How to Handle a Funeral as an Introvert

My family recently held a funeral. It is the kind of funeral where dozens of cousins and others from all over the planet join together in one spot to remember our deceased relative.

From the carpooling, to the hosting duties, to having to meet and greet people you haven’t seen in a while, to viewing images and hearing stories of the deceased,  it’s an intense hour or two for so many reasons.

When you are introverted and would rather be alone with your thoughts, you might feel the overwhelming, almost claustrophobic, social atmosphere in ways that others do not.

Here are a few tips for introverts that I have used recently and in the past at funerals:

  • You might decide that the funeral is not for you, that it doesn’t help you grieve. You might decide not to go at all. Respect your own way of healing; do not be pressured into attending if you would rather not.
  • Ahead of time, spend as much time to yourself as you require, or around the individuals that you enjoy most. Once you arrive at the funeral, you will be surrounded by two kinds of people: those you like and those who are helping you to practice patience. Fully charge yourself (like a battery) beforehand.
  • Even with the best of intentions, you still might feel the need to step out of the room for a minute or step out of the room until it is time to leave the property. That is perfectly fine. Each person, introverted or not, has a different way to grieve and process a death. At a certain interval, I walked away from the crowd in the building to be alone at the cemetery for awhile; it was the only peaceful place.
  • Journal during the funeral. Journal writing can be a solitary endeavor where you slow down, calm down, and organize your jumbled thoughts. I like to take notes on the different stories that people are telling about the deceased. Be aware, however, that other people might look over your shoulder to see what you are writing.
  • If the funeral is a two-part event, wherein there is a memorial and then food is served, skip the meal, if you wish. It’s just more crowding and how-do-you-dos.
  • If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, if you are having sensory overload, concentrate on something. Ask yourself, what one thing do I see? What one thing do I smell? What one thing do I taste? What one sound do I hear? What one texture do I feel right now? These are also good journal prompts.
  • If  it is not too much for you, be a listening ear to someone else who wishes to get something off her chest. I find that commiserating with someone that I like, helping her with her problems, takes my mind off of my own tendency to bolt out of the crowd.
  • After the funeral, do something enjoyable or relaxing. The weekend after the funeral, when I would usually concentrate on business or work,  I did absolutely nothing that wasn’t enjoyable to me. I thought about my deceased relative, read a book that I like, wrote in my journal and just relaxed.

What are your tips for introverts at funerals?



Introvert at a Family Reunion

Family reunions can crop up at any time, especially during holidays. You love your relatives,  but the crowds can be draining for those of us who are introverts and gather our energy from solitude or quiet. We are like the battery in your phone -plug us in,  leave us alone,  and we will recharge.

Here are a few tips to help an introvert at a family reunion.

~ Remember why you are at the reunion.  If you are there to get to know people,  have a goal to better understand at least one of your relatives.  After you have accomplished this task,  consider the event a success and go home.

~ If you are on the reunion committee,  use your influence to suggest quiet times,  more breaks between scheduled programs,  or help to create quiet corners in the event space.

~ Even if you are not on the reunion committee,  and it is an informal reunion,  volunteer to help behind the scenes where there tends to be more work going on and less chatter.

~ Take a break from people when you need to do so.  Self-care is not rude.

~ If the reunion is at or near a hotel,  rent a room there. Quietly steal away to decompress in the room when needed.

~ If the reunion is in a more rustic area and you are camping,  rise before everyone else,  drink in the beautiful vista, and enjoy the quiet by yourself before the events start.

~ Help other introverts. As you understand your relatives more,  you will learn who also needs quiet time;  help them find it. You might need to run interference for an introverted relative by distracting Aunt Fern with chit chat so that Cousin Chad may escape to solitude.

At a recent reunion,  I discovered that one of my younger cousins does not like crowds and would cry whenever too many people engaged with him. His parents, however, were there to socialize. I volunteered to supervise him away from crowds and he seemed perfectly contented.

~ Have a long talk with a relative that you like. The familiarity tends to ease the frustration of crowds.  Before you know it,  the event will be over.

~ Arrive in your own mode of transportation so that you can leave when needed.

~ If you carpool to the event,  choose to ride with two relatives who love to chat with each other.   Engage in the conversation  only when you feel like doing so.

Peace be with you,


Introvert at a Birthday Party

It’s wonderful when people celebrate the day of your birth. However, being the center of attention can be a drain for many, including introverts. So here’s what you can do to endure with grace.

  • Make your birthday a day of giving to someone else. It was awkward the first time I revealed presents to my family after they had given me gifts on my birthday, but I like seeing the surprise on their faces. Plus, if I’m more concerned about them than I am about how drained I am, I’m less likely to watch the clock and grin and bear it until it’s time to go home.

I also plan to create a wider day of giving to the community on my    birthday. In that way, if someone wants to celebrate with me, they can help me give donations to the charity shop, or something. (I haven’t figure out the exact thing, but it’s something on my list to do.)


  • Remember that your birthday is not all about you. Even if you are tired and worn out from people, you’ve had your social quota for the day,  remember your loved ones want and need to make memories with you. You are special to them; let them make their memories.


  • Just accept the well wishes and the discomfort. If all else fails, remember that this birthday party will not last. And when it’s all over, you can go home and crash. There are worse things in the world than people celebrating the fact that you were born.

Let me know how you handle these things.



Bill Cunningham, Fashion Photographer | Introvert in the Spotlight #1

I discovered Bill Cunningham -fashion photographer for the New York Times-  about a year before his death in 2016. His documentary –Bill Cunningham: New York– is fascinating. He lived a single life and a singular life. Although I don’t recall anyone straight up saying in the documentary that he is an introvert, Cunningham seemed to live the life of one.

In an article for the New York Times, Cunningham says,

“I STARTED photographing people on the street during World War II. I used a little box Brownie. Nothing too expensive. The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”

Career-wise Cunningham found something that he liked; he stumbled upon fashion photography when someone gave him a camera. How can an introvert in a social world like the world of Fashion (with a capital F) be comfortable? I think the answer is that he found a little cubby for himself in the industry.

His employers gave him a great amount of autonomy – something introverts tend to need. He would shoot runways, but he was also fond of street style – photographing what people wear around town.

He would run around New York City, not necessarily talking to anyone, but observing trends, photographing patterns of sartorial behavior, investigating style and delighting when people bring a little brightness to winter with a pop of sky blue, heralding the spring.

His face absolutely lights up as he describes fashion, when he says that you do not know what people will think to wear next. That’s when I realized Cunningham must have been something like a birdwatcher, except the birds are human and they change their plumage every day. The possibilities are endless.

I appreciate Cunningham’s attention to male fashion –  you can still see his archived weekly trend-spotting videos at the New York Times website. Male fashion, to my untrained eye, does not seem to change much. But Cunningham finds the subtleties, and appreciates the boldness of youngsters paving the way for a revolution in male fashion – something I would not have noticed. Cunningham’s attention to detail quietly draws your eye to what you would not have seen.

Check out the documentary, tell me what you think.





An Introvert on the Career Schmooze

Long ago, a mentor said to me, “Deborah, to gain the career you want, you must schmooze.”  I interpreted schmoozing as going to functions that you do not like, where there are powerful, or potentially powerful, people in your industry and ingratiate yourself to this group.

As an introvert, highly-sensitive person, and chitchat avoid-er, I was never really comfortable with schmoozing.

A local leader in my industry invited a select few university students to his house for dinner. Guess it’s time to schmooze; I accept.

Turns out I misheard. The dinner party is actually cocktails by the pool -one of those gatherings where you stand around and pontificate over a glass of Merlot.  I did not anticipate this scene. (1)Chitchat is always awkward and (2) dinner would have given me something to do.  Now, my teetotaling self must stand there with a glass of water trying to be interesting. Already I’m uncomfortable and want to go home.

However, I recall my mentor’s words – Schmooze, Deborah. Schmooze!

I remain at the party,  but I stand next to the Gouda tray, hoping to blend in to the nearby ferns, I guess. One of my classmates sidles up to me -a classmate who is clearly on his second glass and who has never said more to me then, “What’s the homework?”    Holding forth about his career, he says, “Yep! I do not like [our industry] – it’s boring, it’s tedious, I can’t stand it.” ” But this,” he says, sweeping his glass in an arch towards the house, the pool, and the cheese,” is why I’m doing it.”


At that moment, I stopped feeling awkward and contemplated what I had just heard. This young man was going into a career that he already knows he does not like, just to have a pool that he will not have time to use. The industry that we were headed into works you with long hours; he would only have to time to brag about the pool at work, not actually use it. Not only that, once he earns the physical object he wants,  he is still left with the career that he hates.

Maybe that’s why he felt the need to imbibe, to get away. I felt an enormous wave of pity towards him. “Isn’t there any other way to buy your pool,” I thought, “than putting yourself through a career that is clearly torture for you?”

Hours later at home, as I contemplated the scene again, I realized I had also tortured myself by staying longer than I should have.  Years later I realized that I had done a disservice to  myself  by  being in denial and remaining in an industry and a culture that I did not like.

I say this, fellow introvert, not to discourage you from accepting invitations, but to learn from my mismanagement of self.

Sure, we all do uncomfortable things, that’s a part of life. However, many introverts still complain about networking. I posit that schmoozing might not always be the problem for introverts on the career hunt; sometimes the issue is in not knowing what is important enough to us to be worth the discomfort.

Going to that party was an attempt to boost a career that I did not want. (But I had not yet admitted that to myself.). Therefore, staying at the party past my comfort was not worth the time.  I could have used the time to build a different career in another, more organic way.

We’ve talked about dirt sandwiches before on this website. Every lifestyle -whether introverted or not- has something unpleasant about it, what I call a “dirt sandwich.”

For an introvert, that might mean the unpleasantness of networking to find a job, or suffering through initial chitchat to find compatible friends. Whatever your dirt sandwich may be, you must decide this: For what are you so hungry that you do not mind grit in your teeth to gain or maintain that life?

Everybody must decide this, not only introverts. It’s just that the dirt sandwiches differ with each person.

For introverts, maybe the job which requires so much networking isn’t for you, even if you are good at the job. Perhaps the psychological and emotional cost of entry for that career is not within your emotional budget right now. Perhaps your mind is trying to tell you to go in another direction and you are not listening.

Perhaps more introverts should ask, “What would I like my life to look like?” Answer that, and networking  becomes just another dirt sandwich – nothing pleasant, but nothing quite so major as it was for me at that party.

Since that party, I have reinterpreted schmoozing as being around like-minded people. It has been my experience that when you become excited about a job or career -one that you really want-  you might be nervous at first, but you plow right through, even if it comes at the high cost of social interaction. And sometimes it’s actually fun -Imagine that!- because you are discussing topics that are interesting to you with people who share that interest.

You learn to create a budget for networking, psychologically. That might mean that after networking, or interviewing, or whatever-ing, you decide to journal about your progress (or however you decompress). Before a meeting, you might have butterflies in your stomach, a frog in your throat – basically, the whole animal kingdom in your gut- but you push through it, because it gets you closer to that life you want so much.

Let me sum it up. To introverts on the career/job hunt:

  1. What would you like your life to look like?
  2. Does that job/career get you closer to that life in a meaningful way?
  3. Make sure to budget -psychologically- if that career you want comes with the high cost of schmoozing.
  4. Schmoozing is a little less aggravating when you’re working towards something meaningful to you.
  5. (Oh yes, and don’t try to do this alone, if possible. Have someone who can commiserate with you -whether that’s a career coach, friends/ family, or the nice people on your Facebook group.)

Peace be with you,


Introvert at the Theater [Stage or Movie]

You might enjoy a play or a movie, but how do you navigate the special circumstances which come with being an introvert crowded next to strangers in one spot, in the dark, for a couple of hours?

The most challenging moments might come before and after, when the house lights are up and everyone is engaged in small talk or finding a seat. Hopefully, during the play or movie you are so enraptured in the acting that you relax a bit about your surroundings.

Here are a few ideas for enjoying the theater a little bit more as an introvert.

  1. Create a social buffer by bringing a couple of friends or relatives that you like. Sit between them. Depending on your personality, you might feel less drained around people that you already know than you do around strangers.
  2. If no one is going with you, choose an aisle seat. Yes, you will need to do the aisle seat polka- stand up and sit down to allow others to pass through to the middle seats. However, there is one less person on one side of you to chatter.
  3. Remember why you are attending and choose only the plays or movies that you think you will especially enjoy. A grumpy theater patron was seated next to me once. No one, introverted or otherwise, would have found him pleasant, but I  felt particularly unnerved. I contemplated leaving. Was it worth the time to sit through this play and his rudeness? Since I had wanted to see this play for years and had traveled far to see it, I decided that it was worth it. Had it been a movie theater, or other place without assigned seating,  I would have found another seat or left. It was the value of the play that kept me there.
  4. Patronize specialty theaters that tend to be smaller and have fewer distractions. I visited the Alamo Cinema in Texas.  They are a movie theater which has assigned seating and offers dinner. They have a policy which excludes children, except on one day of the week. I love the little ones; they do not bother me. However, for some people, including introverts and highly-sensitive people, a young child doing what children do during a movie is discomforting.
  5. Wait for the DVD or digital download. Nothing replaces live theater or a 30 foot screen. However, sometimes you just cannot be bothered with seeing a new release at the cinema or going to the theater. Wait until the film becomes available for home entertainment. Even some theater productions (dramas, operas, etc.) get a second life on film. Visit Digital Theatre for British theater on film. A few years ago, a company called Broadway Near You  brought Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones to the cinema in their performance of Driving Miss Daisy at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. This production was filmed and is now on DVD; this seems to be the wave of the future. [Side note:  Stage performances will have a great boost in sales when virtual reality becomes commonplace. Immersive tech will help people to feel as if they are there without needing to physically travel to a specific theater. ]
  6. Appreciate the fact that -whether you are at the cinema or at a stage play- the house lights will turn down soon and shroud the crowd in darkness, giving your senses a break from ingesting input about those surrounding you.

What are your theater tips for introverts?



An Introvert with Roommates (6 Tips)

Yours truly has had roommates, dorm mates, apartment mates, house mates, duplex mates… you name it. It was torture. Hello! My name is Deborah and I am an introvert.

I’m not blaming my roommates; they were all fine. It’s me. It’s the way I am built – I need more solitude than most people.

I cannot tell you how best to live as an introvert with people in your home, because, frankly, I was terrible at it. But I did learn a few things that made me less miserable in a crowd.

Tip#1 Find the benefits

Write it down, embroider it on a pillow, slap it on your face if that’s what it takes to remember benefits of having people in your house.

You can endure almost anything well if you think it’s for your good. This doesn’t mean you should remain there with those people; it just a tactic to endure with less stress.

Tip#2 Carve out a space for yourself

You can have a special place in your home. (Your room, perhaps. Or an extra long time in the bathroom). A place that’s just your own – your own mini home within a home. This is where you are free to do as you please. Savor that.

Now, let’s say there is no place like this in your home. Can you find such a place outside of your home, like a park, or a stand of trees, or a coffee shop, or a corn field? Can you stay there for as long as you need to, then  eventually go to your room to sleep?

Sometimes writing in a journal -even in a crowd- can be that mental home within a home, a space that is just your own (like a turtle toting its shell).

Tip#3 Stretch your socializing muscles and get out there with your roommates more

Come out to the common area and say  “Hi” to your roommates for a few minutes. Catch up on the day. (I know you don’t like chit chat, but non-introverts often do. It suggests you care.) Then dip back out into your introvert space. If you are having fun, stay longer.

You’re establishing good will and stretching yourself a bit. This is also practice for when you have your own space and there is no longer the roommate to be a social buffer, to answer the door for repair personnel and what not.

Tip#4 Anticipate -in writing- the day that you will have your own space.

I laid out plans that I called THE GREAT ESCAPE. It has three phases – “Out of,” “Through” and “Into.” It’s not enough to want to escape FROM. You can escape and go anywhere, perhaps even to a worse situation. You must also plan and anticipate running TO something that you want. In that way your planning isn’t all negative.

I slowly chipped away at the items listed under each phase. It felt good to accomplish a little bit of independence. This small progress helped to sustain me. When a chance to grab a space to myself cropped up, I leaped at it since I already knew that it was close to what I wanted. Which brings me to the next point.

Tip#5 Sometimes the escape route isn’t the most ideal, but can be a stepping stone

Knowing what you want is great. But don’t dismiss what could be the stepping stone to your next phase just because it’s not THE dream space.

This is why it is crucial to understand your escape plan in detail so you’ll know a portion of it when you see it.

Tip#6 Prepare for fear when you do finally have your own space

Sometimes when you get what you want you start to become  a little afraid. You are, after all, changing your identity from one with roommates to one without. Everything is on you.

We’ve already discussed how to Prepare for Fear, on this website. Basically, you remind yourself that this fear means you are getting closer to your dream. Also, use this fear to remind yourself of other successes in your life. You succeeded then, you can handle this new season of  life as well.

Once you have your own space to yourself, it is wonderful. You can still socialize with people during the work hours and social hours, but once you come home… Ah! Sanctuary!


Deborah, Introvert

P.S. I have just found this article. Check out the Introvert’s Guide to Dealing with Roommates over at Dear, Introvert for more ideas.

P.P.S. You might also try The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World”  by Marti Laney, Psy.D. There isn’t a section specifically for roommates, but try Part 2, Section 6 which is about Socializing and think in terms of housemates. That might help.




Introvert at a Multi-Day Conference (15 Tips)

Conferences can be informative and enriching for you personally and professionally. However, they can be a bit draining for an introvert – one who, among other things, tends to find energy in solitude.

Here’s how yours truly – an introvert- has navigated some of the multi-day conferences.

  1. Go to the conference with a list of goals. You might wish to list something for every day of the event. e.g. Day 1- Exchange contact information with one person who meets X quality. Day 2- Eat alone, etc.
  2. Anyone -extrovert or introvert-  will be exhausted with 4 days of sitting down for lectures at 10 or 12 hours each day. That’s a lot of sitting. Be sure to exercise before going down to the lecture hall.
  3. If the conference is big enough to have concurrent lectures, it’s easier to skip out without being noticed. Do it, if you need to do so. You are not being rude; you are taking care of your health.
  4. If you go to a big business conference, be prepared to sign a waiver wherein you give permission to be photographed. Your image might appear in their promotional materials. This is becoming increasingly standard. Just a heads up.
  5. Bring raisins to boost your energy for the marathon conferences. Raisins are small and portable and there is no noise to disturb anyone.
  6. If possible, stay at the hotel where the conference is taking place – there is less hassle to go back to your room and order room service.
  7. It is ok to skip a lecture (unless your employer sent you there to take notes, in which case, tough it out, then reward yourself later. Also consider a new job.).
  8. If this is a trip you are taking with other people, consider going to different lectures and connect with them later with your notes. This gives you time to leave and return to a lecture without needing to explain anything.
  9. One time, at a small conference, the host made it clear NOT to go back to your hotel room and order room service during lunch. Instead, she wanted everyone to go to lunch with a different person on each day of the conference. I did it, thinking I would miss out on something. That was a mistake. The people with whom I ate lunch were nice, but I never saw or heard from them again. Meanwhile, I was drained from being around a lot of people all day without a break. Don’t allow the fear of missing out to rule the day. You know your body better than anyone else. Listen to it.
  10. For bigger conferences with cameras everywhere, the spotlights are mostly focused on the stage, except during Q & A when they are turned on the audience. One time I had had enough of the spotlight in my eyes, stood up and went to the back wall. Just FYI.
  11. That hot item that you MUST HAVE to buy in the concession hall/ book emporium is on the lecturer’s website or on Amazon. You don’t need to bum rush the concession hall if you’re tired, no matter what they tell you.
  12. The concession room/ book emporium/exhibit hall -which you visit during a break in the lectures- will place any food at the back wall. Just to buy a sandwich, you will need to run a gauntlet of booths filled with people who are trying to sell you their latest book or program. Decide whether you have the energy needed to do this. Remember why you are in there. Finding the booth number of your favorite businesses or groups ahead of time helps you to make a beeline for them; then you can run right out again, if needed.
  13. At the end of each day (perhaps even after each lecture, if there is enough time), return to your notes to cement the ideas you want in your brain. This is also a way to decompress on your own.
  14. Before going to the conference, check to see which lecturers have a website and which ones do not (most people do have one now-a-days). If two concurrent sessions seem interesting, go for the one who has no website, and catch up with the other one online later. (That’s how I found a mentor, by the way. The lecturer with no website had nothing to say; the lecturer that I missed, and whose content I checked out later, became my mentor.)
  15. Make sure you have an online presence, as well. Business cards are going the way of the dinosaur. People check out your stuff in an instant  – your website, your Twitter account, etc. People will want to catch up with you later. It’s a great way not to have to talk too much if they know they can dive into your content later.

These are a few of the ways that I have navigated multi-day conferences as an introvert.

What are your tips?


All the best,



P.S. Find more about introversion by clicking the Introverts category or tag.