8 Relatable Holiday Party Situations Only Introverts Will Understand

As a kid, I was called “shy” and “awkward.” Here’s what worked for me — and didn’t work for me — in school.

The holidays can create tons of stress, especially if you’re more of a reflective sort than a reveler — an introvert. 

Many people consider the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year.” However, it can also create tons of stress, especially if you’re more of a reflective sort than a reveler — an introvert.

It’s a catch-22: You want to spend time with those you love. However, too much interaction with others can leave you feeling overwhelmed, which is the last thing you want to be during such a festive time of year. So what’s an introvert to do? Here are a few holiday situations only introverts will understand.

8 Relatable Holiday Party Situations Only Introverts Will Understand

1. You turn down most holiday party invitations.

If you’re an introvert, you probably only accept certain party invitations — you’d much rather stay home and watch Christmas movies or read a book. But if you do say yes to a big get-together (like your workplace’s annual holiday party — it can show your dedication to your employer), you probably end up dreading it.

So fortify yourself beforehand with plenty of alone time. And satisfy your stomach with a snack, because it’s far more pleasant to mix and mingle if you aren’t starving. Find out the dress code and plan your outfit accordingly — something you feel great in. That way, you will feel more confident and have one less thing to make you self-conscious.

Remember, most people adore talking about themselves, so ask questions to take the burden off carrying the conversation yourself. Or find an extrovert to lead the way (see my next tip). Finally, plan an exit strategy, such as staying only 90 minutes. You’ll feel less pressure if you know when you can head for the door without raising any eyebrows. You can always say you have another party to get to — it is holiday party season, after all!

2. You bring an extroverted friend along as a social buffer. 

Some holiday gatherings can make you feel like an outsider. Everyone else seems to enjoy chatting about the weather and their favorite football team. But you’d rather discuss deeper matters, like global warming or something you’re passionate about.

Many holiday invitations include a “plus one” — but there’s no rule saying it has to be a spouse or a partner. If you and your BFF rely on each other as two introverts against the world — or as an introvert/extrovert dynamic duo — why not bring him or her along? You won’t have to worry about standing around awkwardly with no one to speak to and they can help break the ice when approaching groups you might otherwise feel too intimidated to join.   

3. You load your favorite books and TV shows onto your phone in advance.

If a holiday party conversation turns heated or uninteresting, you have an instant escape route if you bring along something to watch or read. That way, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can watch something that makes you laugh.

After all, technology is a miraculous thing. You don’t have to have a Kindle to carry a book (or have access to a TV show) with you everywhere you go. You can keep all your favorite reads and shows on your smartphone, ready to give you that mental break all introverts need at some point.

However, exercise a bit of discretion in what you select. Your goal is to improve your mood in a short amount of time — opt for short stories featuring uplifting or comedic tales. Same goes for shows. Even a secret funny meme stash can improve your outlook if you sneak off to the restroom and access it when the holiday dinner table conversation gets too small talk-y for your tastes. After all, we introverts need alone time, and reading and watching some of our favorite things is a great way to take a break during a party.

4. You rehearse conversations in advance.

Because introverts often find small talk draining, they tend to avoid it. Plus, we may stumble over our words — especially when we’re put on the spot — due to the way our brains process information deeply. Yet there are times when you probably find yourself wanting to engage in a little chit-chat — and that’s when rehearsing in advance is helpful.

How do actors get into character and deliver their lines perfectly onstage? They practice. You can do the same in the days leading up to intimidating events, like your holiday office party. Are you cringing with dread about what to say at the big holiday soiree? Practice an “elevator speech” that you can use with all those folks you know by name tag only. Include just enough about you to answer their questions while masterfully directing the conversational ball back in their court. 

For example, “This is my second year in marketing here — I love how I get to exercise my creativity every day. What do you enjoy most about your position?” You can also practice things like wishing your boss a happy holiday in front of the mirror until you can deliver your greeting without stumbling or using tons of filler words. Better yet, recruit a partner or friend to play the other person. 

It’s handy to practice what you’ll say to senior leadership in particular, since these interactions can be some of the most nerve-wracking. A simple, “Thank you for a great year — I appreciate being a part of this winning team” sounds upbeat and makes an impression without being overbearing.    

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5. You offer to help the party host, from cooking to doing dishes.

Few things are worse than standing around awkwardly at a party, feeling unsure of what to do or whom to approach. However, you can quickly become your host’s best friend by offering to help with the dishes or anything else that needs to be done, like bringing out trays of food or drinks.

Doing so gives you a break from flitting from one group of diehard Packer fans to the next, or to the computer gaming clan, never quite feeling like you contribute much to the small talk in either group. By helping the host, it’ll give you a way to add meaning to the gathering without having to chit-chat, which is mentally draining and tiring for introverts.

Lending a hand gives you plenty of opportunities to strike up a conversation, too (if you feel so inclined). You might find mixing and mingling comes easier when you have a carafe in hand, giving you a convenient excuse to talk to people while asking if they need a refill on their drink. Then again, if you’re not in a socializing mood, carrying trays of food or dirty dishes is a great way to avoid conversation. So it’s a win-win either way.

6. You’re quick with activity suggestions. Jenga, anyone?

As I mentioned before, like most introverts, you’re probably not one for small talk. However, you rule at games like Trivial Pursuit and aren’t ashamed to show off your smarts. Or perhaps you don’t relish political conversations — but you always have a poker deck stashed in your purse. 

Games and activities provide needed distractions from conversations where certain people dominate and others (like me) stand around awkwardly, wondering whether to interject. Plus, games provide friendly fodder for conversation, and most people will be interested in playing once you bring it up.

7. You make best friends with the children and pets.

At family gatherings, you might volunteer to keep an eye on the little ones. Spending time with children gives you a mental break, often letting you participate in activities like coloring. This will help you recharge your depleted energy and is less draining than endless socializing with the adults. Or if your hosts got their kiddos a new video game for the holidays, they might welcome your help at making it past the next level.

Better yet, offer to take Fido outside for a few minutes if that pup starts getting rambunctious or looks bored. Many introverts find spending time with animals soothing, and it can give you some much-needed alone time outside. Plus, it’ll give that pooch plenty of play time.

8. You hide out for days afterwards.

Yes, the “introvert hangover” is real, when we are so wiped out from socializing that we feel utterly exhausted. After a party, many of us introverts hide out for days, catching up on alone time and recharging with naps, reading, and just hanging out in our introvert sanctuary. Having no set plans is the name of the game here — just do whatever you need to do to recharge your batteries so that you’re rested and refreshed.

While many people consider the holidays fun and festive, they can be stressful for us “quiet ones.” But I think it helps that we’re not alone in how we feel about holiday situations (even though all we want is to be alone!).

Mia is a health and wellness writer hailing from Pennsylvania. Check out her work as a staff writer and the editor-in-chief at Body+Mind.

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