Sunday, December 13, 2009

Party Coping Strategies

I am not really a party person. I love one to one conversation in a quiet setting. My idea of ambience does not include a large group of noisy people all trying to chat at once and talking about topics I either know nothing about or don’t care to know more about! An invitation to a party throws me into a dilemma. I know I need to be sociable and I have a sense of responsibility to others, but I really don’t want to go. Most often I say “yes” and drag myself rather reluctantly down the road and hesitantly into a room crowded with way too many people for my taste. I’m sure there are others like me, but I don’t usually find them because they also attend the parties half-heartedly and valiantly attempt to fit into the incessant noise and chatter.

Well I attended such a party recently and realized that I have developed some personal party coping strategies. In the past I have chosen to sit on the edge of the crowd and become a basic observer. But this time I plopped myself right in the middle of the fray and prayed for one or two people to sit by me with whom I could have a deeper one on one conversation. Now that sounds cozy, but let me tell you, it’s not easy to carry on an intimate conversation of a personal nature in the middle of chatter that competes with a rock band! Imagine asking someone to speak up (try shout) when she is telling you about the recent death of her husband or her strained relationship with her kids. But all in all, the tidbits I picked up and the relationships I built with those brief encounters far outweigh surface conversations with a myriad of individuals regarding weather, traffic, or Christmas ventures.

Another strategy is to arm myself with a determined focus on enjoying other peoples’ joy that bubbles up at such events. Yes, there are far more party lovers who load up their USB heart drives with heaps of fun, laughter, jokes, and conversation. Parties are for them. Watch their faces light up with each person they hug and enjoy the sight of animated discussion flooding each table. Join in the applause as names are called out and people honored (and rejoice that its not you!)

And lastly, I work on being a “you” person, focusing on others and their needs and not on my own needs. I find that if I go in with the goal of being a listener, an encourager, and an affirmer I can forget about my own need for security, quiet, or recognition. I’m on the hunt for those who need a ready ear, an empathetic response, a pat on the back, or a cheery “go for it.” And it works. I left my last party without thoughts of regret for the quiet night I missed at home with a good book, and I left with some quality relationships strengthened. I did more than “endure” the noise and chatter. I actually enjoyed others’ exuberant fun. And I think that is just what God wanted.

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