Adapted from Chapter 11, The Party Bitch: Never Invite Her, from The Bitch in Your Head: How to Finally Squash Your Inner Critic, by Jacqueline Plumez, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Fear of public speaking and fear of dying have always been the most common phobias. But now some experts are saying that a social phobia tops the list: fear of going to a party alone, when you won’t know anyone there.

People would literally rather die than risk being a wallflower. But here are ways of outsmarting The Bitch when she tries to keep you from having a good time as a newcomer at a party:

Never underestimate how insecure everyone is.

You think everyone will be looking at you and noticing how uncomfortable you are, standing by yourself. The truth is that people are much more worried about how they look than how you feel. So walk in and assess the crowd. Find someone who is standing alone, or a couple who is standing together looking uncomfortable. Go up and introduce yourself. They will be very grateful that you saved them from social oblivion.

Have a few standard questions.

The Bitch in your head will try to scare you by saying, “But what will you talk to strangers about???” Cut off that negative thinking by having a few standard questions. If you are at a party, “How do you know the hostess?” is a standard ice-breaker. “How are you involved in the cause?” is the equivalent at a charity fundraiser. “How do you like to spend your free time?” often evokes more interesting conversation than the more standard, “ What do you do?” or “Where do you live?”

Find out what you like about them.

Instead of getting nervous, wondering what people are thinking about you, focus your attention on finding out things you like about them. It’s an old trick to combat self-consciousness with an added benefit: if you let the person know what you like about them, it will make them like you. Beware: One woman had to stop doing this because she often was asked on a date whenever she did this. Compliments are an aphrodisiac for some men.

What to do

Always remember two things: almost everyone is insecure about standing around alone, and absolutely everyone is longing for a compliment. So find out what you like about a person you have just met. By getting them to talk about themselves, they will usually think you are a great conversationalist!

Read part 2 here!