leaving work that no one wants to go to except the people nobody wants. Sometimes I don’t know why we do this to ourselves. But we do. And that must be a good thing – otherwise our lives would be just work, home and screens. In other words, the holidays may be the only vestige of humanity we have left. We must fight for our right to party – with confidence. Here’s how.

Be kind to yourself and others

Since there have been no social events for months at a stretch over the past few years, it’s no surprise that some of us feel a bit out of practice. Psychotherapist Philippa Perry says: “I see sociability as a muscle – during the pandemic much of that muscle has atrophied and has yet to regain its pre-lockdown strength. Personally, it shocked me how much social muscle I lost. At my first gathering, a book launch, after lockdown, I barely lasted 45 minutes and was exhausted. I think it took me a year to get back on track. And I’m a 65-year-old outgoing guy. God knows how that must feel for someone who is still forming as a person and is generally shy anyway. Give yourself time to recover the muscle.

Wife Happy To See Friend Arrive At Her HousePosed By Models Mature Man And Woman Happy To See Each Other
Be the one who answers the doorbell… Photography: Flashpop/Getty Images

Be a good guest (level: basic)

The old-fashioned advice to “be a good guest” never fails. How to be useful? What would your grandmother want you to do? Pour drinks. Take coats. Distribute towels. Soft cushions. Answer the doorbell. Take photos. Try to embrace the silliness that is chatter. (“Have you come a long way today?” “Can I bring you some olives? Or maybe a cashew nut?”)

Canapes bites with ricotta cheese and tomatoes garnished with basil
Betting on the Ritz… Photography: warrengoldswain/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Be a good guest (level: advanced)

Nobody likes a suck-up. Unless you’re the party host, just bought 50 cases of picpoul, and spent three hours crying over canapes of “easy-to-assemble” Ritz crackers that don’t stick together: then you love to suck. Interior designer and party host extraordinaire David Carter says, “If you don’t know anyone, the trick is to find out who the hosts are. Then, “introduce yourself, thank them for having you, and then enthusiastically compliment them on their house, their outfits, their jewelry, their hair…basically anything they’ve clearly spent a lot of time or money on.” . In no time, they’ll be excitedly introducing you to their closest friends.

Posed by model.  Young adult black woman enjoying red wine in home kitchen
Make it last… Photography: Marko Jan/Getty Images, posed by the model

Drink Before the party (and then don’t drink at all)

There is a new version of “pre-drinking” (drinking before a party or before leaving the house): only one pre-drink is allowed. Alice Lascelles, author of The Cocktail Edit, explains, “My favorite party drink is the pre-party pencil sharpener. A small frozen martini prepared by my husband or a glass of sparkling wine poured by me. It’s the next instruction that is the crucial part. “Sometimes it’s the only booze I want or need all night.” Microphone drop. Let’s say it again: the only alcoholic drink all evening. If we could all do this, there would be less social pressure around incessant drinking, which would make everything more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some other alcohol safety tips: tell people you can’t drink because you have a particularly bad urinary tract infection. No one questions you further.

Mature friends greeting each other at social gathering
‘Ask lots of questions. People will feel more comfortable talking about themselves” – Truda Spruyt. Photography: 10,000 Hours/Getty Images, posed by models

Remember why you are going to this party

Have a goal. The best reason to go to a party is to bond and connect people with each other, says Truda Spruyt, party fan and managing director of PR agency Four Communications. She threw parties with painted elephants and rose petals falling from rooftops (thank goodness not the other way around) and held large-scale “dry” events, including for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. His best advice? “Look for people who are on their own and talk to them. Ask lots of questions. People will feel more comfortable talking about themselves, and you’re bound to learn something interesting.

If you can’t remember why you’re going, don’t go

There’s no shame in occasionally avoiding social events. However, if you consciously decide to do it, keep it to yourself because no one will appreciate you telling them you’re not coming to their party because you don’t see the point. We all too easily assume that parties enjoy some sort of special social or professional advantage without really having proof that this is true. However, think about why you avoid parties. You really don’t want to go there? In which case: OK. Or are you just a little scared? In this case: it’s a poor excuse because everyone is a little scared of everything, if we’re being honest, and part of being an adult is keeping others company while we’re all freaking out about how much the life is stressful.

Young club goers drinking and catching up at an outdoor disco
Wear the appropriate clothing for the party temperature… Photography: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images, posed by models

Dress for the weather

Acute awareness of potential temperature during an event is vastly underestimated as a life skill. “There’s nothing worse than feeling clingy in stiff clothes,” says stylist and artist Yvadney Davis. “For women, opt for a loose-fitting maxi dress in a playful color or print, or wide-leg pants and a crisp shirt. All associated with exceptional jewelry, sunglasses and for more style, a fan. (Karl Lagerfeld would approve.) Men should opt for linen shirts and chinos instead of jeans and t-shirts. Davis adds, “And I have a thing for straw hats, which are as stylish as they are practical.”

Plan your outfit from scratch

The stand-up at parties can be endless. Plan your footwear with respect to this deadly fact. “I tend not to match my shoes to my outfit because it looks too artificial,” says stylist Nicola St Louis. “I’m a fan of an unexpected splash of color. Or a block heel. For those who like to stay away from heels, I recommend a trendy fisherman sandal – preferably adorned with jewels. Kurt Geiger makes excellent ones. For men, St Louis says no to flip flops and yes to smart Birkenstocks. “Or a low canvas top with an invisible sock.”

No one cares about dress codes (even if there is one)

I was at an event recently where a guest came in black and thought she “missed the memo” because everyone was in color. But there was no memo. It was all in his head. But what if you miss the memo? “If you make a mistake with the dress code, the first thing you need to do is let go of the shame,” Davis says. “Be gentle with yourself; it happens. Reframe your outfit mistake as something to celebrate. If you look good and feel good, enjoy the party. No excuses and no outfit regrets.

A young Asian girl feels upset and isolated while her roommates celebrate a house party indoors
“Focusing on someone else is the best way to forget about your own anxiety.” Photography: silverkblack/Getty Images/iStockphoto, posed by model

Make others feel fascinating

We are all intimidated and think people are looking at us funny or looking over our shoulder. The key is to try to let go of that very normal self-awareness. “Focusing on someone else is the best way to forget about your own anxiety,” says Spruyt. It’s also, by the way, the definition of the best festive self to inhabit: “happy high status” – a concept borrowed from acting and comedy where you control your ego and maintain a comfortable neutrality; neither better nor worse than anyone else, comfortable with themselves and with the world. Tip: come and want to do everything on others. Repeat to yourself, “It’s not about me. So have a good time.

Happy High Status by Viv Groskop (Transworld Publishers Ltd, £16.99). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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