It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
When Andy Williams sang those lyrics I have to assume that he wasn’t in charge of preparing Christmas dinner, buying presents, hosting far-flung relatives, or sending “Happy Holidays!” cards by the final delivery date.
Of course the holidays CAN be magical, but for many of us (most of us over the age of 25?), they also bring waves of anxiety, hair-frizzing stress, and the tendency to give in to food cravings with reckless abandon.
Sound familiar? Don’t worry, this year I’ve got your back!
To help you navigate the Navidad season, I’m wrapping up a four-part blog series with strategies to make this November & December one that feels both welcome and well-balanced.
Here’s what we’ll cover over the next four posts:
- Holiday socializing for introverts
- How to stop over-indulging on holiday treats (even if they’re lying around the house)
- A guide to letting go of stress and finding those festive-feels
- Tantalizingly tasty breakfast recipes for mornings that require a reset
In each post, I’ll also link you to one of my simple, at-home workouts that you can easily squeeze into your busy schedule.
Moving on to today’s post.
Socializing For Introverts: Navigating The Silly Season With Aplomb
I can appreciate that this is an odd way to start this wellbeing guide, but there’s a method to my madness. For those of us who:
- Struggle with small talk
- Prefer to wear slippers over stilettos
- Get sleepy after a single glass of mulled wine…
…attending Christmas parties can be seriously draining.
When we’re drained, and cortisol levels have spiked, we tend to turn to unhealthy habits as a means for comfort. Think: eating sweets or salty snacks, staying up late watching TV shows (“to wind down”), engaging in negative self talk, and over-analyzing every action that we took at the party.
Of course, next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it starts all over again.
As appealing as it sounds to hang up your anti-social shingle, getting out there and sharing real-life moments with other people is essential for your long-term health. Connecting with friends may boost brain health (1), lower your risk of dementia (2) and even help you live longer (3).
With that in mind, here are five foolproof strategies that will help you work the room like the belle of the ball.
Strategy #1: Ask questions
Most people love talking about themselves, and they love it even more when they have a captivated audience nodding along and asking thoughtful questions every now and again.
I started playing with this strategy a few years ago and quickly learned how happily a new acquaintance will gab on about themselves without so much as a “what about you?”
On the one hand it’s frustrating, on the other it makes conversation really easy!
The key here is to listen to their answers. Not only will this get you out of your head — you can’t think about yourself and pay attention to them at the same time — but it makes it easy to respond.
Them: “I live in Wisconsin but I was born in Argentina.”
Jenn: “Oh really! I’ve heard the steak and wine in Argentina are second to none. Mind you, the cheese coming out of Wisconsin is pretty good too!” (*toothpaste ad smile*) “Do you ever go back to visit Argentina? I guess that’s a good 10-hour flight from here?”
The Breakdown: you confirm that you heard what they said, you make a comment and you ask another question.
Strategy #2: Be enthusiastic.
When it is your turn to talk (I know, shudder), try and put a little theatrics into it. If you sound excited about what you’re talking about, other people will be excited to listen.
Jenn being terrified of holding the conversation: I’m from Australia but I live in Los Angeles. (Cross arms and button lips.)
Jenn being confident: I’m actually from a small town in rural Australia…there’s about 25,000 people and three times as many sheep…hahaha! But I’ve been in the States for the past 7 years, I first lived in North Carolina and now we’re in Los Angeles. What an amazing country this is! Where are you from?
The Breakdown: I added a little bit of flair to my response, gave them enough information that they can ask more questions if they wish, but then redirected the conversation back in their direction.
Strategy #3: Hold a drink, but stay away from the snack table.
Small talk and having my photo taken are two things that make me feel really awkward. They make me very aware of my mouth and I have no clue what to do with my hands.
I’m yet to figure out my photo-fix, but in social situations, I’ll hold a glass in one hand and use the other to gesture about my small town sheep population.
Yet while a drink is good, standing near the snack table is not. When you’re nervous — or bored — it’s easy to mindlessly make a dent in the chip bowl, which isn’t going to make you feel better about this situation. If you want to eat, make a plate and then remove yourself from grazing distance.
Strategy #4: Remember that most people feel the same way.
If you’re worried about how you look, what you’re wearing, or if you have enough fascinating talking points since the last Christmas party, just stop. Chances are very likely that most people in that room are feeling the same way and having the same thoughts. You can make it your mission to help others feel more comfortable, and by default, you’ll get there too.
Strategy #5: Set yourself a time to leave, but don’t make an excuse to do so.
Knowing that you only need to stay for an hour or two will make any situation more bearable. You can walk in, grab a glass, ask some questions, nod thoughtfully and be out of there before you realize that the whole experience could have been a little awkward.
The only caveat here is to not make an excuse when you leave — that reeks of insecurity. Don’t say that you have to feed the cat or get up early, just say goodbye. If anyone questions why you’re departing, feel free to use my line:
“I turn into a pumpkin after 9 pm! But it’s been a blast, enjoy the rest of your night!”
You might think that these tips are simple, but as with all healthy habits, the simple ones are usually the best. I hope that you’ll try them in your next social setting, and do let me know how they go!