An “Introvert Party”? It’s Not a Contradiction
Social events tailored to introverts are rare, but they exist.
Last month a New York Times article described a series of events in New York City called “Reading Rhythms,” where a few dozen people showed up at a comfortable setting with a book, read on their own there for half an hour, then chatted with a stranger near them about what they’d just read. Then back to reading for another half hour, then a second sharing session. Attendees had paid $10 each for the event, and a waiting list of 270 people demonstrated the appeal of the concept.
“Sharing quiet and reading together? That is bliss,” one Times reader commented. Other readers wistfully or eagerly complimented the idea using the phrase “companionable silence.” Others remarked that the cozy ambiance described was quite different from the typical book club. “It scratches a different itch,” one person said – the itch, perhaps, to set aside time to do something low-key and satisfying along with others who value that activity, too. Plus, a way to connect easily with one or two other like-minded people at a time.
The article got me thinking about other venues and event structures for get-togethers where introverts might feel particularly comfortable. My first thought was of a subdued party at a spacious museum or art gallery, where people could study the items on display, murmur comments to someone similarly transfixed or skeptical and retreat to a nook to people-watch if the urge struck. In this scenario, it would be essential not to have overly bright lights, too many people crowded together or a loud hubbub of noise.
One of the commenters on the Times article mentioned “bird nerds” congregating in a set spot to observe the treetops and skies with their binoculars, which strikes me as similar in spirit to my museum party, but outdoors.
Second, I thought of the nineteenth-century European salon, hosted a certain night of the week in the living room of a well-read woman. From novels by Tolstoy, Stendhal and others, I got the sense of a regular occasion where – if one had the right social connections – one could drop in for high-minded political or literary conversation or simply listen to impassioned debates with a glass of sherry in hand.
Third, I remembered a series of drop-in dinners that took place through an organization of local home-based business people that I belonged to for about a decade. Two such dinners that I attended, one at the café in a Whole Foods supermarket and the other at an Indian restaurant, stick in my mind. At each, I previously knew only one of the three to five other attendees but easily met the others for a long evening of intense, interesting discussions. I found these definitely worth my time and energy.
What are the common elements that make these social events work for introverts? There’s a premise or purpose, rather than simply getting together for the sake of socializing. There’s a setting that’s conducive to meaningful conversation and/or a shared pursuit. There’s little or no pressure felt by attendees. And there’s not a mob.
The ideal social event for introverts also includes some sort of option for a solitary break or an outright escape. This might be as pedestrian as a balcony for some secluded fresh air at a dinner party or the temporary hideout of a bathroom stall at a conference center. Or it might be as fantastic as the 1933 getaway of Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, both introverts, from a presumably dull or exhausting White House party. They snuck out of the event together, and in their evening gowns drove to Hoover Field in Arlington, Virginia, from where they flew a twin-engine Curtis Condor to Baltimore and back. Earhart was at the controls, but Roosevelt had a student pilot license, nearly as avid for aviation as her companion.