Donna Bernstein is an introvert who has never encountered an uncomfortable social situation she couldn’t avoid. “I know how to slip away from any gathering without being noticed. That includes my first, second and fourth weddings.” Bernstein, a quiet freelance astrologer, trained as a Navy SEAL. She uses her survival skills to escape over-hugging strangers and talkative co-workers. Bernstein once fled a noisy bridal shower by squeezing through a tiny bathroom window and rappelling 10-stories to a sidewalk, using only a piece of dental floss.
Of course, the best way to avoid any unwanted event is to not go. Donna’s first advice is create an extensive list of excuses. For example, she has 25 possible reasons for not attending a Kazakhstani Sweet Sixteen Party. “Although,” she says, “my fail-safe excuse is usually, ‘I’m under house arrest’.”
If you arrive at your destination but are having second thoughts, Bernstein recommends continuing to drive around your end point until you run out of gas. “Then call AAA for help. They’re nice people and, like me, have no interest in mindless small talk. It’s also a good opportunity to watch your odometer pass 100,000 miles.”
Even the most cautious introvert may find themselves at a meeting or event in which everyone is a total stranger. Then what? “That’s easy,” says Donna. “I pretend to have an urgent phone call and say loudly, ‘How far apart are the contractions? Call the doctor! I’ll be there soon!’ Then I sprint out of the building without looking back until the voices screaming, ‘Is there anything we can do?’ have faded away.”
Donna plans to deliver a series of lectures about avoiding crowds and strangers, but only if they’re sparsely attended. “I could never speak to a large group of people. However, if no one shows up, I’ll definitely be there.”
Bernstein has advice for introverts who don’t want live life off the grid but yearn for more alone time: “Let people know how you feel but be nice about it. A politely written Post-it Note attached to your forehead indicating you are an introvert is always helpful. I guarantee, no one except concerned mental health professionals will bother you.”