How to deal with the holiday season if you are an introvert

We are in the holiday season when parties seem to be obligatory. Getting together with family and friends can be enjoyable but for introverts like me, too many functions with too many people that last too long can be tiresome. It is not the case, as is commonly assumed, that introverts do not like the company of others. They do and they often have many friends. It is that introverts feel drained by the company of others and need solitude to recharge, while extroverts get energized by the presence of others and get drained when they are alone. So the problem for introverts is that parties can come thick and fast in the holiday season and they have too few times when they can be alone.

Three columnists who are also introverts share strategies for how to deal with the many invitations they get and what they do if they cannot avoid going to parties.

Imagine, if you will, wanting to go to a party. Imagine knowing that you will have a good time – that the mere experience of being around people fills you, as a matter of course, with joy and contentment. That you go home with a spring in your step, a song in your heart, a smile on your lips – refreshed, restored, rejuvenated and ready for the next one.

That is what life is like for most of the population. And then there’s us. The introverts. The people who do not need people. The people for whom people, en masse, are the worst thing imaginable.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again and keep on saying it until everyone listens and understands: the clinical definition of an introvert is someone who is depleted by social interaction (outside a few very limited conditions). An extrovert is someone for whom they have the exact opposite effect. It follows, therefore, that just as you wouldn’t force the latter to refuse invitations and stay in, the former should not be required to accept them and go out.

People who throw many parties tend to like the company of others and they are usually kindly sorts who invite you because they think that everyone is like them and they feel sorry thinking that you are alone and sad at home because you have no party to go to. It is hard to turn such invitations down without looking churlish. If I have to go to a party, I prefer a small intimate gathering of a few people having a meal around a table, a group that is small enough so that everyone is conversing with everyone else. That allows for meaningful conversations. The parties I hate the most are those that have a large number of people and one stands around making small talk to someone for a short while before you or they wander off to talk with someone else.

Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will find a congenial person or two at large parties and we may go off in a corner and spend the evening talking to one another, though I then worry that while I am enjoying myself, the other people may feel trapped having to talk to me. But usually you can tell if someone is bored by your company and trying to get away and if I sense that, I find ways to move on.

The party season problem solved itself for me when I moved across the country, far from the somewhat large social circle that one inevitably acquires when living in one place for nearly forty years. Then the holiday season had parties pretty much all the time and one would often meet the same people over and over again. Now I know many fewer people and am content to spend the holidays alone.

(Pearls Before Swine)


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