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The Psychology of Party Crashing

March 15, 2011

We weren’t sure which house it was.  Was the party my roommate was invited to by a friend-of-a-friend behind door number 1, 2 or 3?  I picked the party that sounded like it had the best soundtrack playing.  “Just follow my lead,” I told Lena.  I squared my shoulders, grinned, and pushed the unlocked door open.  A few guests looked over to us as we entered and shrugged off our coats onto the pile.  We headed in, and a girl asked us, “Oh, are you guys here for Tiffany?”  Neither of us had ever met, or heard of, Tiffany.  Apparently, this was her house.  It didn’t matter.

Shaken, not stirred

I said, “No, we are here for Beau.  Have you seen him?”  Beau was the friend-of-a-friend Lena knew.  She shook her head, she had no idea who Beau was.  We began to chat lightly with her, and then headed over to the cupcake and wine table (a combination I heartily approved of).  Finally, my roommate saw her friend and we both felt a little relieved.  We had picked the right party.  We were only semi-crashing it now, instead of completely attending a stranger’s party.  But still, it amazed me how easily I was in this stranger’s home, eating her food, talking to her friends.

It is surprisingly easy to crash most types of the ‘wander around, drink from a red plastic cup’ type of party.  All you have to be armed with to succeed is a little bit of guile, a lack of guilt reflex, and confidence.  You have to project the I belong here vibe, and if you don’t know the person hosting, you have to have the moxie to make up a person with a common name (I usually use Matt, there are so many Matt’s at parties these days) and use that instead.  Often, as in the case above, another party guest will supply the host’s name, and then you can just go with that instead.  Regardless, a few minutes later and you are chatting away, a drink in one hand and somebody’s number in the other.

Parties, who and how many attend and the type of activities involved have always been an interesting microcosm in which to explore social hierarchies.  It’s all a lesson in group think, crowd manipulation and our innate preponderance towards belief over skepticism. In short:

  • People at parties are thinking about themselves, just like you’re thinking about yourself.  They are rarely paying attention to the world around them in a critical way, except how it pertains to them.  Similarly, if that person at the party was invited, he/she often project that sense of belonging onto other people.
  • People generally don’t like confrontation.  Unless you behave really egregiously, it is unlikely that even if they are 100% sure you are crashing, they will do anything about it.
  • If you are confident, people believe that your confidence exists for a reason: you belong.  Likewise, if you act nervous, people believe there is a reason for that too.

For both better and worse, the average group of people are a credulous bunch.

Ultimately, Beau introduced both Lena and I to the hostess, and we wished Tiffany a happy birthday.  She said she was glad we came, and hoped we would meet again, acknowledging and blessing our unexpected arrival at her home.  As we left the party at the early hour of 1am, we saw that the other two house parties on the street (door number 1 and 3!) were still in full swing. Drunk people festooned stoops, their cigarettes illuminating faces like the flickering of fireflies.

I glanced at Lena and asked, “Hey, wanna crash a party?”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brian M. permalink
    March 15, 2011 12:58 PM

    YES. A similar situation occurs when you:

    1. Walk into a restaurant only wanting to use the bathroom
    2. Walk into an apartment building/hotel not wanting to sign in at the front desk
    3. Boarding the airplane with Zone 1 passengers even though your ticket says Zone 5

    I call it “Walking in like you own the place” and it’s tremendously successful. It’s one of those little things that can give you an edge over life…

    Good thoughts.


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