The sound of Mariah Carey doing her best to break all of the windows in your house with a ditty from her infamous Christmas album conjures a standard reaction in most people: horror. But those first strains of Silent Night invoke a special kind of fear for the introverts among us with the realisation the festive season is here.
When the ringing in the ears post-Mariah eventually clears, your average extrovert is likely to be giddy with excitement. Christmas – the parties! The social gatherings! Long lost relatives! Screaming children! Could there be a better time of the year?
As a card carrying introvert, I’m here to tell you the festive season sparks a different feeling for us folks at the other end of the spectrum.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I figured out this introvert business. Psychologists, I discovered, deem people that get their energy from external sources to be extroverts. They love being around people as they feed off the energy exchange. Introverts, however, get their energy from within. It’s not that we don’t like being around people, it’s just that we take in stimulus much more quickly. We get our fill in no time and then we need to retreat to process the information. That’s why an open ended visit to the relos or a five hour scheduled office picnic gets us all clammy.
Christmas hasn’t always been a total nightmare for me. I was quietly preoccupied with all the new toys under the tree until puberty hit. But a string of stressful December 25ths followed soon thereafter. There were numerous requests in my teenage years to ‘Get out of yer bloody room!’ which later escalated to a drunken shouting match when I tried to make an exit after a 10 hour Christmas ‘lunch’ in my mid 20s.
Here’s the deal with introverts and Christmas: it’s not that we hate the festive season, it’s simply too much for us. The people, the noise, the pressure to act jolly and ‘Just stay for one more’ all take their toll. It’s entirely possible Boxing Day was invented by an introvert who used the 24 hours to just go and hide in a box after all that activity.
While I’ve figured out the correlation between shitty christmases and my introverted nature, I’m yet to master how to handle this. When I’ve had my fill, leaving always seems to cause offence.
So bearing this in mind, I want to share some tips on how to look after your introvert this Christmas.
Don’t give us any coffee
Interesting fact: introverts and extroverts have completely different reactions to coffee. Psychologist Brian Little says coffee has the power to push introverts over the edge. We’re so susceptible to stimulus that an added dose of caffeine is one stimulation too many. Don’t let us near the Nespresso machine and stock up on chamomile tea.
Banish the small talk
There’s much chatter about introverts and their aversion to small talk. Whether it’s because we’re bad at it, it’s overwhelmingly draining or too surface level for our complicated natures, the consensus is that small talk and introverts don’t mix. Instead, tell us about your sex life. That’s hardly small talk. Or is it? You’d know better than me what your partner is packing.
Implement chill out zones
Not just useful for naughty children and hopped up youngins at rave parties, a quiet space will help your introvert get through the day. After Aunty Beryl leaves, let us duck into the spare room and catch our breath. Sure, Aunt Bez is a talker but it’s nothing personal, really.
Keep it brief
When arranging social gatherings with introverts in mind, set a time when the thing will finish. That way when we’ve had enough excitement we can just slink away quietly without having to consider doing a ghost and disappearing.
Of course these tips will help you in all future dealings with your introvert. Because after all an introvert is for life, not just for Christmas.