How to Survive a Super Bowl Party with Social Anxiety
It’s nothing new. You get an invite to a place you would like to go to, but can’t go because social anxiety is a buzzkill.
You are probably reading this because someone invited you to their Superbowl party which left you with a dilemma:
You like football.
You like the person who invited you.
You don’t think you can make it.
Since we lured you into reading this article by naming it How to go to a Super Bowl Party with Social Anxiety, we are going to give you some tips to help you do just that. And we want you to have a good time too.
Before we get started, know that you won’t be the only socially anxious person at the party.
Statistically speaking, about 1 in about 8 people have social anxiety at some point in their lives, and depending on the size of the party you could be in plenty of good company.
Some people with social anxiety have excellent social skills from years of practicing culturally appropriate behavior (even though they’re scared as hell the entire time they’re acting so “normal”).
Don’t believe that everyone at the party is as cool and calm as they appear. You might even come across as quite calm and socially adept yourself.
Prepare Some Questions
One of the most stressful things about dealing with social anxiety while at a social event is silence.
Having the right thing to say at the right time goes a long way, but words are hard to find when they are buried beneath the thorny ground of anxiety.
You can work your way around this dilemma by having a few questions prepared in advance, so you can ask them when you need them.
If you’re concerned that you still won’t remember them, write them down or save them in the notes app of your smartphone. You can always use the excuse of a quick bathroom break to refresh your memory.
Some of my favorites are:
“If you were in charge of the playlist, which song would you play next?" (Ask this one while music is playing in the background, of course.)
“Do you know most of the people here tonight?"
“Is your night going the way you expected?"
For more examples of questions to ask, check out Conversation Starters for any Occasion and scroll down to Conversation Starters to Use at a Social Event.
Plan a few questions to ask other guests at the Superbowl Party.
Consider preparing a few open-ended questions like:
“What would be your ultimate halftime show lineup, if you could choose the performers?"
If debating makes your anxiety worse, avoid asking potentially contentious questions about the game, especially if the one you are talking to is supporting the opposing team.
Prepare Some Answers
Someone at the party might be interested in getting to know more about you, and could ask you some questions about your life.
When this happened in the past, your mind might have frozen from anxiety and left you not saying very much about yourself. This might have left you feeling as if you came across as not very interesting.
You can reduce the chances of experiencing this awkwardness by having a few one-liners about yourself prepared in advance. People will probably ask about your work, where you went to school, or your current residence. These are great questions for you to have a prepared response ready.
For example, this is how I would answer the work question.
Guest: Where do you work? What do you do for a living?
Me: I am a content writer for a blog called Little Change.
Guest: What is Little Change about?
Me: It’s a life enhancement blog that shows people how to make small, incremental changes to their lives, so they can enhance their well-being over time. We cover a variety of topics from fitness, to healthy eating and healthy thinking.
Prepare a few answers in advance to questions commonly asked in social settings. Include a sentence about where you work, where you went to school (or why you chose not to go), and your current residence.
Try to memorize these, or at least note them and keep them with you so you can step out of the room for a quick review if necessary.
Decide What to Observe Prior to Arrival
If this is a place you haven’t been to before, have a checklist of everything you will want to learn about the place before you leave.
By the time I leave the Superbowl Party, I want to know:
- The color of the walls and floor of each room.
- The various types of food, snacks or beverages that are available.
- The brand of television set on which everyone watches the Superbowl.
- The number of people who are attending.
Why would we make such an odd suggestion?
While we’re experiencing social anxiety most of us tend to monitor the facial expressions of others in the room, and possibly the tones of voice we hear as a means to monitor for signs of disapproval. We believe that as long as no one seems angry, or is giving us dirty looks, we’re doing well.
Science has shown why this is not the best idea.
According to several different studies compiled and interpreted by anxiety.org:
People with social anxiety disorder are more sensitive to anger and disgust. Also, they are more likely to falsely attribute another emotion; for example, that a surprise face shows anger or disgust. Even in healthy adults without clinically diagnosable anxiety, studies have shown that those who rate anxiety more highly on a personality test were more sensitive to fearful faces.
These studies have changed how some psychologists and other scientists think about anxiety disorders. As researchers further study this relationship between anxiety and emotional recognition, they view the misinterpretation of emotion less as a symptom of anxiety and more of an initiating cause.
This suggests that when a person becomes more sensitive to emotions such as anger, fear, or disgust, they’re also more likely to attribute different expressions to them, which may cause greater anxiety.
Think of it as accidentally spilling a drink on the floor at a party. In reality people are being kind and trying to help you, but you may misidentify their facial expressions and think they are angry. This makes you more anxious and less likely to go to a party in the future, negatively feeding into your social anxieties.
The takeaway is that if you experience social anxiety you’re more likely to misread neutral, surprised, and even happy faces as being angry or disgusted.
This further increases our anxiety.
A state of heightened anxiety makes it even more likely for us to misinterpret facial expressions, causing even more anxiety.
Since heightened states of anxiety cause most humans to misread facial expressions as negative, focus instead on observing other interesting features of the house or venue such as colors of the walls and floors, types of food and beverages available, and the brand of the television set.
Plan Your Escape
No good social anxiety action plan should be without a clear exit strategy.
Since you probably won’t stay as long as the others at the part anyway, you will at the very least need to come prepared with an excuse as to why you are leaving early on Superbowl Sunday.
Since we don’t wish to encourage you to lie, we recommend that you actually make plans ahead of time to do something else that will begin about two hours after the party starts. Perhaps dinner with your non-football-loving friend or relative? This way you can graciously leave because you already have other plans.
Be sure the people you make the plans with are willing to be flexible in the event you’re having the time of your life at the Superbowl party and want stay all night after all!
Prepare in advance an excuse to leave early so you can exit the party graciously.
We truly believe these tips will help you to attend a Superbowl or other party with less anxiety, and increase your chances of having a good time. After all, at least two of the writers of Little Change use these same strategies themselves to navigate through challenging social situations.
That being said, reading this article or following our advice will not cure you instantly. Expect to still have some anxiety along the way. You’ve likely experienced social anxiety your entire life, and it’s not going to go away right away. It will get better though.
If you do attend the Superbowl Party, we wish you all the best!
Share your tips for surviving a Superbowl party in the the comments below.