3 Tips for Spending Time With Extroverts During the Holidays

An introvert at a holiday dinner with extroverted family members

As an introvert, it’s OK to feel however you want to feel about the holidays and go to whatever party you want (or don’t want) to go to.

Oh, how I love the holidays — cuddling up by the fire, hot cocoa in hand, Idina Menzel’s Christmas album playing over the speakers (yes, I am a die-hard theater kid, and no, I’m not ashamed). If I could, I would spend all of December in this small little cocoon of warmth and, more importantly, quiet

Unfortunately, this is not quite what actually happens for me during the holidays, particularly with my family and friends. Ever since I can remember, the last three weeks of the year are a mad dash to get from house-to-house and family-party-to-other-side-of-the-family-party, all in order to tell every single person I have ever met, “Happy Holidays!” 

When I was younger, I was fine with this tradition. I liked seeing my extended family, as they would ask me about school and what doll I wanted for Christmas. I also liked the gift swaps with my friends. But, as an adult, the thought of starting up conversation after conversation, even with loved ones, with noise following me from room to room (even as I try to escape to the bathroom), is not my idea of a good time. 

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An Introvert in a Family of Extroverts 

Most of my loved ones thrive in these environments. They can talk the small talk and ask all the right questions, and this isn’t to say I can’t, too. I can — but it is exhausting and drains my entire month’s social battery in a matter of minutes. 

Unfortunately, I am not good at hiding my emotions, so I am bombarded with questions of what’s “wrong.” I try to explain, “Oh, I’m just tired. It’s very loud and I’m not super comfortable.” 

But as I’m sure many people reading this have realized, it’s hard to explain being an introvert to an extrovert. My well-meaning loved ones try to encourage me by saying, “Just have some more food. You’re probably hungry,” or, “But you know these people. How can you not be comfortable?” These awkward questions then lead to me feeling guilty about not being able to do the one thing everyone seems to be able to do: talk.

This then leads to me comfort-eating all the sugar cookies. However, after years of experimenting with different approaches, I have now discovered three essential tips that I use to get through the holidays with those I love. 

3 Tips for Spending Time With Extroverts During the Holidays

1. Have a drink in your hand (not necessarily to drink).

No, this is not the part where I advise you to always be slightly tipsy when you’re at a party where you are uncomfortable. The drink maneuver is for those moments when you are stuck in a certain situation that you can’t see a way out of, whether it’s a conversation with your friend’s coworker at their ugly sweater party or when you’re at the big family dinner where it’s hard to get away. 

Either way, take a very hot (or very cold) beverage, hold it in your hand, and really feel its temperature on your skin. Focus on that for a few seconds. Then, fake cough for a few moments like you can’t fully catch your breath and let yourself take a big, long sip. This will give you a moment where no one is looking at you expectantly as though you’re having an awkward pause. Instead you can just be present.

Another thing you can do while holding the drink is to take big, deep breaths and picture yourself in your favorite place. Let that feeling anchor you until you can excuse yourself. Whenever you start to feel drained, go back to focusing on the temperature of your drink instead of worrying about the situation and all your overthinking thoughts: Am I talking too little? Is everyone looking at me? When can I go home?

2. Find a “validation buddy” who gets you and your discomfort.

This is someone who “gets” you — you can tell them you’re uncomfortable and there’s no judgment. When you’re with your family, it could be your sister. When you’re at a party, it could be your roommate who you brought along. Simply put, it’s the person who you can turn to when the environment you’re in is not really yours, and they’ll quickly remind you that it is okay to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. 

I find that giving this buddy a script to say is extremely helpful, too. We all need our emotions validated sometimes, and often when I tell my extroverted friends how I feel, they try to give me well-meaning advice that is not helpful. 

So before going out, sit down with your buddy and explain that while you appreciate their offer to help, the best way for them to help is for them to tell you they are there for you. They may not even necessarily mean it, or understand why they are saying it, but hearing these reminders really helps. 

I often tell my buddy the phrases that I find most comforting, which include ones like:

“I’m sorry this is hard for you.”

“I’m here for whatever you need.”

“It’s okay to feel this way. You are entitled to your feelings.”

“We can leave whenever you want.”

Of course, you can cater these phrases to ones that fit you, and your needs, best, but you get the idea.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

3. Plan whatever elements of the evening you can.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a social setting that we did not plan to be in. You’re out to dinner with a few friends and it turns into them bar-hopping or going to a college friend’s apartment… and then you get stuck there for hours. 

But, for the plans you know about in advance, write them on a calendar, specifically with the times it will take to get to the event and the times they start. Then, carve out time that day, or the day before, to mentally prepare yourself. Do something mindless or pamper yourself with self-care in the form of your favorite me-time activity. The idea is to enjoy yourself for that period of time.

Then, remember this me-time when you are at the social event. In a way, they almost justify each other: “I’m here now, so I’ll enjoy the quiet even more when I get back to my apartment.” Or, “I had my quiet time yesterday, and now I am trading it off for a small amount of healthy human interaction.”

At the End of the Day (Or Holiday Season), Celebrate However You’d Like

I love the holidays, but there is no denying that, at times, all the get-togethers can be very stress-inducing: We can all feel pressure to act a certain way, go to certain places, and do certain things. 

But you know what? Feel however you want to feel and go to whatever party you want (or don’t want) to go to. Extroverts may not understand us introverts, but I think we are pretty great, and we deserve to celebrate in whatever way we please. 

I wish you a lovely, quiet holiday… (We can dream, right?) 

Introverts, what about you? What tips would you add to the above? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

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