An Introvert's Guide To Surviving The Office Christmas Party

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — unless you suffer from social anxiety

Dreading your office Christmas party? Fear not, help is at hand. Photo / Getty Images

Shrieking laughter. Shouting to be heard over music. Forced fun. Strangers. Small talk. Oh God, the small talk.

For the introvert, Christmas is definitely not the most wonderful time of the year; withdrawn and reflective sorts often fear the festive season, with the office party ranking most stressful of all.

“Many people think that introverts are shy, but introversion is really not related to shyness at all,” explained Susan Cain in The New York Times bestselling Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. “It’s related to what we call overstimulation in the neocortex — which means that it’s difficult for an introvert to concentrate when there’s too much stimulation coming in.”

READ: How To Survive The Silly Season (And Save Your Sanity)

Drunken banter, having to talk to bosses, maybe even having to dance or (please, please no) do karaoke in front of an audience of sozzled employees, all definitely qualify as unwanted stimulation. But if you’re an introvert dreading your own nightmare before Christmas at the office do, fear not, for help is at hand. Here are my tips for surviving the festive office shindig.

Make it easy on yourself
Introversion isn’t the same as social anxiety, but there is crossover, and you might be able to mitigate some anxious feelings by taking charge of the things you can control. Leaving yourself time to get there, knowing what you are going to wear beforehand and perhaps even thinking of some topics you can talk about if you get cornered and feel panicky about having nothing to say can all help allay any pre-party nerves you might have.

Lend a hand
Helping clear stuff away, and bussing nibbles or drinks gives you something to do that involves being, or at least looking, busy and means you can keep moving if you don’t fancy chatting. Though this only works at a self-catered do: getting behind the bar and pulling pints at an actual establishment likely won’t win you any friends.

Get your excuses in early
If you can bear to show your face fairly near kick-off, you can get out of there early and be home in time for MasterChef. But doing this on the fly is risky: you either look like you couldn’t hack it, or get people persuading you to stay for more drinks, meaning you either drink more than you wanted or look like a buzzkill for saying no. Instead, seed your excuses the day before and throughout the day: “I’ll come for one, but I’ve got to get home because of childcare/family/housemate’s birthday/rocking gently in the corner to whale music.” Perhaps not the last one.

Consider a buddy system
You are not alone. There are lots of other introverts. Identify one: you’ll recognise the signs, after all — quiet, thoughtful glances like they would rather eat their own feet than continue to smile painfully through “boisterous banter”. Maybe ask if they want to go together to the party, or at least be a friendly face for each other while there.

Beware the lure of booze-induced bravado
If you drink alcohol, you will be familiar with the siren call of apparent confidence and social ease it can offer. But anxiety and alcohol are ultimately terrible bedfellows: the inaugural drink lifts the spirits but then the receptors it initially numbed fire up even harder, causing a flood of more anxious feelings, and a vicious circle as you knock back more chasing that first high.

Also, there is the chance that you’ll get whammed and tell the boss a few home truths. Unfortunately, if you’re generally known as a quiet type, this will be even more memorable for everyone than if an everyday big mouth had done it.

READ: 7 Signs You're Highly Sensitive

Don’t dismiss small talk
It is an unfair misrepresentation that introverts are not interested in people or are disengaged from them; introverts find as much or more meaning in relationships and social engagement. Small talk might indeed be hard, boring or both, but can be more helpfully seen as a gateway to richer and more profound connection. Is that not the true goal of any human interaction?

Factor in recovery time
Give yourself a break: introverts’ greater sensitivity towards dopamine highs means that their brains will need some time to recover. Rest and shelter after a big social event, which will have caused the so-called pleasure chemical to surge, is a must, therefore, as this allows the acetylcholine pathway in the brain to repair and recover from that, as well as spikes in cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and adrenalin. The introvert’s social hangover is no joke, after all. At least the pain can be soothed by the knowledge it’s all over for another 365 days.

— The Sunday Telegraph

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