December 9, 2019
For Deep Souls: Holiday Survival Hacks
It was Christmastime and I was by myself writing in the first-floor bedroom of a house as guests arrived for a party. As the volume of chatter in the nearby living room crescendoed, I calculated just how long I could remain in hiding without being rude or noticed.
Guests were talking and laughing happily as I dreaded my impending entry. While I have no problem speaking on a stage in front of a thousand people or leading a training with hundreds, cocktail parties are not my happy place—especially during the holidays when they are in abundance.
When I finally did slip into the party, I overheard conversations about menu items and room decor. I begrudgingly joined the small talk and was left with this question to ponder:
How might I create a holiday plan that improves my experience in future years?
Deep Souls, Not Introverts
If someone had been observing the scene play out as I’ve described above, they might conclude that I am selfish, socially awkward, or an introvert. None of these is quite true.
Some of those whom I call deep souls would have jumped right into that party with gusto. My point is different from the introvert-extrovert designation and centers around two key characteristics that deep souls tend to share. They are perpetual meaning seekers and greatly desire to be genuinely understood by those around them.
I may or may not fit all of the characteristics of deep souls, but my story highlights these two commonalities and why it’s important for deep souls to carefully craft their own holiday experience.
Meaning and Understanding
At holiday parties—or any parties for that matter—you usually get what my friend David calls “deck stain” conversations. People talk about mundane topics like the finish they will use on their decks next season. Or the weather. Or their kids’ awards. Or their kitchen renovations.
These conversations generally lack the depth and meaning that energizes deep souls. For those who are fueled by meaningful interactions, cocktail conversations can be the opposite of inspiring.
In addition to meaning, deep souls desire to be genuinely understood. Author Todd Rose has written that all of us are “jagged” with multifaceted interests and talents, strengths and weaknesses. No one can really be put in a box, but it’s even harder for the deep souls who tend to be quite incongruent with day-to-day life. They often have unique jobs and interests that are hard to communicate in an elevator pitch. The most-asked cocktail party question, What do you do?, can be difficult to answer succinctly. What they “do” in the job sense may not nearly describe who they are, leaving them feeling even weirder and less understood.
Design Your Own Adventure: Five Holiday Hacks for Deep Soul Sanity
How can deep souls survive this holiday season and maybe even have a little fun? Here are five possibilities.
- Schedule white space into your holiday activities.
A book with the right amount of white space relaxes the mind and makes the reading experience airy and comfortable. Do the same with your holiday schedule. Avoid social burnout for yourself and other deep souls in your family; schedule plenty of time to be with a small group, your pets, or on your own. What activity refuels you? Is it exercise, prayer, writing, singing? Schedule space for these things and guard this time with your life!
- Create your own traditions.
Does the materialism that has come to characterize this season suck the meaning and joy out of it? Do your extended family traditions create stress or incongruence? Deep souls are not ones to conform to “shoulds,” so apply your typical approach to the holidays. Create your own traditions. Simplify. Stop the barrage of gifts. Skip the travel, or travel differently. Order take-out.
- Seek one-on-one conversations.
Create your own possibility ecosystem even in the midst of a big crowd. Seek out individuals and have one-on-one conversations. Find others who’d prefer to sit for a longer time and go deep. Or, take it in the opposite direction and play with the little kids.
- Come prepared with good questions.
Take matters into your own hands and guide the conversation beyond small talk. Sometimes it’s just as satisfying to ask good questions as it is to receive them. My aunt Debbie tells me she likes to ask, “What do you collect?” Others wonder, “What inspires you right now?” Turn to your favorite podcasts for examples of questions that light people up.
- Grab some alone time.
Winter is the perfect time to take a reinvigorating walk in the crisp air. As a guest, my friend Joan gives the host’s dog plenty of outdoor exercise during holiday gatherings. If there’s no pet, go by yourself, push a baby in a stroller, or bring one person with whom you’d like to have a meaningful conversation.
The current of expectations, traditions, and “shoulds” running through the holiday season is strong. It can sweep deep souls up and carry them along on a confining and bumpy ride. For people who tend to operate on the edges of the crowd, the expectations of the holidays can highlight their differences in uncomfortable ways, both to themselves and others.
As always, creative thinking leads to new solutions. When deep souls employ their penchant for questioning norms and chart their own course through the churning holiday waters to connect deeply with others and engage in meaningful activities, they will more than likely cross into the new year with joy.
Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.