For an introvert, the holiday season presents a series of social challenges. All of them can be draining on our energy while simultaneously requiring a certain amount of diplomacy and grace. But we can do it! Here is how I survive my top two challenges of the season.
1. The office party
No, don’t run away! I rocked my last one, and you can too. The trick for me was finding a way to show face without it being too tiring. Although I discovered my method by accident, it has turned into a trick I will use time and again.
Last year at our company party I was hiding by the coat rack, trying to summon up some energy for small talk, when I found myself taking people’s coats as they approached both me and the rack I was hiding by. This turned into a little job for the first hour of the evening and turned out to be the perfect way to ease myself into a room full of people.
As new guests approached me I said hello, asked how they were, took their coat and moved on. This was perfect. I was saying hello to everybody without getting stuck in small talk. Having the excuse of needing to take the next coat and greet the next person kept things light and brief. No awkward excuse making – genius!
So my first tip is to make yourself useful. In a party situation, there is nothing worse than standing around feeling awkward and trapped. Get busy, distract yourself by helping the party host if you can, and earn yourself some ‘nice gal’ points too. If you happen to be surrounded by colleagues it’s a much better look than hiding in a corner.
2. The family gathering
Now that you have successfully negotiated your way through the office party, it’s time to cozy up with a room full of relatives. If you are anything like me, you spent your teenage years attending these gatherings with your headphones clamped to your skull.
As adults, we can’t really get away with that. We have to be on our best behavior, join in, and probably answer the same question five times about our career plans, or when we are going to have a baby. Sweating yet? Don’t worry. You know this stuff is coming, right? It is the same every year. So why not prepare for it?
Rehearse a few stock answers to the most uncomfortable questions so you will not be put on the spot. And plan small blocks of quiet time into your day. Can you find a little job to do on your own? Perhaps there is a dog that needs walking, a car that needs de-icing, or recycling to sort outside.
Little moments of breathing space can really help. And if you really can’t find a legitimate job to do, you could always fake an hour-long Skype call to an old friend overseas. Go on, I will not judge you.
The bottom line is that when you are happier and more relaxed, that is better for everyone, not just you. It’s not selfish to consider your needs. If you want a little time out from the togetherness to recharge your batteries, then go get it. After all, it is your holiday season too.