Introverts and Family Gatherings: Survival Tips for the Holiday Season
October 6, 2019
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Holidays – The time of year where introverts are forced to endure office parties and family gatherings. While those things are all well and good in moderation, socializing is exhausting and you would be hard pressed to find a time where being social is so universally expected than the holidays.
Seriously, excuses are darn near impossible to come by. If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting here in September already wondering how you’re going to survive the holiday season.
It’s difficult. I need me time, time alone to recharge after being around people all day. Much to my families dismay, when I say people they are on the list. My needs as an introvert are not easy to explain when you come from a family of extroverts.
My family thinks I’m bonkers when I rent a hotel room instead of staying with the rest of them in my grandparents house. Yet, I feel exhausted just thinking about sharing a bedroom with someone and being stuck in the house with everyone with nowhere to go that’s just mine. So many people, so little space, no where to be alone. It’s the stuff of my nightmares!
There really is no easy way to explain what it’s like to be introverted at family gatherings and how truly draining and uncomfortable it is when our recharging time is withheld.
Surely I’m not the only one who gets grumpy without alone time!
Thing is, it’s not always easy to be assertive enough to insist on the time and space I need to be emotionally healthy and present my best self for all the social activities I’m obligated to participate in.
All year my approach to social gatherings for most of the year is this “go only when absolutely necessary and avoid small talk as much as politely possible.”
Let’s make this very clear
I love my family. I even love the holidays. But…
Social interaction is hard, exhausting work. This is especially true if we’re interacting with our extended families. If your family is anything like mine, it’s not only the interaction that’s exhausting, there are grudges to awkwardly not acknowledge and hierarchies that need to be respected.
To put is simply, for an introvert at a family gathering, there are just too many people and too many things going on in one place to ever be fully comfortable.
On top of all that, we try to appear quiet but friendly, deliberate in our words and actions but we know that often our introversion comes off as cold and unwelcoming – even creepy.
Over the years I’ve developed a very useful set of skills. Skills that not only allow me to survive social activities, but actually thrive in them. I’ve learnt to embrace and enhance my weird, awkward, introverted self and become comfortable with with conversations, questions and social interactions in general.
Let’s not beat around the bush, family has the ability to push our buttons like no one else. Taking a deep breath and ignoring it will only get you so far. Try these tips at your next family gathering.
1| Find Somewhere you can go to Escape
There is nothing worse than finding yourself in a situation and not being able to escape. Before I immerse myself in family fun time, I try to make sure there’s a place I can escape to if necessary.
For the last few years, I’ve been the person who insists on staying in my own hotel room. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas and the rest of my (very large) family is going to be staying at my grandparents place or if it’s a family vacation and everyone else is trying to squish 4 to a hotel room in order to reduce costs.
Having a place I can go and to be on my own when I need to is worth the extra money. If your financial situation allows for it, I can’t recommend this enough. Otherwise, try sharing a room with other introverts who will understand your struggle and not push for the socialization to continue at the end of the day.
I always find it easier to deal with the demands of the day if I know I can have my introvert time afterwards.
2| Know it’s okay to Take Time for Yourself
Don’t feel guilty if you have to separate from the group for a while or if you want to sit out during one of the activities.
Remember, it’s up to you to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and you deserve space and quiet if that’s what you need. Besides, it truly is easier to socialize and interact with people when you give yourself this permission.
I know it’s a bit intimidating at first, but once you do it and see that the holiday, reunion or whatever family event you’re enduring continued on just fine without you, it will get easier. By this time next year, you’ll be a pro at taking time for yourself.
If anyone give you a hard time, be firm and assertive but polite. Sometimes people truly don’t understand what it means to be introverted and how much effort it takes to continue socializing.
3| Find an Introverted Allie
Handling group events as an introvert gets a lot easier if you know you’re not in it alone. Try finding another introvert in the group.
This will give you someone to talk to when things start to feel overwhelming. They’ll understand what you’re going through and has the added perk of perhaps giving you the chance to trade survival tips – we can all use more of those.
But what if you’re the only introvert at your family gathering?
It never hurts to call or text a friend who will understand what you’re going through. Chances are they have a family of their own that is every bit as crazy as yours. Plus, it’s always nice to have someone to vent to without worrying about it getting around the entire family.
It’s probably fair to say your family loves you and as misconstrued as their attempts to include you in every conversation and activity might be, they probably come from a good place.
Remind yourself of that and try to explain what being an introvert is like to them. This might be easier if you prepare in advance and know more or less what you want to say. Perhaps even practice saying it in the mirror a few times.
Chances are, once they understand where you are coming from they will be better equipped and more willing to accommodate you.
5| If all else Fails: Make an Excuse
Explosive diarrhea? Elective dental surgery? A sock organization emergency? What would you rather do than be stuck at a family get together?
There is no shortage of ways to get out of family gatherings. While I certainly don’t want to encourage anyone to lie to their family members, sometimes an excuse is necessary.
This is another situation where it might be helpful to have them prepared in advance. I’m also lead to believe there are tons of apps set up to call and provide excuses if you really need one.
As an introvert, it’s hard to be around people for too long. The shallow conversation and adhering to societal expectations are exhausting. These introvert survival tips should help you navigate the rocket terrain of your next family get together.
What are you best survival tips to help your fellow introverts get through family gatherings and the holiday season?