Q: I’m in a constant predicament. I recently got married, and my husband has a huge family. Just about everyone is an extrovert. As a highly sensitive introvert who has a tiny family, it has been difficult to adjust and to participate at frequent family gatherings.
I get along with everyone well, but they ask me, “Why are you so quiet?” and “Are you bored?” What is a suitable response? I try my best to appear engaged, but with the noise and everyone talking over one another, it becomes overwhelming. ~ Amanda
A: This is a great question, and one that will probably resonate with many readers!
The fact that you acknowledge the positive aspects of the situation (i.e. getting along well with his family), is a smart move. Having a solid foundation in those relationships will help you navigate this situation. My guess is that his family cares for you and wants you to feel comfortable being yourself.
To tackle those uncomfortable questions they ask you, be honest and direct. I know how hard this can be for us highly sensitive types, but in the long run, it will likely make your time with them more enjoyable, and it may even lead to more authentic relationships.
For me, these types of conversations are easier one-on-one. Begin with a family member with whom you feel a connection. Tell that person about your family. Perhaps express gratitude about your time with your husband’s family, and share information about introversion and how you best process information and communicate.
If you’re feeling really brave, talk about how hard it is when family members point out your quietness. Hopefully, this family member will leave the conversation with a better understanding of who you are, a greater level of connection, and a reminder that you really do value the family. As you feel comfortable, have this conversation with other family members.
Another option is to make peace with answering their questions. Try replying, “No, I’m not bored. I enjoy spending time with all of you, but sometimes I prefer to watch the action instead of talk.” Or, “I’m being quiet because I would rather listen.”
As silly as this might sound, try writing some responses and practicing them beforehand. Keep your responses simple and honest. Trust me, this will help!
Know that you are not alone, and especially as the holidays approach, other people are stressing about family gatherings and things like this, too. What will help us all is practicing good self-care and maybe even having a solid escape plan from the gathering when we just can’t take any more!
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Email your questions about love, relationships, and introversion/high sensitivity to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll only publish your first name, so go ahead, ask the embarrassing stuff.