It’s that time of the year again… Biscuits and tea become the very thing, familiar carols drift through the air, and there’s a vague scent of cinnamon and oranges everywhere. Mmmmh. And we’re too stressed out to enjoy it all because we’re Christmas shopping like crazy, of course. I’d like to offer some suggestions for making that particular hell a little easier, quicker and more comfortable to navigate: Behold, the introvert gift guide. What to give to whom, and how to acquire it with a minimum of fuss.
Great presents for introverts
Whether you’re an introvert yourself or not – you can probably tell which of your friends enjoy socialising more than others. For that special person in your life who really enjoys some quiet time by themselves, here are some fool-proof suggestions concerning presents. Of course, not all introverts are alike – just as not all women like the same things (contrary to the popular media, some of us really hate buying shoes), or all men, or all extroverts, for that matter. Still, there are some shared inclinations between all introverts that can give you a fairly good idea of what to give them.
Obviously. Sitting by yourself and being quietly immersed in another world is a luxury 99% of introverts cherish. So giving a book is the obvious choice. Which one, though? Here’s one piece of priceless advice: Unless you have extremely similar tastes and swap books all the time, don’t buy them a book that you loved. Instead, focus on what they like. Here’s how:
Check which genres they like. I know some people devour all books, no matter the content, but most readers have fairly specific tastes. “Reading” is not something people like in and of itself (as I’m sure you know from any boring text you ever had to read for school); it’s reading a specific kind of text. No matter how many amazing fantasy novels I gave my dad, they just didn’t float his boat, and he still persists in giving me thrillers and gory crime novels, which I can never bring myself to finish because they make me feel depressed and scared. So for the introverts you love, find out which genres they enjoy, and stick to those with your presents.
Check their priorities. Do they prefer ebooks or print? Fiction or non-fiction? Do they care about gorgeous covers and illustrations? What kind of topics or protagonists are they interested in? Taking a look at your friend’s bookshelf (which most introverts will be delighted to discuss with you at length) can usually answer these questions.
Get something that came out recently. It reduces the chances that your friend has already read or even owns the book. But:
Inquire discreetly whether they’re looking forward to any specific new publications first. Next time you see your friend reading or the topic comes up, simply ask whether anything interesting is appearing soon. If your friend is crazy excited for the next installment of a favourite series, or a new publication by a cherished author, they have probably preordered that book already, or will borrow it from the library asap. Save yourself the pain, don’t get that one. Instead, do this:
Remember the titles of a few books your friend loves and check the internet for “If you liked X, you might also enjoy…”. Newly appearing titles from that category are gold! That’s what you want.
If all else fails: get a gift certificate from the book shop. I know, gift certificates are kind of impersonal and tend to feel a little… desperate. Still, if you’re absolutely uncertain what to buy, a gift certificate is much better than spending money on a book the other person ends up not liking.
You can personalise the gift certificate a bit by making the card yourself, if you have a knack for that sort of thing. In this age of pre-made, mass-produced everything, most people are delighted to receive something that was handmade specially for them.
Speaking of personalised cards: There’s another sort of gift card which isn’t lame at all, and that’s the gift of things you simply cannot buy. All introverts recharge by spending time alone, so one of the greatest favours you can do a stressed-out introvert is freeing up some of their time. Give them the gift of a free day or evening by making a gift card for babysitting their kids, doing their household chores or minding their phone.
What’s phone minding, you ask? Easy: You give someone you trust your phone for a few hours so you can recharge in peace and quiet. The other person acts like a sort of secretary, takes your calls and checks your texts, but does not respond and informs you if something really important comes up. That way, you’re not distracted by your phone all the time, by checking it and answering calls just in case it’s something important, and by getting lured into answering to the unimportant stuff anyway, in the end.
Other nice presents from this category include headphones, bathing oils, bath bombs, and scented candles – things which you use to relax, alone.
Time with just you
While alone time is great, most introverts don’t hate to go out. In fact, we often enjoy it; we’re just hesitant about crowds. They can make us feel overwhelmed, lost, and invisible in a bad way. But going out with a close friend or loved one is a wonderful thing! (Most days.)
So it’s absolutely fine to give a dinner together, a night out (cocktails or even dancing), a visit to the cinema, the museum or art gallery to your favourite introvert. Just be sure not to invite a crowd of other people along; propose to go alone, and leave inviting others, if at all, to the receiver of the gift.
Also, let your friend pick the day. While extroverts tend to be happy with surprise outings, your introverted friend may struggle with that. They may find going out a lot easier on some days than others, because comfort zones breathe and vary from day to day.
Support a good cause they’re passionate about
Introverts tend to feel deeply, but it can be frustrating to have your passion unacknowledged because you’re not the kind of person who is very vocal about it. It can make us feel powerless and desponding. But your gift can do something about that! Acknowledge your friend’s caring by making it your business to care, too.
Is your friend passionate about the environment? Join a local event to collect garbage. Is your friend convinced that upcoming young artists need more support? Buy a bunch of tickets to an appropriate concert or art show and give them to all of your friends. Does your friend hate the way big corporations rule our lives? Go to a protest with them. Does your friend care about the homeless? Help out in a soup kitchen… There’s always a way.
You can either do these things together with your friend, informing them that it’s your gift, or you could not tell them about it, take a few pictures while you’re there*, and then give them to your friend as a surprising, heart-warming present. If you’re shy about the whole activism thing or simply don’t have the time, donating to a charity working on the issue your friend cares about may also be a good option. Wrap up the donation voucher as a present.
*(Of course, you should be respectful and polite and ask permission first.)
Giving to an extrovert?
What if you’re an introvert yourself and know perfectly well how to make delightful presents to other introverts, but find yourself stumped when it comes to making a gifts that will be appreciated by the social butterflies, party lions and crowd people among your loved ones? Despair not! Here are some handy tips and suggestions for going Christmas shopping for an extrovert.
Bright and shiny things
As people who love to mingle, many extroverts pay more attention to their outward appearance than the average introvert. (I don’t know about you, but I’m sitting here typing in sweat pants.) Find out what they like and give them a favourite cosmetic product or something you think would look great on them – a cardigan, a tie, makeup, sun glasses, earrings, or other accessories are some great gifts that require you to have only a vague idea of the size they’re wearing (cardigans), or even none at all (accessories).
Pro tip: If you’re going to buy a cardigan, shirt or jumper/sweater, try it on yourself. You’ve probably got a good idea of what your friend’s proportions are, relative to your own (arms a little longer, shoulders a little smaller, and so on?), so you can pick something that will fit. I use this method to buy sweaters for my boyfriend, actually.
A night out
Extroverts enjoy being among people, but that doesn’t have to mean a crowd. Just having other people around can be pleasant, while doing an activity that you, as an introvert, are also comfortable with. Present them with a visit to a public place you will both enjoy – museum, cinema, a concert, art gallery, open mic night, karaoke, the theatre, or simply a restaurant.
The key to success is making it clear that you are giving them this present to spend time with them, so maybe you should be a small group of three or four at the most, or go alone. Most extroverts will understand and be delighted. Their need for companionship can be fulfilled at the same time as your need to avoid large crowds.
Extroverts enjoy media, too
While books are a favourite pastime for introverts, there are many extroverts who, in principle, also like to read. Or watch films, or listen to music – they’re just less likely to do it alone. So give them something you think they will like (see the ‘books’ section above for finding out what that might be), but that you also enjoyed, and suggest you read/watch/listen together. If you are in a book club – jackpot! Give your favourite extrovert the book you will be reading next month and invite them to join.
How to make Christmas shopping less stressful
So you’ve decided on the perfect present. Now how do you get it? The crowds thronging in the inner cities and bright, shiny warehouses are enough to drive anyone crazy; for introverts and HSPs, it’s enough to make Christmas shopping a positively dreaded activity. Here are some ideas for getting through it more comfortably.
Make a list first
Go into the fray with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. The less time you spend aimlessly browsing, the sooner you can finish with the Christmas shopping and go to the libary or return home. So, while still in that wonderful, heavenly, homely space, sit down and make a list of everyone you wish to give a present to this year, and write down one or two ideas for each person.
Also remember to add a few tidbits for acquaintances and co-workers with whom you are not close enough for ‘real’ presents, but to whom you want to give a little something nevertheless. That could be items such as chocolate, candles or a bar of nice soap. In general, it’s a good idea to pick something that will be used up for gifts of this kind, as you often don’t know the people in question well enough to pick something that they will love to keep around. So refrain from giving them funny mugs or interior decor pieces.
Getting one or two such items extra, with no specific person in mind, is also handy for people who drop by and crash your ‘We’re not exchanging presents this year’ policy. (I have a few relatives who try that, very reliably, every year. They mean well, but receiving something without being able to give back just feels awkward, doesn’t it?) If you end up not needing the extra little present, you can keep it for next year if it’s non-perishable, or, if it is perishable, you can use it yourself or add it as a nice touch to the next birthday present you give.
Pick your time wisely
It’s always most crowded during the after-work hours on weeknights (starting at about 4 p.m.) and on the weekends. Consider taking a half-day off and doing your Christmas shopping on a weekday morning instead. It’ll be much more relaxed.
The wonders of internet shopping
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an introvert of purchasing inclinations must be in want of a computer.
Okay, we all know this one – why go out into the horrible world when we can shop from the peace and quiet of our own beds? The downside is, of course, the negative effects on the environment resulting from packaging and shipping. If you’re doing part or even all of your Christmas shopping online, consider these two simple points for doing it with a clean conscience:
1. Get everything at once, not a little today and some more tomorrow and some more next week. Instead, put as many of the items as possible into the same order, to keep the packaging and shipping to a minimum.
2. Look for shops that have responsible environmental policies, or offer CO2-neutral shipping.
Maybe some of your Christmas shopping can even be transferred to the relative quiet of your local grocery or hardware store? “DIY” and “home-made” are extremely popular at the moment. People are reconsidering whether endless consumption is really that desirable, how it impacts the environment, and which are the real luxuries in life – can they be bought, or are they the simple things such as time and love? Everything considered, there is really no shame in giving something you made, rather than bought. So what if it is, financially speaking, a ‘budget-friendly’ option? That’s a nice bonus, but you will be investing more time and greater care in a gift you made yourself, and people appreciate that.
Consider, for example, baking biscuits (cookies) for friends and acquaintances to whom you’d normally give a little something like chocolates, wine, bath bombs, etc. You can make one large batch and put the delicious things in a paper bag, tie it up with a ribbon, and add a card and an evergreen sprig. Lovely!
If you’re more of a craftsperson, consider making soap, candles, or paper, or building something out of wood. Wooden toys for children or little houses for pets are a surefire way of delighting the recipient!
If you’re the creative type (and since you’re hanging out here, I suspect you are!) consider fighting your self-consciousness enough to present some of your loved ones with pieces of your art. Aside from the delight your work itself will create, it is also a very touching gesture, because it shows that you trust this person enough to share something so vulnerable and personal.
What do you think?
Do you have further suggestions for finding great presents? How do you do your Christmas shopping? What are you looking forward to the most (or least) this holiday season? I’d love to hear from you!