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I don't go to parties often, in fact I actively avoid it as much as humanly possible. Still, sometimes social obligations get the better of me and I begrudgingly attend.

Most of the times then I'll be in a corner or somewhere a little off from groups of people and trying to fight back a growing headache / nursing a glass of water. This isn't because these parties are bad or the host isn't trying, they're just not for me.

Here's where my problem starts. Sometimes the host will notice that I'm not having a good time and ask me about why. Is the party bad? Are other people annoying me?

The problem here is that I can't answer these questions truthfully without revealing details about myself I'd really rather not (mental health issues, for instance). I'm not very good at lying so making excuses mostly falls flat for me.

It's gotten to the point where the hosts of these parties sometimes inquire with friends or family of mine about what's wrong with me when I don't give them an actual answer.

Is there a socially graceful way to let someone know the fact that you're not enjoying yourself isn't their fault and they don't need to worry, preferably without revealing things like my medical history?

  • 1
    I have bought few t-shirts with text like "I have social anxiety, please don't make me do team building" for company parties, "I don't like loud noises and crowded places" "I know 5 language and I don't speak in all of them". And when approached by host (or other attendants) that don't know me I just point on t-shirt. I also usually attend parties organised by me closer peers so they know that I'm misanthrope so I will have headphones or book with me. – SZCZERZO KŁY Apr 10 '18 at 9:44

12 Answers 12

139

My boyfriend doesn't like parties either. Music makes his ears hurt, smoke from cigarettes irritate his eyes, and he hates when drunk people come to ask him why he doesn't drink and how come that he can enjoy being here while sober (well, in fact, he doesn't, but that's not the problem here).

When people ask him why he's holding back in a corner of the room, if he's having a problem, he'll simply smile and say:

I'm very glad to see you [all], which is why I came. The fact is, parties aren't really my thing because I easily get tired, which is why I'm resting for a while. But it's very nice to spend time with you!

That way, he states that he doesn't like parties without implying that this one in particular sucks, but he also explains why he came even though he doesn't like it: he wanted to see his loved ones, and it feels to me that that's the reason that brings you to parties too.

Also, do you have the possibility to ask your loved ones to meet more often outside of parties? Maybe it'd avoid your having to go there that often. Discussing this possibility with them could alleviate your discomfort, but I don't know if it's something you could do.

30

Thing is, they most likely care, and want to help you. I totally understand you, but these people just mean it good, it's important to see that.

It's hard to bring such a point across, but here's my take:

One thing that you could say, that would not be an excuse, is that

'there are too many people for me, I needed a break'

and

the noise gives me a headache, but it's not your fault'.

They are not lies, most likely you feel exactly this way.

I've had these help me. I really hope this helps, because explaining that parties are not really a thing for you is hard :)

16

I'm surprised with all these answers that no one has mentioned this. I know several people with similar problems, but they are all caused by different things and they all deal with it differently. So let's look at it from a few angles.

It sounds like you don't want to discuss the specifics here, but you do mention it's related to mental health. I'll give a couple ideas from that perspective, but I'll also include a couple others for the sake of future readers (since, as mentioned, this has many causes).

The key to handling all of these is empathy. We need to make whoever is questioning your behavior empathize with your situation, otherwise they likely won't be satisfied with anything you say. But in order to evoke empathy, you have to give up at least a tiny bit of personal information. Have no fear, we can do this without revealing anything terribly embarrassing.

1) Phobias

A number of phobias can cause someone to dislike large social gatherings. Claustrophobia, agoraphobia, etc. All can lead to anxiety, resulting in tension, headaches, nausea, feeling unable to breathe, and so on. Even mysophobia (more commonly known as "germophobia") can come into play. I know someone who usually can't get close to people because they can "see" the germs expelled when other people breathe.

The problem with phobias is they usually aren't taken very seriously by society. They're an "informal" diagnosis, that some less-sensitive people think you can just "get over". In this case it's better to focus on the anxiety aspect, which most people can relate to on some level. You can usually just leave it at that without further prodding, and it's not a very embarrassing thing to admit in this day and age where mental health is becoming a bigger concern. For example:

"What's wrong?"

[smile] "Sorry, crowds just make me anxious. I'll be okay, don't worry."

I bet you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who won't be sympathetic to that, and very few people would take it personally. If pressed on why you attended you can just follow up with:

"I'm here to see [you/them/whoever], it's worth it to me."

2) Anxiety

This really has the same solution mentioned in #1, but it's worth spending a minute discussing anxiety and why you shouldn't be afraid of admitting to it. Anxiety, in various forms, is a very common and accepted medical diagnosis. Many people struggle with it daily, even if there's no specific trigger ("generalized anxiety"). Some can get by without needing help, but if it impacts their life significantly, there is a huge variety of treatment options. One possible solution if you want to kill it and avoid the headache could be getting a prescription for an anxiolytic like lorazepam, which is a very common treatment for acute anxiety. Take one before going to the party and you'll likely feel much better and maybe even enjoy yourself.

Of course all that only applies if anxiety is your problem (which it is in these cases 95% of the time, regardless of what causes it).

3) Hyperacusis

You mention headaches, so I wanted to touch on this briefly in case it's the cause. This is one that's not well-known to most people, but it is surprisingly prevalent. In a nutshell, hyperacusis is a sensitivity to noise or certain types of noise. In severe cases it can be debilitating, but often it simply causes headaches, irritation, and is generally very uncomfortable. If this is your problem, congratulations, you now know the name for it! It's really not an embarrassing one to talk about, simply giving a quick explanation should be enough to put most people at ease:

"What's wrong?"

"I've got this thing called hyperacusis, basically loud noises give me a bad headache. I'll be okay, I just need some air once in a while."

4) Complex mental disorders

I saved this for last because it's a trickier one to deal with, and I can imagine why you would be uncomfortable disclosing anything about it. There are several disorders that fall into this category, but you can treat them all the same in this case. We're talking about things like schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, various flavors of dysmorphic disorder (like the kind that make other people/objects mutate into terrible things), the list goes on and on.

Long story short, any of these can cause major discomfort in social situations that are out of your control, and can make it easy for you to be overwhelmed by the sensory stimuli around you. It's perfectly normal to want to avoid social gatherings in this case, so don't feel bad about that. If this is the problem, you can still handle a concerned host/friend without giving too much away. This is one of the easiest approaches:

"What's wrong?"

"I'm okay, big crowds just make me uncomfortable. Too much noise and commotion, you know."

The first part of that response is a little cryptic and might spawn further questions, so adding a pinch of detail (substitute whatever symptom you think applies to you best) should be enough to evoke that empathy from them. Notice how it's not terribly different from the previous suggestions, they're all intentionally vague but reveal just enough personal detail to get the questioner to understand.

The exact detail you reveal depends on what kind of problem you actually have, but it keeps you from having to lie or mislead anyone. More than likely, whoever you tell it to will remember it in the future and not interrogate you further, beyond just checking to make sure you're okay.

tl;dr

If these people actually care about you at all, a tiny dose of honesty will be enough to gain their empathy and prevent further questioning. No need to lie or be awkward about it, or worry about revealing too much.

  • In my case the main reason I'm uncomfortable at such gatherings is my hearing. Like many other people of my age, I can't follow a conversation if there is too much ambient noise. So I will usually try to escape to somewhere less noisy. If anyone cares enough to join me and ask, I can usually have a pleasant one-to-one conversation and explain that that's much more enjoyable that straining to hear in a noisy room. – Michael Kay Apr 7 '18 at 22:33
  • I think the point is the OP doesn't want to tell people what his/her deal is. I respect that. – neuronet Apr 8 '18 at 4:13
13

Going to the party that you know you won't enjoy and sulking in a corner later and then not providing a truthful answer upon being asked for the reason is really not a way to treat your host. Somehow interpersonal skills are understood as a way of coming up with quick lies but the true virtue really often is to be honest and to the point. When getting invited to the party:

Sorry, I'd rather pass this time as I'm not feeling well

If you still end up at the party and are asked:

Thank you for the invitation, I think I'm getting tired now and would like to retire for the night.

That simple. And it won't offend anyone.

To answer concerns expressed in the comment - if your host starts bothering you after 20 minutes, this is clear indications that future parties with this person should be skipped. "Why did you bother coming at all" can be answered with:

I wanted to meet you and I thought I was fine but I'm clearly not.

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    Thank you for the invitation, I think I'm getting tired now and would like to retire for the night. This would happen a couple of minutes after arriving and probably prompt the question "Why did you come at all if you're going to leave after like 20 minutes?" – Magisch Apr 5 '18 at 10:34
  • Asking that would be quite rude in my opinion, I did not consider such reaction. Let me update my answer instead of writing in the comment. – Nat Apr 5 '18 at 11:39
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    "Sulking in a corner" reads to me like an unwarranted judgment of the questioner's actions. Being overwhelmed by the environment and needing to take some time to marshal their energy before re-engaging is not "sulking". – Dave Sherohman Apr 6 '18 at 10:26
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    Here is a reference for the meaning of sulking: google.se/… – Nat Apr 6 '18 at 11:15
7

I think you answered your own question in your question when you said "This isn't because these parties are bad or the host isn't trying, they're just not for me."

Keep following that train of thought. Assure the host the party is fine but you simply don't thrive in this kind of social situation. If pressed, explain that you are a strong introvert. Anything more than that is really not anyone's business.

If it is pressed further, or the host tries to force your participation in part activities or anything else that seems to be trying to "fix" you, kindly advise that while you recognize the best intentions, it simply makes you more uncomfortable.

5

I have the same problem. Parties drain me, emotionally and physically. If people notice me wandering away and being alone, they sometimes try to pull me back into the group, which is precisely what I don't want. I have recently started to let people know that it's part of who I am, but in a very careful way.

I tend to say something like "I just needed a few minutes to chill. I have this silly thing that's a bit like claustrophobia, that too many people and too many voices all at once get a bit on top of me, so I just need to break away and get my head together for a few minutes. I'll be OK again pretty quickly. I'm great with a one-to-one like we're having, or with 2 or 3 people, but when it gets to a whole crowd, I tend to shut down a bit."

Additionally, if you describe it as a phobia, or similar, people will understand more readily and you don't have to delve into mental health issues.

What I don't mention, unless I'm talking to someone who's genuinely interested, is that I've discovered this year (aged 50) that I'm an IFNJ in the Myers-Briggs classification, and that my behaviour is absolutely to be expected. I'd always thought I was weird, or in some way a social failure, and now that I know that I'm just me, it's much easier to cope with.

I've even made recommendations to the Diversity and Inclusion team at the company I work for, to provide a quieter room at the annual conference for people to communicate with each other in smaller groups. I spent a large part of the evening dinner/dance this year just wandering round the outskirts of the room, not able to have a conversation with anybody, because there were simply too many people.

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    For what it's worth, the last 2 conferences I visited had a dedicated "Quiet room" for people who just needed to cool off, so this idea does seem to be catching on. – Erik Apr 5 '18 at 13:21
3

Most people will be understanding if you simply state that you aren't feeling well and need some alone time or have to leave early. Saying you're going outside for some fresh air would also work in many cases. If you're able to recharge yourself in these alone moments, don't forget to occasionally make the rounds, even if it's just to politely listen to someone else talking. The host and guests aren't going to note you aren't having a good time if you seem to be engaged.

3

Why go to parties since you don't enjoy them in the first place?

You obviously hate parties and you are having a bad time being in one. You don't like something, don't do it! Reject party invitations, by simple saying that you don't like parties in general.

Your friends need to understand that you are simple not a party guy.

Some people might not like theaters, you do not like parties. Plain and simple. The mistake you are doing is that you actually continue attending parties even though you hate them. Once you stop going to parties and by explaining to your friends that you don't like parties, it will get clear that you really don't like parties.

In the same time, you don't to want to be left aside from your friends, so you will need to show them your willingness to hang out with them and participate in their other activities e.g. coffee, cinema etc.

You will need to make it clear that it's not that you don't like them - you just hate parties.

Having applied these actions for some time, your friends will get that you are not a party guy and they will even stop inviting you, not because they have pushed you aside but because they know you hate parties and that you are going to say no for sure. Of course, they will still throw invites to you from time to time, it' normal.

Never forget that if some day, for some reason, you truly feel going to a party in general or to a specific one, you can always state that to your friends;

Hey guys, tonight strangely enough I feel like partying, is your party still on?

  • While I appreciate your answer, you neglect that OP specifically stated ` I actively avoid it as much as humanly possible. Still, sometimes social obligations get the better of me and I begrudgingly attend.`. This is not about a mistake the OP is doing. I also assume this is not the kind of party his close friends are involved in, but more like business parties, family parties and such. – AnoE Apr 7 '18 at 19:52
2

While there's nothing wrong with being a wallflower (I am too), it's always a good idea to have an upbeat response ready for those times when you're questioned. My usual one is along the lines of:

Oh, hey Bob, I'm just relaxing here and enjoying my drink - I've never been much of a social butterfly, but I do enjoy watching from the sidelines. My wife says I'd make a great bouncer!

The idea is to have some quick response that sends the message "No, I'm not sulking or being an outcast - I'm enjoying myself in my own way." If they press deeper, then you can elaborate as much as you feel appropriate - anywhere from a simple "I've always been happy to enjoy my own company" to "I get a little claustrophobic in a group - I find I enjoy the evening far more if I step back a little."

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    It would be a blatant lie though. The real answer is more along the lines of "I like this more then the social consequences for not attending so I'll endure the inevitable headache". – Magisch Apr 5 '18 at 13:14
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    But by that rationale, simply attending the party is also a lie. It's an event specifically organised for people to enjoy and you've attending knowing you won't enjoy it. You may not enjoy any part of the party as much as you'd enjoy being somewhere else, but you enjoy standing on the sidelines more than you'd enjoy becoming more involved in the festivities, so in that sense, you're being truthful. – timbstoke Apr 5 '18 at 13:24
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    I don't go without motives - sometimes people I haven't seen in a long time and won't see for another long time are there. Sometimes it's politeness - Not going to an after wedding party if you've been at the wedding for instance. When social conventions don't force me to, I don't go. But saying "I'm only here because of X" is pretty rude, even if it's true. So I'm looking for a way to bypass that, ideally without lying through my teeth. – Magisch Apr 5 '18 at 13:26
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    @Magisch you can keep from "lying through your teeth" by using comparative statements instead of absolute ones. Instead of saying "I do enjoy watching from the sidelines", try "I'm much happier watching from the sidelines." I'll admit this isn't totally transparent because it implies you're enjoying yourself on your own, but the social consequences for letting people know you didn't want to be at a party in the first place are similar to the social consequences of not going at all. I think this avoids those consequences without lying outright. – Lord Farquaad Apr 5 '18 at 14:27
2

Nobody answered from the hosts perspective but that matters, because your question is specifically about the host asking you.

When I am the host, my job is to make sure that everybody is having a good time. If someone is by themselves, I should introduce them to someone or a group and integrate him into a conversation, for example.

So the host asking is meaning well and his or her main concern is about you. The important information that you need to convey is not about your mental state or even whether or not your are well, but whether or not you are in whatever situation you are because you chose to or are thankful if someone helps you.

Essentially, if you want to be left alone, you need to say something along the lines of:

Hey John. Thanks for asking. I'm ok, just went out of the crowd a bit. Don't worry about me.

You can do that in as many or few words as possible, depending on your relation to the host. As a host, I would be glad to get at least a glimpse of background information. Something along the lines of other answers, such as not liking parties in general. This makes it clear to me as the host that nothing is wrong with my party in particular, i.e. I do not need to do something for you. This is the actually important piece of information: Do you need something from me or not?

1

Personally, I like being social for about 2 hours. Sometimes longer, but a lot of times I'm done with whatever social activity at that point. It is completely fair to go to these events for however long you are enjoying them.

I do suggest you go and make an effort. 30 minutes of a fully engaged friend having a good time is far better than hanging out uncomfortably for 4 hours. I think everyone can make a good effort out of something for at least half an hour ;)

Sometimes, even if I don't want to go at all, I get pleasure from knowing my friend invited me, wants me to be there, and wants to spend time with me. If my presence can make someone else happy, that is enough for me to go.

Finally, it's okay to be honest and tell people that you are very introverted, and dont want to stay for the full time of the even. I think they would appreciate your honesty.

  • I don't understand why this was downvoted. Yes, it does not directly answer the question, but it is a sideways-thinking answer that might address the underlying problem. I am similar, I don't like parties, but I like to appear, say hi to all my friends, chat a bit with those I didn't see in a while, and then make an exit before it gets to me. And that works for me, and lets me avoid the standing-uncomfortable-in-a-corner phase. – Tom Apr 7 '18 at 3:30
1

trying to fight back a growing headache

Seems to me that this is a valid enough excuse you can give without delving into anything more personal. Headaches or migraines brought on by loud environments is a fairly common thing so it won't stand out as weird and (hopefully) be subject to further questioning. In fact, showing that you were interested in attending the party even though you have a propensity for developing headaches in such environments should communicate to the host how much you actually want to be there.

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