I’m sitting in the local library of the town I grew up in writing this article. It’s quiet here, and before anyone says it, I’m not here because I’m avoiding my family. The ‘rents might be glad that I’ve left the house as I’ve already been making fun of Rod Stewart and his musical passion for “silver bells”. Now they can enjoy that passion in peace – at least until this article is finished.
I’m sure anyone reading this is excited to get together with their families and friends over the Christmas Holidays. Some may be looking forward to big, loud, extravagant gatherings. Others are looking forward to the quiet time between these gatherings, or to catch up with a few key people we haven’t seen in a while. No matter which camp you’re in, or whether you’re somewhere in between, there are, shall we say: “challenges” with any gathering. And because of those challenges funny things happen, leading to funny thoughts, and some some funny advice. Basically, finding humour is the key to enjoying what’s going on around you right now, even more than you already are! In Part 1 of Holiday Get-Togethers, I’ll address Christmas family gatherings in particular. I’ll stay away from office parties, because there’s already been a movie made about that. In Part 2 of Holiday Get-togethers, I’ll address the peculiarities of the New Year’s Eve party from my perspective as an introvert.
Here are what I see as being some commonalities to get-togethers of the family & friends variety Christmas time. There is the family member who tells jokes (ahem…I’m not the only one by the way), and some of them are probably offensive to somebody (not my jokes!). We have the chatter-boxes – a challenge for many introverts. We have the ones who ask a lot of questions and want full details on everything (which introverts are just dying to not share: “I know you’ve known me my whole life, but let’s take this slowly. I love you, really, I just don’t want to over-commit on the sharing piece.”
And then there are the people who are so cheerful, they sneeze glitter. As far as I know, sneezed-out glitter can still give you the flu, so be careful with that stuff. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they can contribute to being, and accumulate into an overwhelming amount of “too much”. With all of this in mind, I’d like to present some strategies for handling, enjoying, escaping, or down-right avoiding these situations.
The easiest thing to do is to find your favourite sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or parent and monopolize their time. Don’t feel bad. They haven’t seen you in a year! At least until you get comfortable, and then when you get tired, but can’t leave yet (because you’re polite), find them again. The truth is, you are going to have to talk to your family at some point. Just a little bit won’t hurt, will it? Simply park yourself next to where the bar is set up. You could even find the person who will tell you stories so that all you have to do is listen. You really don’t have to work the room. Some people may be happy to just see your face, whether it’s talking or not.
The Chatter-Box Uh oh, are you “conversing” with a total chatter-box, and now you feel stuck? If possible, get up and walk away. If you’re lucky, they won’t follow you. If they do follow you, please try to be polite, or walk into the bathroom, shout : “sorry, this is going to be a while!” and then go out the window. If the window isn’t an option, head straight for the bathroom without a word, keep walking and go straight out the back door!
Internal dialogue This one works well for the chatter box, or the one who tells the dirty jokes, or any other time you choose to use it. If you can’t get away, just start up the internal dialogue. You know the one – that really interesting show about your own thoughts and feelings about anything and everything that plays in your head whenever you care to pay attention to it. Tune into that, and just keep nodding and saying “Mmm, hmmm.” A caveat here: remember to tune back into the conversation in the “real world” every now and again to make sure you haven’t agreed to something like hosting a family reunion/ karaoke party at your place next summer.
Alone Time – the key to an introvert’s maintenance of sanity
Is the family Christmas gathering still raging on and you you’re not ready to leave, but you need some time to yourself?
Go check out what Uncle/ Aunt/ Grandma/ whomever has done with that room at the other end of their house that you haven’t seen since last year, or simply go out to the garage. I am now convinced this was why some of my older cousins smoked when we were younger. When they couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen or the living room at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s place, they went out to the garage to smoke (Grandma knew all along, by-the-way, and so did your impressionable little cousin).
Take a WalkTell someone you need to walk off the extra helpings of potatoes and stuffing – outside, by yourself. Does the whole family now want to go along with you? Tell them the gravy didn’t agree with you “if you know what I mean…” If they still want to come, get your boots and coat on really fast, or somehow get “lost” along the way.
To Prepare for Get-togethers
Just like a fire safety plan, an enjoyable get-together with family or friends comes with a solid exit strategy. That doesn’t mean you just park yourself next to the door with your coat in your arms at all times and insist on keeping your shoes/ boots on, but it is a good idea to know where your exits are. Just in case of fire..or karaoke….or too many questions…or chatterboxes.
You may also want to prepare some answers to questions you may be asked at these gatherings, because in all likelihood you will both answer and ask questions throughout the event.
Typical questions introverts get asked at parties by people they know
- What have you been up to since I saw you last? This one could be tough, because you’ll have to remember when you saw them last.
- Have you got a boyfriend/ girlfriend (as it may apply) yet? (my family have nearly given up asking this question)
- What are you up to these days? Depending on your situation, this could cover anything from your hobbies, to career, to children. It’s very broad, so 30 second summary prepared in advance could get you through this one fast.
Of course, it’s okay to enjoy yourself! See the funny side of all of this stuff and it’ll take at least some of the stress out of situations that can be stressful. It’s meant to be fun and enjoyable. Also, feel free to express your feelings – laugh at the funny things, smile if it’s funny but not THAT funny, and enjoy yourself in your own quiet way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these Family Christmas get-together tips. Feel free to leave your comments below.
Next week: Part 2 of Get-togethers: the New Year’s Eve Party