If your introverted significant other (hereafter identified as ISO) is not showing excitement about an upcoming Thanksgiving gathering with extended family or friends, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, and it’s usually not about your friends or family. Introverts know that these gatherings dictate forced socialization for an extended period, and that can be extremely stressful. Here are five easy modifications you can make at your upcoming gathering that should result in a more enjoyable time for you both:
Make the visit short: If the gathering is local, it doesn’t give you an excuse to eat and run. Be on time, enjoy dinner and visit with others at least for a short time afterwards; but remember that it is okay to be the first to leave. Agree on a signal beforehand so that your ISO can let you know when he/she would like to leave. If your visit will be overnight, determine ahead of time how many nights you will stay, and be willing to compromise a shorter visit if desired. If the gathering is at your home, alert your guests of a start and an end time. If an end time is specified, people tend to respect that and leave accordingly.
Consider a hotel or AirBNB: For most introverts, staying at someone’s home equates to the dreaded pressure of making conversation during all waking hours, which can be mentally draining. Staying off-site gives the introvert the relief of knowing that he/she will get a break from having to be “on” by having to converse. If the host appears surprised or hurt that you won’t be staying at her home, simply tell her that you both have some work you have to do over the holiday, and that the hotel environment will help you to stay more focused on completing your task.
Take a break from the crowd: Taking a walk with only you, away from the crowd may be all your ISO needs to escape for awhile, and afterwards, he/she may even feel energized to lengthen the visit. Simply tell the host, “we are going to get some quick exercise with a walk around the block. We will be back in a little bit.” Or create a fictitious errand that you need to run to get out of the house. Do not invite other guests or the host to join you…this is about a short escape.
Help start small talk: Most all introverts will admit that they detest small talk. This is where you can save the day by warming up the conversation when you arrive. Once the conversation gets to a meatier level, chances are that your ISO will be more willing to participate.
Suggest an offer to help the host: While you may enjoy sitting around talking, your ISO may feel bored or uncomfortable. I know of one male introvert who heads straight to the kitchen after a meal and begins washing dishes. Guests commend him for being helpful, but he does it so he can escape conversations. Rather than ask the host, “Do you need any help…” only to be told, “No, that’s okay,” instead, encourage your companion to say something like, “can I set the table/make the salad/chop the onions?” Because your ISO is asking permission, your host will be more obliged to take you up on the offer.
Just because your ISO may be displaying negativity or anxiety about your upcoming gathering does not mean that he does not want to socialize…just understand that it is a stressful environment, and none of us enjoy stressful environments! By acknowledging his feelings and planning in advance how to navigate the visit, he will feel better understood and better able to enjoy the gathering.