Shy, Going To A Party and Feeling Nervous? TEN TIPS


After three seconds of confused, soft stillness, everything caught up and my headache came crashing in.

Squinting at the clock – it was 11:30am – I tried to piece together what was going on.

Oh yes. The Christmas party.


I was 22 years old and very, very hungover. The night before, we’d had the Holiday Party for Fresh Air FM, the student radio station that I was heavily embroiled in, taking whichever committee postition they’d let me do for years until I was in charge – and hosting three shows a week. I’d graduated from doing the 1–4am Tuesday night slot, to being the main presenter on the “flagship” (a word only used on media resumés) mid-morning show, 10am–12pm every weekday.

Like today.


I vaulted out of bed and slammed the radio on. Furiously trying to get dressed through my fog (wait… these are pyjamas…where are my socks…does this tee shirt smell too much to wear?), I willed the song to finish and prayed it wasn’t the emergency tape.

“Fresh Air FM, it’s Tom here, in for Marsha”

Thank GOD.

Tom had joined my committee when I was first Station Manager, and we’d become good friends. He was three years younger than me – which is, when you’re 22, basically a LIFETIME – so we had an enjoyably platonic working relationship.

I called the station and told him I was on my way in, quickly chugged a glass of water, then tore out of my apartment and down the four flights of stairs to the front door.

RUNNING across town, I finally made it to the building, sweating and almost ready to pass out.
I stood outside the studio, waiting for the red “MIC ON” light to go off, then pushed my way through the door and collapsed in a pile on the sofa.

Muffled through the cushions, I wailed, “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine!” Tom chirped, “I’ve had a great show!”

Sitting up, I narrowed my eyes at him, “You’re very alert. Weren’t you drunk last night?”

“Not as drunk as you,” he said, pointedly.

I decided to ignore him and push my face into the couch again. It was nice and soft. Maybe I could just stay here all day?

With only ten minutes of the show left, Tom got me on to croak my apologies on-air and laughed at me, in that affectionate-mean way that you pretend to hate but actually quite enjoy. Then he finished up and handed over to the next DJ.

“Hair of the dog?” he asked, and we made our way to the pub downstairs.

The first sip of lager tasted simultaneously gross and like the fucking nectar of the gods, and we settled into dissecting the events of the party.

Eventually, troubled by a nagging feeling, I turned to Tom.

“Um, Tom…” I wrunkled my brow and screwed my mouth up, “Did I…did I try and get off with you last night?”

(A note for North Americans: to “get off” means to “kiss with tongues”)

He looked me squarely in the eyes.

“Yes. Repeatedly. For about thirty minutes.”

Elbows on the table, I pushed my face into my hands as he explained what happened. Apparently, at first I tried cajoling. “Go on, Tom! I’ve always fancied you!” – which wasn’t even true! Even though he’s terribly handsome, at age 22 I had enormous hang-ups about sweethearts being younger than me. I was just lying because I thought it would help my cause.

Then our shared taxi had arrived at my apartment block. He explained how I’d stepped out of the cab and pretty much just lay down on the pavement. So he fished my keys from my bag, and half-dragged me through the door and up all those steps.

I tried convincing him one more time (“Come on, Tom! Why not?”) and when he – again – did the gentlemanly refuse, I apparently spent the next ten minutes just launching myself at his face.

Classy, Marsh. Very hot.

I’m happy to report that Tom’s brother-style teasing meant we got through that episode and are still friends over a decade later. But this cautionary tale leads me into….


(the drunky one comes later)

1. Wear Something Comfortableelvis wedgie

Yes, Christmas is an excuse to get dressed up. But if you’re feeling nervous, tonight is NOT the night to try out those shoes you’re not sure fully fit, the shirt with the cuffs that itch you a bit, or that new, exceptionally tight frock that’ll have you needing to excuse yourself to the washroom every ten minutes so you can pull your knickers out of your bum.

2. Give Yourself An “Out”

I also recommend this for any networking event you’re dreading. Say to yourself, “If I’m still not having fun by 9.30pm, I’m allowed to leave”. If that’s at least an hour and a half after you arrived, you’ve done your due dilligence.

Giving yourself this permission means you’ll feel less trapped – and more relaxed. For more on this – see HERE 

3. Get There Early

I’ve realised that this is the KEY when going to parties where you won’t know many people. Arriving late can sometimes mean everyone is already in little groups that can feel hard to penetrate. If you get there early, you’re more likely to be there while those groups are forming.

Going to a party where you don’t know many people?
Arrive EARLY!

(Tweet this HERE!)

Also, it can aid with this next tip…

4. See If You Can Help

Like Jonah Lewie below, you will always find me in the kitchen at parties.

If you have a job to do, it gives you an excuse to talk to people, but often for a limited amount of time. I once went to a party where I knew only one friend, and was quite nervous about it. I offered to do a stint on the bar at the beginning of the evening.

I ended up having so much fun that I stayed there for the whole night. It was a great way to chat to everyone at the party, but without the pressure of having to stay talking to any one person – or gracefully exit it (though if you do want to learn how to get out of a conversation gracefully, see HERE).

And remember: helping will make you feel good, because you’re being of service.

5. Don’t Get Blotto Drunk

See story above.

If you’re nervous about going to a party, don’t get wasted. Marsha explains why.

(Tweet this HERE!)

6. Seek Out Other Solo Flyers

The chances are, you’re not the only person who doesn’t know anyone. So if you’re able to take a breath, pretend to be brave, introduce yourself and start a conversation, they might be SO GRATEFUL. Not sure what to say as an opener? HERE’s my suggestion. Want to check if it is ok to approach them? I made you a handy guide, HERE

7. Once You’re Talking to Someone, Ask Questions cow friends

It’s a perfect solution to running out of things to say – and it will make them think you’re amazing. For more on why questions rule – go HERE

8. Ask the Best Question

Don’t like making small talk? You’re not alone. Everyone else feels the same way. Avoid it – and get into real, deep, fun conversations quickly – by asking the best questions: “How’s your week been? What’s been the best part?”. More on that, HERE

9. If You’re Not Having Fun, it’s Fine to Slip Away

Remember: your shyness at a party is your MAGIC CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY. You can use it whenever you like. Story and further explanation HERE.

10. Send a Thank You Note

This can be the next day, or whenever. A hand-written one is very classy – but an email is fine. NOBODY DOES THIS. So if you send a little “Thanks so much!” to whoever hosted or organised the party, you will stand out a mile and make their day.

And what’s better than that?

Over To You

Have you used any of the above before, with success? I’d love to know, in the comments. (Comments make my heart smile).

Thanks so much for reading. If you know someone who has shy tendencies and holiday parties impending (or has once tried to get off with you repeatedly for half an hour), please share this with them using one of those round buttons.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha


PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Photo credits: Marsha Shandur at 3am one morning, torbakhopper HE DEAD Herkie, pvdEric – last three all via Compfight cc


  • Elyse Sparkes

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    Oh gosh, I feel like everyone might be able to relate to this at least once in their lives (I certainly can!).

    I’m actually MORE shy when I’m a host than a guest (is that weird?) and I’m hosting a little holiday/birthday/housewarming shindig this weekend so I’m definitely going to put these tips to use. Thanks Marsha!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 21, 2014

      I’m totally with you on the being more shy when you’re the host! Think it has to do with worrying about how well everyone else is doing. Good luck and have fun!

  • Trudy

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    OH WOW!! You have just described most of my Christmas parties from my 20’s too! “Getting Off with someone”!!! So English and sound awful now. Thanks for the tips too Marsha – fantastic ways to get through any (awkward!) situation. I also find that if I am talking to someone that I want to get away from, the walking-backwards-whilst-dancing works well ;)

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 21, 2014

      Ha ha, I’m going to try that move next time! Thanks, Trudy x

  • Sam

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    that made me laugh a LOT! I once launched myself at my best male friend of 10 years (then, now almost 20 years!) and he told me I’d regret it in the morning and stopped me.

    So funny. He had to remind me of the previous night’s events as well. I think his opener was ‘so Sambo, do you remember trying to pash me last night?’ to which I replied ‘oh god’…

    Great tips, I love the fake it till you make it. The thing is almost everyone is at least a little shy about being at a party, so if you just launch right in (not in THAT way) then you help everyone out!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply December 21, 2014

      zomfg “PASH!” and I thought “getting off with” was cute!

      Thanks so much for sharing that, that’s HILARIOUS. And I’m with you on almost everyone being at least a little shy…

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