After decades as a freelancer and independent contractor, people often ask me how I handle loneliness. I like the alone time. The biggest challenge for introverts like me are the extreme social moments: The big conferences, the back-to-back sales or coaching call, and, most universally, the holidays. Not only are you supposed to be a non-stop socialite, but you're expected to be chipper about it.
Whether its the holidays or a long-haul book tour, there are concrete ways to survive, if not thrive as an introvert.
Create specific environments
Control what you can control. If you are throwing the event, then have it at a quieter environment where people don't have to shout to talk. If you are attending, then see if there are other people attending that you already have a connecting with. Susan Cain's book Quiet shares lots of similar insights.
A decade ago, my first book tour took me to several states within a single month. It was wonderful. It wasn't until I came home that I realized how socially burnt out I was. It took me weeks to recover.
For my newest book, Bring Your Worth, I threw a house party at a good friend's place. I did some reading from the book, shared some great conversation, and connected with each and every person there. I made my own environment.
Leave early, leave often
Why are you going to the event in the first place? To connect with others. Connecting with others doesn't actually have a time limit: Staying at a party for an extra hour doesn't guarantee deep conversation. In fact, if you're like me, the quality and engagement goes down when you push yourself to uncomfortable levels.
Instead, focus on quality rather than quantity. Plan on staying a half hour, be fully engaged when you're there, and leave on a high note. At one event this year, I talked only with a few people, but each conversation built a relationship that is continuing today. I stayed only for an hour or two. You have to know when to go.
You don't have to live it up, whether it's New Years' Eve in Times Square or an international book tour. What experience do you want to have?
The key here is that even the most expansive, social experiences require social compromise. Times Square means you're out in the cold from the early morning to, well, the early morning. A 30-city book tour means jet lag, bad sleep, and constant movement.
There is no shame in going big and going home. What matters is the impact you make while you're there. I'm already planning on wrapping up my holiday time early -- and, because I'll be fully engaged, no one will likely notice.