We’ve all experienced it: that sense of relief when a friend cancels your plans, releasing you to veg quietly on the couch while you binge-watch your favourite Netflix series. It’s a fine line that we introverts walk; we all want to be social but dread the moment when that opportunity actually comes up.
As an introvert, the closer it gets to the actual act of socializing, the more panicky I feel. Situate that socialization in a group setting and the panic is even worse. It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally come up with a formula that allows for a fun and memorable social experience while also securing me plenty of opportunities to recharge. For those introverts who are cringing at the thought of socializing in a crowded setting, bear with me: I’m about to show you why downtown Toronto is actually an introvert’s best friend.
Suggest a Show
Let’s imagine that your college roommates want to get together to catch up. Offer to plan the event, and look for shows, plays, musicals, etc.—basically anything theatre-related. Find a show or movie you and your group would be interested in and plan your gathering around that. Why? A show guarantees you at least an hour and a half where you and your group just sit back and watch—without the need to talk. The theatre will be your safe haven. As a bonus, it’ll give you something to chat about afterwards so you won’t have to fill the silence with awkward small-talk.
Take a Peek at the AGO
Not into theatre but still want to have a classy outing? Even if art’s not your thing, hang out at the Art Gallery of Ontario for a while. With a hushed, quiet atmosphere, none of your friends will wonder why you’re so quiet, and you’re bound to come across something that piques your interest. Linger in a room while your group carries on when you need a moment to recharge, and take note of a piece that interests you so you can bring it up afterwards. Bonus points for coming off as cultured when you’d much rather be sitting on your couch.
Timing is Everything
Making the right choice for when your activity starts will determine how you organize the day around it, and actually allows for a ton of flexibility regarding the level of socialization you’re willing to do. The perks of attending a matinee show, for example, include ticket price and getting the outing over with early, but you’ll have to come up with an excuse to head home afterward. The same goes for an afternoon excursion to the AGO. With so much of the day left, your friends might get offended when you hesitate to accept their dinner invitation.
I recommend an evening outing. Sure, theatre tickets are a bit pricier, and you’ll have to negotiate around the AGO’s closing times, but you get the whole day to prepare (even write out some conversation starters if necessary!), and good friends won’t bat an eye if you say you’re too tired to go on to the bar afterwards.
Grab a Bite
Plan to meet for dinner or drinks before your get-together; you have to eat anyways, so invite your friends to join you. I love pub vibes before a good show, so I highly recommend Elephant & Castle at 212 King St. West for a more traditional restaurant setting, or Imperial Pub at 54 Dundas St. East, right off Dundas Square, for a more casual atmosphere. Imperial also boasts pool tables and an upstairs library, both of which can be excellent icebreakers for introverts. Just looking for dessert? Pop by Cacao 70 in the Distillery District before your show for a hearty dose of chocolate. Drinks following your evening of art? The Wallflower at 1665 Dundas St. West will help you feel cozy and comfortable.
With this guide, you too can feel comfortable navigating a social outing in downtown Toronto without sacrificing your mental well-being or emotional energy. Knowing and understanding yourself and your social needs is key to having a great time. Now, the next time your friends want to get together, confidently throw on your best outfit and head out the door without that sense of dread you’d normally feel. You’ve got this.