Introvert's Thrival Guide to Holiday Family Gatherings

Updated: Jan 8

12 Strategies So You Don't Just Survive Holidays...You Thrive!


Holiday time can be a joyous reunion for family and friends, a brief respite from work and school to relax and recharge.


Then why can these next six weeks also be filled with anxiety and exhaustion, even prompting some to wish for a return to work or school?


Disrupted Habits

Introverts are often creatures of habit and control. We like the familiarity of our routine, our surroundings, and the people we interact with. We relish control through planning and the execution of those plans.


Holidays are far from the routine and control we struggle to reserve the rest of the year. November and December are filled with company holiday parties, vacation time, that is filled with more family interface, congested travel, touring activities in strange places, and catching up with relatives and friends far beyond the fifteen minutes our curiosity and energy can often justify.


Don't get me wrong, most of us love our family, extended relatives, and celebrating meaningful holidays that spark memories of gatherings past. But truth be told, even close family is not always easy to converse with or falls short of generating the interest level to invest the time in a lengthy conversation with people we may only see once a year.


With a little help, we can change our objective from just how we can survive the holidays to how can we thrive this holiday season. Somehow, we need to balance truly enjoying the downtime and also becoming more involved in the conversation?

It's hard to gather conversation interest when we are exhausted, stressed, or under pressure.


We need to prepare - prepare to relax and to engage. The answer to the challenge of enjoying ourselves AND engaging in more conversation starts with the same antidotes - preparation and leaning on our strengths.


  1. Manage energy: Create breaks for you and others. No need to have the full day all together.

  2. Deep dive: Chitchat can be annoying. Prepare one topic for each person at the gathering, something you are curious about - their background, their travels, hobbies, or work... Approach this as an interesting learning experience.

  3. Networking Intimacy: We prefer small groups, for shorter times, in familiar places. Even if the gathering is large, break it down into groups of 2-4 people to spend time with.

  4. List of 4: In advance, jot down (i) questions for each person, (ii) some interesting highlights of your last year, (iii) some quirky news items from your phone's morning briefing, and (iv) some fun adventures you have in store for the year ahead. Even tuck them into a pocket and refresh your memory on a break to help get you in the flow.

  5. Home field advantage: Consider hosting an event so you can decide on the time and activities. You can also take breaks with host duties (prepping, cooking, cleaning). It is harder to ask people to leave, but consider a hard end time (perhaps you have somewhere else to go?).

  6. Plan activities: Avoid the draining chitchat. Bring board games, old slideshows, or plan a kickball game at the local park.

  7. Bring props: Consider costume dinners or memorabilia sharing to increase engagement.

  8. Table topics: Offer a topic in advance or at the beginning of a meal. It could be what we are thankful for or past holiday memories. It makes the time pass and you learn something new along the way.

  9. Exit strategy: If you are a guest, create an exit strategy. Another commitment or just time for a nap or walk.

  10. Create solo time: Plan alone time to take a walk, go to a museum, grab a coffee out, or meditate. These are like gold.

  11. Journaling: An introvert's stalwart friend. Jot down your concerns. Prepare for the events and some of the tips above. Vent any frustrations during the holidays. Having an outlet helps calm the nerves and avoids staying in a dark, unhappy place too long.

  12. Take notes: Make notes for next time. Remember where you left off on conversations or unique stories or hobbies you learned this year so that the next holiday season is even easier.


Oftentimes these events are much more memorable in the rearview mirror. The great memories are clouded by the stress or exhaustion of the moment. What a shame we can't enjoy them in the moment. Try some of the strategies above to make this year different.



Sharing & Compassion

I do believe the holidays are intended for sharing and compassion. Show some interest and empathy for others, but also extend compassion to yourself. Recognize what you need to not only survive but thrive during the holidays.


There is no need to compete with the more outgoing relatives around the table. Embrace yourself and respect your own boundaries - even if others may not. Don't hesitate to share your personality - what makes you you, what you enjoy, and what you have a passion for. Like any group of people, some will be curious, others uninterested. That's okay. But you can take pride that you've stretched yourself and shared your true you.


Don't take the burden of the whole conversation. Conversations are two-way streets. If you prepare and make the effort, you are doing your part. If others don't choose to engage, perhaps they are distracted and it's a bad time, or you two just aren't clicking. That's okay. Everybody doesn't click, even relatives!


Try a few new approaches. Prepare and share self-compassion, and this could be your best holiday season ever!


 

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NEXT WEEK:


Moderation is the Key: Neither staying in our comfort zone nor shooting for the extreme are sustainable life approaches. Next week we'll talk about how to find the happy medium.