A Tool for Introverts: The Social Decision Calculator
Introverts, whether we like it or not, the holiday season is upon us. Extroverts delight in receiving a multitude of invitations. Parties give them a chance to celebrate with family, friends, colleagues, their partner’s colleagues, neighbors, and more. Despite the dark days of winter, they feel energized, getting to spend time with other people.
We introverts likely experience a different sensation when the invitation arrives. A pit of dread may build in our stomachs. Our palms may sweat or our hearts may race with anxiety. We experience guilt because we want to rip up, delete, or ignore the invitation.
Everything about the season goes against our subdued nature. Our happy places are calm and peaceful. While there, we feel content and at ease. The holiday season feels rushed, busy, noisy, bright, loud, and often crowded. We prefer deep connection over the shallow small talk that rules at parties.
We don’t want to dress up, go out, or face the crowds. Hunkering down in front of a warm fire, with a mug of cocoa dressed in our comfy clothes, sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
What Should an Introvert Do During the Holidays?
Although I can’t speak for all introverts, many of us “quiet ones” face a common problem during the holidays. Should we go to an event to please others, but which may leave us drained? Or should we decline the invitation, which we fear may hurt or offend someone?
Thanks to Susan Cain’s widely viewed TED talk on the power of introverts, I now embrace the fact that I am one. But I still experience a twinge of guilt when I decline to attend a large social function. I know I should not feel this way. This inherent sense of guilt comes from growing up in the United States, where our culture prizes being social and outgoing.
On the night of the event, however, I have no regrets. I do not miss dressing up, holding a cocktail, mingling, and engaging in small talk. Sitting on my couch wearing loungewear, I am snuggled under a blanket watching a movie with my son.
As a socially accessible introvert, I can pass in an extroverted culture. But I know large social events often do not make me feel good. In an ironic twist, I used to be an event organizer, planning the exact kind of events I now delight in not attending.
In the book, The Awakened Introvert by Arnie Kozak Ph.D., he includes a social decision calculator. I’ve modified the calculator below to include questions about how you want to feel, which is a crucial tenet of the Desire Map process, which I teach. Desire Mapping is a heart-centered approach where we get to choose how we feel to create our lives with intention.
Should I Stay Home or Go?
You’ve just received an invitation and now you have a decision to make. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 for the following questions. 10 is the most positive answer or a strong yes. 5 is a neutral response. 1 is the most negative answer or an absolute no.
1. Do you have enough energy?
What else is on your calendar for the day or week of the event? What takes priority? If you go to this event, will you have enough energy for your other priorities? Will this event increase or decrease your energy?
2. How important is this event to the significant people in your life? Does your presence matter?
For example, is it the expectation that all employees attend the company party? Would your relationship with your boss or colleagues suffer if you don’t? But is the same true for your spouse’s company party?
3. How important is the event to a cause you deeply value?
Is this an event you look forward to every year, which makes you feel good? Is it for a charitable cause that is very important to you?
4. Are you interested in having a closer relationship with the host or other people attending the event?
Is this the first time you’re meeting your potential future in-laws? Or are these people who already know you well and understand that you don’t like large crowds?
5. Does the event give you options for leaving when you want to?
This one is an important question. If this is an event that you should go to but don’t want to attend, do you have to stay the entire time? If it’s the office party, for example, can you leave after you talk to your boss or a few other important coworkers? Or is the event on a cruise ship, and you have to stay for the length of the cruise? (I’ve been to an office event on a boat before!)
6. Will you enjoy the event? What’s been your experience with this or similar events in the past?
Do you think you’ll have a good time? Have you been to this event before and know what to expect?
7. Will you have time to recover afterward?
Will you be able to get enough sleep that night? Do you have another event to go to immediately afterward or the next day? What does your schedule look like?
8. Will you know anyone at the event other than the host?
Attending an event where we know only one person is not ideal for an introvert. How many people will you know? Do you like them?
9. How does the invitation make you feel?
Does it fill you with positive feelings? What are they? Or are you filled with negative or unpleasant feelings?
10. If you knew there would be no negative repercussions if you didn’t go, would you want to go?
Stop worrying for a moment about attending the event to please others. If you had no one’s desires or feelings to worry about except your own, how would you feel about the event? Are you excited to attend? Will it leave you drained and exhausted?
If you scored 90 or above, say yes without hesitation because no rescue is required.
If you scored 70 or above, going to this social activity is a good decision.
If you scored 60 or above, you are right on the fence with pros and cons for both. You get to choose whether you need rescuing or not.
If you scored less than 60, politely decline and stay home without any guilt. You are officially rescued!
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How Will You Recover After the Event?
If you do decide to go, it’s crucial to set aside downtime afterward. Think about what forms of self-care you will practice to renew your energy. In The Awakened Introvert, Kozak suggests the following restorative activities, which all sound lovely to me:
- Seek silence from all the types of noise that invade our space: media, human, ambient noise, internal busy landscape
- Attend a lecture and sit in the back
- Curl up with a good book
- Watch a movie
- Go to a play
- Sit in a coffee shop or library to read or write
- Visit an art museum
What activities would you add to the list which would help you feel better after being out in the world?
Introvert, I wish you a holiday season filled with ease, calm, and quiet contentment. If you find a fellow introvert hiding in a corner or over by the food at an event you choose to attend, rescue them by giving them a friendly smile, diving into a deep conversation, and sharing the social decision calculator. I hope this tool helps you survive and even thrive until you can breathe a sigh of relief on World Introvert Day on Jan. 2.
You might like:
- 21 Gifts That Will Make Introverts Say, ‘It Me’
- Why Do Introverts Love Being Alone? Here’s the Science
- What Secretly Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type ‘Dangerous’
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