The holiday season — with the crowded shopping, the long list of parties, the relentless merriment — seems like it was created with extroverts in mind.
Introverts, however, can find all that cheerful mingling a bit exhausting. It's not that introverts hate talking to people — they just prefer talking to people they know, and often enjoy one-on-one conversation over group settings. They also tend to loathe small talk, and often bypass niceties in favor of deep, thought-provoking topics. At parties, that can make others feel weird.
While most of the time introverts can avoid holiday stress by simply staying home, the office holiday party is a different story. They kind of have to show up, participate in the annoying small talk, and even pretend to enjoy hearing about Trish's snow-shoveling strategy, or how Jim just never developed a taste for chocolate.
If just the thought gets your heart racing, here's a quick office party survival strategy:
Lock and load a couple stories and questions beforehand
Though there's a common misconception that introverts have poor social skills, in reality they can be just as charming and witty as extroverts — they just tend to direct their charm at one person at a time.
Make those conversations count. Refresh your memory for stories that involve some of your colleagues. Also take a moment to remember details about their personal lives — like their kids and hobbies. That way, if a conversation veers into awkward pauses, you'll have a few life boats ready to go.
Put the deep stuff in writing
People often use the holiday party as an opportunity to get tipsy and give heartfelt thank yous to members of the team. Some introverts may feel too awkward to do this at a party.
If that's you, try not to leave the thank you unsaid. Instead, write an email or a short note on a Christmas card. It's easier, and the recipient will know it's not just the wine talking.
Fill your hands
Social awkwardness has a way of settling around the hand region. At the holiday party, resist the urge to pull out your phone to check the weather or Instagram or play a round of Quiz Up — that can come across as aloof. Instead, fill your hands with drinks or cookies.
Grab some coattails
Introverts are often drawn toward extroverts, and vice versa. If you have an extroverted office buddy, take the coattails approach, and tag along while she circulates. You won't have to think about where to go next, and she'll take care of breaking the ice. All you'll need to do is stand there, nibbling on cookies, with your pre-loaded questions and stories ready to go.
Introverts love alone-time — it's how they recharge their "batteries." If you run out of steam early on, don't feel weird about taking breaks — bathroom breaks, smoking breaks, e-cig breaks — whatever it takes to get away for a second. I'm also a fan of "texting" breaks, where you really just play a little Candy Crush and zone out for a sec. Though again, try not to spend the entire night on your phone.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 5 legitimate scientific controversies
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- Why I got married — without a wedding
- How to improve your workplace culture
- 10 things you need to know today: October 2, 2014
- Why the Rubio-Lee tax plan is great politics — and great policy
Subscribe to the Week