Christmas parties can be draining for introverts.
At this time of year there is usually a lot going on. Work parties; family gatherings; get-togethers with friends, and let’s not even mention the added social engagements that come with having school-aged children! As an introvert, all that socialising can be draining and even damaging to one’s mental health.
Introverts are not all shy or unsociable.
The word Introvert seems to be used interchangeably with both Shy and Unsociable but being an introvert is not the same as being socially awkward or disliking other people.
When you are an introvert, you can find social contact – even with people you really like – draining. While an extrovert feels energised by time spent in a bustling group of people and loves to have company, an introvert feels energised by time spent alone. This can make Christmas party season hard to navigate.
When you’re an introvert, December can be hard work. It’s not that I don’t like these people, or that I don’t want to see them – I just don’t want to see all of them, in one go, in a loud dark room with lots of booze involved!
Being an introvert can be hard to explain to the extroverts who are busy organising another night out or wondering why you don’t want to come to the school Christmas disco. Extroverts typically find these situations invigorating and enlivening; the idea of foregoing an evening out to stay home and read a book alone seems like absolute madness.
Introverts do like other people, just not all at once!
In the past I have said no to the majority of Christmas party invitations, citing a lack of childcare as my reason. Often it is a valid reason too; I’m not lying, I’ve just not tried particularly hard to find a sitter. I tell people a night out is not my thing, or remind them of my usual 8pm bedtime (most people think that’s a joke but it’s really not). Even extreme introverts have to leave the house sometimes though, and the odd night out here and there can be enjoyable. The trick is to find a happy medium. I remain convinced such a thing does exist, even for those of us who would rather just camp under our duvets until January 2nd.
This year I have already attended one Christmas party. Before Christmas day I also have a couple more to attend; basically, I don’t have a free weekend until the end of the year now. And that fills me with dread.
How can an introvert cope with Christmas party season?
Think about each event individually.
When you’re staring down the barrel of a month of dinners, parties and social events, it is tempting to just come up with some excuses and not attend anything. If you try to think of each event individually, and break things down a little, you might find you’re looking forward to some things.
Example: I work with a marketing agency who are organising a Christmas party in London. This will be the first time the whole team has been together since last Christmas, and we’ve had people join us since then. We’ve also had a good year, in terms of the business – so there is definitely reason to celebrate. the thought of going to London for a party with people I don’t know well is not enticing. The thought of going to see a small group of people I’ve not seen for a year and with whom I get on well is a much more appealing prospect. Instead of thinking about spending several hours in loud, peopley environments I am thinking about spending some time with people I like. For me, that takes the sense of foreboding out of the time before the event.
It’s ok to say no… to some – but not all!
There have been times where I have said no to everything – and if I’m honest, I have regretted that later. There is a social cost to consistently turning down invitations; people stop inviting you after a while, and then you can feel quite excluded and even isolated.
That said, there can often be a sense of obligation with Christmas parties where you feel that you have to go because it’s Christmas and so getting drunk and singing along to Slade is some sort of legal requirement.
There is usually a happy medium here: go through your list of social engagements, and respectfully decline the ones that are not an absolute must. And instead of saying Nope, not coming; can’t stand that sort of thing you can say something like I’m so sorry I can’t make the party/dinner/thing; perhaps we could arrange a get-together to brighten the new year instead.
Arrive with an escape plan.
Bargain with your inner unsociable child: Ok, we’ll stay until 10 and then say we have to get back for the babysitter/last bus/homework-eating dog. I often find that having an escape plan established before I arrive somewhere takes the pressure off. I can tell people: I can only stay until 10 and manage everyone’s expectations. And often with that pressure removed I have a better time and feel happy to stay out a little longer anyway.
Volunteer to help
If you’re one of those people who hates to stand around making small talk, volunteer to help instead. Wandering around with a tray of drinks or clearing plates away means you’re not stuck trying to keep up your end of a conversation in which you have zero interest.
Helping out with the organisation of an event can mean that you get to meet more people, and that time moves more quickly. Before you know it, the party is over and you’ve at least said Would you like a drink to the majority of people in the room.
Yes, I know we’ve talked about having an escape plan – but it also pays to be honest in these situations. Anyone who knows you well, will already know that you don’t enjoy large social gatherings. And often when you’re honest and say I’m an introvert and these situations drain my energy at least one other person will say Me too! People often feel obliged to attend these things and stay until the bitter end because they’ve just not thought to hold their hands up and say Sorry, this isn’t my cup of tea. Most people would hate to think you have come to an event and not enjoyed yourself; they would rather you just tell the truth.
Book in dedicated down time
I often find it easier to enjoy a gathering if I know I have some time later or the next day to recover! As well as this, booking down time into my calendar allows me to navigate party season without feeling too drained. I make sure there are times where I will be home alone and can recharge my batteries. Booking in time like this and treating it as you would a meeting or GP appointment is a good way for an introvert to deal with life all year round in my experience. Remember that as an introvert planning alone time is an act of self care and just as important as any other appointment in your diary.