How many of you out there are introverts? Raise those hands high! Oh wait, as an introvert that is EXTREMELY uncomfortable. So is socializing / networking, especially around the holidays.
Does socializing after work feel expected as part of your job? Going to the holiday parties seem exhausting before even getting there? Have seemingly endless post-work activities become more obligatory than enjoyable? Like most introverts, you like to keep work and personal life separate. Or you simply want evenings to unwind on your own. No matter the reason, not being able to or not wanting to socialize with co-workers is completely okay.
But how do you politely turn down these events that overwhelm you without seeming like you're the odd-duck out...wanting to protect your precious post-work hours?
1. Just be honest
No need to lie. It's okay to tell co-workers that you need a night to yourself or with your family - and really, you don't owe it to them to give any details. A simple response like "I have other plans" is perfectly fine. If they don't respect that, oh well.
2. Be kind and polite
There’s no need to be rude or unprofessional when you don’t feel like socializing after work. (For example, try not to respond to an invitation to a fondue restaurant with, “Gross, I can’t stand sushi!”) Be kind and reply to an invite in a way that won’t make the person feel rejected. Focus on the simple logistics of why you can’t join. A couple of great examples are: “Thanks for inviting me! I can’t make it, but have a great time!” or, “I really appreciate you including me, but I already have plans.”
Having relationships at work is delicate. You don't have to be best friends with everyone in the office. I suggest only having "hang-out" relationships with those you would actually want to be friends with, even if you all didn't work together.
3. Be flexible
Yes, as an introvert it's HARD to go out and socialize when you rather be at home away from the crowds. But sometimes, office politics require socializing after work - and holiday events should be fun! So when participating, focus on the fun, not going because you have to.
Showing up after work hours gives co-workers and supervisors occasions to know you better. Plus, personal connection outside the office creates chances to grow professionally. Don't worry - you don't have to stay long hours. Even showing up for an hour can help build decent relationships that can assist you at work.
So are you ready to start socializing as an introvert? Even here and there? Remember, the people with whom you engage on a daily basis can also be the ones with power to advance your career. Know how to gracefully bow out of socializing after work, realize when to say yes, and don’t forget to think of ways to nourish important relationships — within work hours.