’Tis the season for holiday hobnobbing and fun times with family and friends. Fun, that is, for some people. But do you know someone who has to be dragged to social functions, kicking and screaming? Well then, you may have an introvert on your hands. I should know — I’m one of them.
The terms "introverted" and "extroverted" come from the personality theories of Carl Jung, the famous psychologist. According to Jung, a person who is an extrovert is focused outwardly, and is energized by interacting with people and things in the outside world. By contrast, an introvert is focused more inwardly, and is energized by his or her inner world of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
In her book, The Introvert Advantage, psychologist Dr. Marti Olsen Laney neatly sums up the distinction by saying that "introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge. Extroverts are like solar panels that need the sun to recharge. Extroverts need to be out and about to refuel."
It’s not that introverts hate socializing completely, though. They love one-on-one or close-knit group discussions about ideas and things that interest them. They may even enjoy a larger social gathering. It’s just that prolonged chitchat wears them down and they start to feel the need to withdraw.
People sometimes confuse introversion with shyness or social anxiety, which is not correct, according to Laney. Many introverted people are not shy at all, and have little difficulty with meeting people or with public speaking. Nevertheless, they may feel exhausted by such things, and may need to reenergize by being alone.
As you may expect, it’s a trying time of year for us introverts. Here are some tips to get the most out of the season:
1. It’s OK to decline a social invitation. Yes, I know, all of your friends will try to convince you to go, but if you’re not interested, thank them for the invitation and politely say "No."
2. OK, diplomacy didn’t work — you’ve been shanghaied into going. Get some rest beforehand and try not to schedule too many social activities close together.
3. At the party, volunteer to help with the food, music, or photography. It’ll keep you busy and help to relieve the awkward feeling of not having anything to do. Bonus points for looking like a "team player."
4. If schmoozing isn’t your thing, try to find a place away from the crowd and just sit, relax, and observe. Sooner or later, other people may drift by, and you can chat with them if you wish.
5. Try to find moments to get away for a few minutes. Take a break, or just step outside for some fresh air.
6. Hooray, the party’s over! Be sure to schedule some downtime afterwards. Pat yourself on the back — you’ve survived and maybe even had a little fun! (Alright, maybe not.)
Introverts have much to offer, but their voices are often drowned out by their more boisterous brethren.
This holiday season, please take time to recognize the introverts in your lives and learn to appreciate their quieter approach to life. Just don’t expect us to go party-hopping with you!
Wayne Chan is a Waverley Heights-based writer.
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