Gah! It’s that time of year again. Time for holiday parties and family gatherings! Office parties. Cocktail parties and mistletoe…quick, head for the hills!
Yes, if you’d rather hightail it out of there faster than Rudolph with his tail on fire, you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with trying to find inner peace during the holidays. Heart palpitations, breaking out in sweats, that feeling of dread emanating from our stomachs… the holidays can leave us feeling tied up in knots. While some extroverted types simply love holiday parties, the introverts among us may simply wish we could conjure some holiday magic of our own to make them all disappear.
Innies vs outies
While the energy of large gatherings may give extroverts a charge, it can leave introverts feeling drained. Alas, some extroverts just don’t get introverts. They may even look at us as lone wolves, even anti-social.
But I do like people, really I do! (just not all the time)
Sometimes we’re a mix of both inny and outy; it’s just that introverts prefer small gatherings. We’d rather spend New Year’s Eve with those we can count on two hands, or one, rather than in Times Square wedged behind Pete from Topeka among a crowd of thousands of rowdy, screaming horn-blowers.
And there are lots of us. “A third to a half of the population are introverts…So that’s one out of every two or three people you know,” says Susan Cain, a former corporate lawyer and self-professed introvert, as well as the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, during her Ted Talk on The Power of Introverts.
Introverts are sometimes perceived as being shy, but Cain explains: “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement. Introversion is more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation to feel an emotional charge, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments. Not all the time–these things aren’t absolute–but a lot of the time. So the key then to maximizing our talents is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.”
Fight for your right not to party
“Don’t you want to be with me?…You can’t go home now!…But it won’t be the same without you!…You’re such a party pooper!” Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, notes these as some of the lines extroverts throw out to reel introverts into the party pond. But we don’t have to take the bait! Dembling, whose book features such witty chapters as Born to Be Mild; The Bathroom and Other Party Survival Skills; and We Gotta Fight For Our Right Not to Party, says: “Energy management is key to an introvert’s life outside the house, because by respecting our own limits and managing our energy, we can enjoy socializing more and minimize the risk that we’ll sulk or snap. Sometimes getting people to understand that can be difficult. They love a party and they can’t understand why everybody doesn’t.”
Nature calls…and other party survival skills
“If parties were roller coasters, extroverts would be the riders with their arms in the air squealing wheeee!, and introverts would be the ones hanging on with a white-knuckled grip,” Dembling says, admitting that she doesn’t “completely hate parties” and considers “them a social contract we make with friends.” She adds, “Big parties can be tough, but sometimes you have to man up.”
Still, “even good parties, where we’re having fun,” she admits, “take a toll on our brains. If we have any hope of sticking them out, we need strategies and tactics. Like bathroom breaks.” Yes, getting to know John better can help save our sanity. Dembling offers these survival strategies:
- Book it! Bookshelves can offer a retreat at parties (plus, you can play the sophisticated part of quiet intellectual). “Books are familiar friends, quiet friends. You can turn your back on the room for a few minutes to study your host’s library, and it’s as if the hubbub behind you barely exists.”
- Furball fun “Getting down on the floor and spending a few minutes communing with quadrupeds can be so restful. They require nothing of us. Sometimes they even purr, if they’re that kind of pet. If not, wagging is fun, too.”
- Be a kitchen elf “Some introverts like to be kitchen elves, finding glasses and wiping down counters and serving drinks. You meet a lot of people that way, but with purpose. Plus, at most parties, guests tend to gravitate toward the kitchen, so you can find yourself in the midst of the action without having to exert any mingling effort.”
- Be a shutterbug Appointing yourself the unofficial photographer can keep you occupied, and even amused for the rest of the night.
- Be a wanderer Wandering through a large party can keep one “at a quiet remove” without being forced to engage in unwanted conversation. “Or if there’s a game, or music, or a video playing, you can plant yourself there for a while and watch.”
Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, offers additional tips for introverts in an entrepreneur.com article titled An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season. To enjoy holiday parties more, she suggests introverts arrive early. “Think about what introverts don’t like. They don’t like a lot of action, a lot of activity and a lot of people which is exactly what they walk into when they get to a holiday party late.”
She also says it’s a good idea for introverts to plan conversation topics ahead of time, to feel more confident and relaxed. “Rather than saying ‘I’m bad at small talk’, set yourself up for success.”
Just like Gloria Gaynor, you, too, will survive
Alas, while it may seem like an eternity, the holidays will be over faster than you can say run, run Rudolph. But this year, armed with some tips us introverts can survive —that is until next year.