This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

The winter holiday season has descended here in the U.S. and beyond, which has many of the introverts among us (me included) uttering groans of dread as we face a dramatic uptick in social obligations. It occurred to me it might be useful to share a few tips for introverts and extroverts alike to help us all manage our circumstances for the best possible trust-building outcomes.

This post is inspired by recent interactions with a new friend and fellow introvert who is in a very visible global role and has been sharing publicly about how he manages that. His LinkedIn posts had me revisit a blog I wrote more than a decade ago for Forbes Woman that I titled, “Nice to Meet you. Please Leave Me Alone” where I explored my struggles with meeting new people despite my somewhat public and very relationship-oriented role. It occurred to me next that some season-driven perspectives could be helpful.

While I am certainly no expert on introversion and cannot speak for all introverts out there, here are a few tips that come to mind to help us make the most of our upcoming opportunities to connect. Not rocket science, for sure, but then it doesn’t have to be to be useful.

For the extroverts who interact with introverts:

  • Manage your own self-orientation. When a confirmed or suspected introvert avoids or declines your social invitation, especially at this time of year, know that 99% of the time it has nothing to do with you personally and everything to do with how we need to manage our energy levels.
  • Invite your introverted colleagues to connect in ways that work for them. I personally do way better with a small group lunch or a one-on-one virtual coffee than a big holiday party. And when I’m really pooped, I probably don’t have it in me to talk—as in, out loud—but I can often still have an energetic text exchange.

For the introverts:

  • Own your gift. Don’t let the perceived pressure of the season lead you down any kind of downward spiral for being who you are. If you haven’t yet fully recognized your introversion as a leadership gift, take a moment to search for evidence to the contrary. For example, I quickly found this article on how introverts can be excellent leaders despite societal stereotypes, along with the comments made at the London Business Forum by Susan Cain, author of Quiet. Heck, there’s even a Harvard continuing education program just for us!
  • Connect in ways that work for you. When I don’t manage my energy output well, everyone suffers, including me. I’ll bet the same is true for you. But rather than declining all invites, consider how you might counteroffer. Better yet, be the one who’s proactive about doing the inviting—on your terms.
  • Be explicit that you’re declines or redirects are about you, not them. We humans are wired to make up stories in the absence of information, or in the face of what feels like rejection, and our more extroverted friends are no exception. Sometimes a lighthearted “Oh I am way too introverted for that!” is all it takes cue others that you’re opting out of a specific situation, not opting out of your relationship.

As my new friend put it so well in one of his recent posts, “So much of business is about relationships—real human connections—and taking the time to cultivate these relationships is essential at any stage of your career.” This particular season provides some distinctive opportunities for exactly that.

May we all find our happy holidays in the process.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).