Rebounding When Your Quiet Evening With Friends Is Highjacked
It’s not my proudest moment. I confess that to you right now. Even in the midst of reading all the inspiring research in”Quiet”, (affiliate) I ignored all I’ve learned and fell back into bad habits. All it took was one person to zero in on me like a Kamikaze pilot pelting me–and my sons, with questions and comments so quickly we couldn’t get out of the line of fire. Our defenses went up. Sharp words came out that signaled back off. You’re too close.
Not my proudest moment.
An Evening to Remember… Because I Want To Do It Differently Next Time
It was my dearest friend’s son’s birthday. We were at their home for a quiet celebration and sharing brownies, coffee, and great conversation. Just our two families. They’re introverted too, so we cherish our long, deep talks about things that matter. Tonight we’re sitting outdoors, around a fire pit, warming our hands with mugs of rich dark coffee. Our times together, as infrequent as they may be, are soul-nourishing and deeply fulfilling.
Daniel, the husband, had just asked me to explain further something I’d just said. I no longer remember what it was exactly. But it doesn’t matter. I didn’t have a chance to explain because just as I was taking a breath to collect my thoughts to answer, we all noticed the silver sedan winding up the driveway. My friends recognized the vehicle. I did not. Sarah looked at Daniel. Daniel looked at Sarah. They were quiet, but their expressions both echoed, did you invite them? did you know they were coming? Neither of my friends expected guests other than who was there already: My husband, our two sons, and me.
Is It A Barbecue Or A “Grill”?
We waited to see who it was. Are they just stopping by? Are they staying? Should we stay? The atmosphere changed abruptly when from around the corner came two tall high-school aged boys who walked right through the middle of our conversation circle. A man followed, but he stood at the edge of the patio. His wife bounced around the corner like she owned the place, made a B-line for me, then thrust her hand forward asserting her greeting, asking my name twice, asking how I know Sarah? Asking if we go to church together.
Asking, Asking, Asking.
My introvert circuits were on overload. I was quickly overwhelmed by her presence and her intense need for information. She had burst our quiet party, but I felt as if I was out of place. That’s how quickly an introvert’s mind can flip from light to dark.
Asking, asking, asking.
Then she grilled our sons who were inside, hanging out with the birthday boy. What’s your name? Where do you go to school? What grade are you in? How do you know Donny? Do you live nearby?
Asking, asking, asking.
The social dynamic changed. Our friends were uncomfortable, too. We decided we would beg off to relieve the pressure on our friends to try to cater to two different types of people. So we gathered up our family, said good night to our friends, then headed home.
What Was Really Going On?
With hindsight being twenty-twenty, I’m clear now about why I reacted the way I did:
- I felt our night had been highjacked, plans thwarted.
- Someone I didn’t know, trust or expect was asking too many questions too quickly.
- The social setting transitioned too quickly. I didn’t adjust.
- I was disappointed that my one-on-one time with my friend was cut short.
- I was put-off by the woman quizzing my sons, too.
How to Navigate Unexpected and Intense Social Situations
That’s a night I’d like to erase or at least ask for a do-over. But, I can’t do that. I’m not proud of how I presented myself that evening. But, with prayerful reflection, I see how it can be done better next time. If you too find it hard to adjust to social situations that change quickly, try practicing these tips and suggestions so you can move from quiet to chaos with ease:
Breathing is involuntary, so this is the easiest thing in the world to do. But, in situations like these, introverts might hold their breath.Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Relax.
Use the time to transition into a new social situation. Prepare yourself for a new dynamic.
Standing up to greet the new visitor puts you eye-to-eye. As it was, I was sitting down and she was standing over me, leaving me to feel slightly vulnerable and certainly inferior. Neither is true, but standing up to greet the new guest would have nipped this early.
Initiating (gently) the greeting is a winner always. The key is in the timing. In this case, I think I should have stood then made a stride to introduce myself first.
Answer honestly and ask in return.
Rapid-fire questions are uncomfortable. You and I are not responsible for how someone pitches questions at us. We are responsible only for how we handle them. In my case, I was off balance and feeling defensive over her need to know so much so fast. A better tack is to answer simply and ask in return. Like this:
Question: Do you live nearby?
Answer: Yes, I do. What about you?
Think of others
It’s not about me. If I can go through the rest of my life practicing this principle, I will face fewer disappointments.
Above all, know who you are In Christ Jesus.
I’m in Christ, even though I don’t always act like it. He and I had several long conversations about my behavior that evening. I confessed. He forgave. In the future, I will do well to remember I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Getting myself out of the way so He can shine is my goal.
Social settings are always challenging for introverts. But, you can learn to get comfortable in more situations more often by practicing a few simple techniques. I will write more about in future blog posts. But, for now, you have 6 points to practice so you can transition quietly the next time chaos interrupts your happy.
Do you know introverts who need encouraging or coaching to navigate social situations? Please share these posts with them.