I promise you, there are no chunky knit sweaters or aromatherapy candles on this gift list. You can’t buy these things at a mall, Amazon Prime them to your doorstep, or make them yourself using a Pinterest tutorial.
But if you have an introvert in your life, these things are, in fact, exactly what he or she wants from you this holiday season. (Even though said introvert probably won’t actually come out and say it. Words are hard for us quiet ones.)
It doesn’t matter whether this introvert celebrates Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Christmas or midwinter or something else or nothing at all. And really, the things on this list are not relevant only during the “most wonderful time of the year.” Introverts will
want need these things long after the last gingerbread cookie has been eaten and the Christmas tree is dumping brown needles all over the floor.
Don’t get me wrong. Introverts love getting holiday gifts just as much as anyone else. (If you’re actually looking for a gift item, check out our Ultimate Gift Guide for Introverts, where there are plenty of things you can still two-day ship, including my book.) But the things we introverts want most from the people in our lives probably won’t be found under any Christmas tree.
And we really wish you knew that. I’d trade every hot chocolate gift set or floral scented bottle of lotion I’ve ever received for a few things on this list.
‘Gifts’ Introverts Really Want This Holiday Season
1. A listening ear
Introvert or extrovert, everyone wants to be listened to. But the thing is, introverts are usually the ones who end up doing the majority of it, especially when they’re around friends or loved ones of the extroverted variety. And it’s no wonder. Listening and making someone feel heard are our superpowers. We enjoy it, and we’re good at it.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t crave the occasional role reversal. Someone who will listen to us as attentively as we listen to them. Someone who will ask thoughtful questions, really think about what we’re saying, and use the sum of their brain power to respond.
Yes, we introverts tend to be on the quiet side, often choosing silence and brevity over loud exclamations or long explanations. But there are so many thoughts tumbling through our heads at any given moment. And sometimes, those thoughts need to tumble out and land on a listening, nonjudgmental ear.
2. Permission to duck out early
You probably already know what I’m about to tell you from the way your introvert tugs at your sleeve in a crowd or shoots you “that look” from across the room at a party. But it’s the one truth we introverts so desperately need you to understand: We just can’t socialize with the same intensity as an extrovert. It drains us, mentally and physically. We don’t feel the same high an extrovert feels at an “amazing” party, due to our wiring. In fact, all that noise, chatter, and activity can quickly overstimulate us.
When we say we want to leave the party right now, we’re not trying to ruin your fun. By ducking out early, we’re preserving our energy — and with it, our mental health and sanity. Knowing you’re okay with us leaving whenever social burnout threatens is one of the greatest gifts you can give us.
3. A meaningful conversation
Research shows there’s a link between meaningful conversation and happiness. That’s true for everyone, introvert or extrovert. But many introverts absolutely crave deep talk. Like, tell me a secret from the depths of your soul that no one else knows. Or, how will the world change when robots inevitably take over our jobs? While gossiping about coworkers or recounting your weekend plans is fine sometimes, introverts occasionally need a little somethin’ more.
4. Time to think through their thoughts before answering
Ours is a culture of now. Make a decision now. Answer my question now. For introverts, this can be a challenge. We think deeply about information and often consider problems from many different angles. We may rely more on long-term memory than active memory when speaking (extroverts do the opposite). As a result, we may struggle to produce coherent sentences when put on the spot. Give introverts the gift of time: “It’s okay if you need to think about it.”
5. An evening with no plans
This one is especially important for introvert-extrovert couples, but it could also apply to introvert-extrovert roommates, friends, and parents/children. “No plans” doesn’t mean an introvert is doing nothing. A blank space on their calendar means they are recuperating their lost energy, diving into their inner world, and all around becoming a better human.
6. Guilt-free time alone
And if they want to spend that evening alone, tucked away in their bedroom, let them — sans guilt-trip.
7. A cozy night in with takeout and binge-watching
Similar to #5, this “gift” could be spent with you. For introverts, low-key is where it’s at.
8. An uninterrupted block of time to do their thing
What may look like a hobby to you is a very serious endeavor to an introvert. The memoir they’re writing is a deep emotional catharsis. The role-playing game they’re spending hours planning speaks to the strategic mastermind in all of us. The new recipe they’re trying unleashes their inner domestic goddess. Time to do their thing, unscheduled and uninterrupted, is an incredible gift.
9. Quality time with just you and no one else
Ever notice how your introvert has a lot to say when it’s just the two of you, but in front of a group, he or she shuts up? That’s because groups can be too much. The conversation moves too fast, there’s too much going on, and for goodness’ sakes, can someone turn that music down!? Introverts do much better in one-on-one situations.
10. Intellectual stimulation
Similar to #3. Try taking the introvert in your life to a museum of their choice, a panel discussion on a topic that interests them, a book signing by their favorite author, a play, concert, or cultural performance. Watch their eyes light up like Christmas lights.
Silent night, holy night. Not only is silence good for your health, but it’s also bliss ringed with magic.
Introverts often feel misunderstood as they grow up and navigate this society that seems made for extroverts. We’re always on the lookout for someone who “gets” us. Someone who gets our silence. Who gets our need to be in bed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday night. Who at least tries to see the world from our wild, weird, cynical, wondrous perspective. Trying to understand our life, our perspective, and our needs — even if they are different from yours — is the best gift you can give an introvert.
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Image credit: @alexandrahraskova via Twenty20