The holiday season is full of parties that, for an introvert, can feel overwhelming and exhausting. We got expert advice on how to deal with the most difficult party situations.The holiday season is filled with good times and cheer, but if you're an introvert, you might worry that December's packed social schedule will leave you more drained than delighted. And while it's a myth that all introverts would always rather be home relaxing in their fuzzy slippers than out on the town with friends, it's true that they generally need quiet time. "Introverts gain their energy or 'charge their batteries' by spending time alone being introspective," explains Esther Kane, a registered clinical counsellor based in Courtenay, B.C. Here's how to deal with some common party season events that can cause agony for introverts.
The big holiday office party
Scenario: Straining your voice to make small talk over thumping music, nudging around in a crowded space with people you know by face but not by name and the fear of standing there with nothing to say are all nightmarish scenarios you can encounter at the corporate Christmas party. Out of all the holiday season parties, this is one of the most dreaded for introverts.
The game plan: "As a therapist who works with this exact situation with my clients, I help them mentally prepare," says Kane. First, be honest with yourself, admit you despise the big office party and work on loving yourself despite this. "I truly believe very few people actually enjoy these parties, regardless of their personalities," she says. Tell yourself that it is somewhat of an "endurance test" that just needs to be completed for another year. And it's OK to stick close to your comfort zone. "If you feel good around one or two others at work, hang out with them. And find the other introverts! They are probably feeling exactly the same way you are and would love to chat quietly with you in a corner," says Kane.
Your partner's family dinner with lots of strangers
Scenario: While you're stoked to celebrate your first holiday season with your significant other, you're jittery over the invitation to his big family dinner where you know exactly one person: your partner.
The game plan: First off, remember you don't have to be the life of the dinner party. Be kind to yourself and lower your self-expectations. Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to be loud and "out there" if that's not who you are, says Kane. She suggests going slow. Allow yourself to be an observer. You may end up talking to one person you haven't met, and let that be enough. As an introvert, you're about quality relationships, not quantity. Get to know people in your own sweet way and time, are Kane's wise words. Still feeling awkward? Offer to help do dishes, colour with the kids at the party or volunteer for another quiet activity that will keep you busy.
Your New Year's Eve gathering that suddenly got bigger
Scenario: That small New Year's Eve party you planned? Well, your sister asked if she could invite a couple friends. And so did your best friend. Next thing you know, your party has tripled in size. You don't mind the extra guests, but you'll be surrounded by people you barely know.
The game plan: "I don't think that it is in an introvert's nature to actually come up with the idea of hosting a big holiday party as they tend to favour small, intimate gatherings instead," says Kane. Before allowing your guests to invite extra guests, take a good look at yourself and ask if this is a good idea in the first place, she suggests. If you go for it, don't put extra pressure on yourself to chat with all your guests. "You can simply smile and say, 'Welcome. Nice to meet you,' and allow them to enjoy the event," says Kane.
A spouse's work-related holiday party
Scenario: Possibly the only situation more traumatizing than attending one's own work holiday party is being invited to a spouse's or best friend's. You're determined to support your loved one. Still, you're afraid you'll come down with a bad case of the awkwards.
The game plan: Keep in mind that, as a guest of a guest, the stakes are low: You truly don't need to impress anyone. Remind yourself that even extroverts get anxious about being in a sea of faces they don't recognize. Many introverts swear by coming up with small-talk questions ahead of time. Try asking partygoers if they've seen any good movies or read any good books lately, or if they have any vacations planned. You will soon find that your excellent listening skills are a perfect match for the extroverts at the party who love to talk. "Remember that the world needs introverts as much as they need extroverts," says Kane. "Each personality brings gifts to the rest of the world."
Want more holiday help? Learn how to tackle holiday stress and discover 20 ways to have a fantastic Christmas!