Entertaining is complicated for almost anyone who hasn’t done it much. For introverts, it can seem altogether overwhelming. Rewarding, but wholly depleting. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I have discovered things, through the years, that make entertaining much less anxiety provoking for me. Scott’s career is referral based, and he’s a pretty social guy, so we do a lot of entertaining. It was super taxing and exhausting for me at first, but I’ve learned how to enjoy it and breeze through it. And I no longer need to recover like a hermit for days afterwards. I have a system. You can benefit from my years of trial and error if you follow these tricks!
The Number One Way to Make Entertaining Less Stressful for Introverts
Practice. Just rip off the bandaid. Plan a party, but invite a small group of friends who make you feel really comfortable. You’ll get better at entertaining each time you do, so start simple and repeat regularly.
Things to Do in Advance to Make Entertaining Less Stressful
Invite no more people than can fit around your dining table. Small, intimate groups are a better fit for introverts. Chances are the group will track a single conversation thereby involving less small talk.
Plan. This helps not only with the actual event, but really helps prevent pre-event anxiety. Figure out the best time of day to hold your event, make a menu, make your shopping list (referring back to your menu), and make a prep timeline. What needs to be ordered? What needs a day to marinate? Work backwards and get all of these things on the appropriate day’s to-do list. Plan to do all of your thinking before the doorbell rings. Introverts are not good at thinking while they are socializing. This is a studied fact and explains why I’m so bad at keeping score while playing bunco!
Don’t go into your event with an empty energy tank. Mind your calendar. Socializing, while fun, depletes you of energy and emotional bandwidth. To ensure you are fresh for your event, keep the days leading up to your event as clear as possible. Be honest with yourself about what drains you and try not to schedule very many of those things in the week leading up to your event.
Employ a friend or loved one to be your cohost and divide up the tasks according to skill and comfort level. My husband is almost always my cohost. But sometimes it’s my mom or sister. My husband has the capacity to chat and follow a fussy recipe simultaneously. I can not chat and think. So, he does any detailed cooking that needs to be done after the guests arrive and I do the salad assembly, attend to drinks, refill appetizers, etc.
Warn your loved ones ahead of time that you may need to be withdrawn for a while immediately afterwards to recover your energy. If they know this may be coming, it will help them to give you the space you need and to take your withdrawal less personally.
Things to Do in the Day Before and the Morning of to Make Entertaining Less Stressful
Prep. Do everything that can be done ahead of time, well, ahead. I have a wonderful recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes. Make them the night before or first thing in the morning. One less thing to scramble around worrying about right before the doorbell rings. Set the table the day before. Make the hors d’oeuvres trays in the morning, wrap them, and throw them in the frig. Cut the bread, wrap it in foil, put it in the oven, and set a delay bake to be finished when you plan to serve dinner. Chop the salad ingredients. Set out the wine, opener, and glasses. I even jot down a list of all remaining tasks in reverse order from the last task to do before the doorbell rings to those that can be done way ahead and assign approximate times to each. Don’t get overly crazy about this, but you know making a veggie tray takes about 20 minutes, vacuuming the sofa takes 5 minutes, etc. If there is a recipe that has multiple ingredients that is a last minute stovetop situation, I even measure out and gather all of the ingredients, chop the herbs, and prepare everything like a sous chef.
Rehearse the flow of the events in your mind. This helps me envision the evening and predict hiccups.
Have an activity ready to perk up a lull. Most likely, the evening will flow effortlessly, but in case you have a lull, have a game like Telestrations ready to grab and go. For more about Telestrations, click here and scroll down to number 11. Priceless!
Things to Do in the Hours Leading up to Doorbell to Make Entertaining Less Stressful
Keep your timeline handy and refer to it often. And then throw it away right before doorbell. I never want my guests to know how much effort I’ve put in. I’m afraid this would make them uncomfortable/make them think I’m crazy. Like I tell my kids, hide the evidence!
Think about what you know about your guests. Come up with one topic of conversation or question for each. Also, rehearse the names of your guests close to party time to have them fresh in your mind and to avoid an embarrassing mind freeze.
Wear something flattering, comfortable, and cool so that you aren’t tugging or working up a sweat when you’re in the thick of the evening’s excitement.
Eat some protein before the guests arrive. Low blood sugar is a killer any time, but it is especially hard if you are already fighting feeling anxious. You may need to force yourself to eat, but do not skip this. It’s so important.
Have a drink. I’m usually halfway into a glass of Chardonnay when the doorbell rings. It just puts me in the celebratory, relaxed mind frame and takes the edge off of my nerves. I finish the glass over the next hour.
Adjust the lighting and turn on some music. This will warm up the environment for everyone and ensure that there is no actual silence.
I hope you now feel like maybe you can throw that dinner party you’ve been putting off. And for more help, I’ve made a quick six page guide to help with the planning. Download and print it. You’ll LOVE it!