Benjamin Franklin wasn’t kidding when he wrote, in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Fish and visitors smell in three days.” Especially if you are an introvert and live alone 99% of the time. Even when the guest is your best friend of forty years.
Since I moved to Albuquerque several years ago, Jane, whose idea it was to write this article, has been spending Christmas with me. I usually go to visit her in Denver in the spring or fall. When the subject of introversion came up, it was obvious to me that I was an introvert, but I had never thought about whether or not she was, too, and how that might affect our relationship. She fits all the criteria, certainly…but she also likes to talk more than I do, and never runs out of things to say. As entertaining as that can be, I am simply not used to talking or listening so much during a day, much less for several days in a row. It can distract me, and drain me of energy, especially if there is something else I need to be doing or thinking about as the host. Let me tell you how we have worked things out by understanding and accepting our introverted natures.
If you are an introverted host:
- Remodel your garage into a guest suite. OK, that’s probably not feasible for everyone, but that’s what I did. I figure the more privacy my houseguests have, the more privacy I have too, and the more I can tolerate – er, I mean enjoy — their company. Plus this way I don’t have to share my bathroom either.
- You don’t have to spend every minute with your guests. Really, you don’t. If they are tourists with their own car, I like to point them in the right direction and say, “Have a nice day, I can’t wait to hear all about it at dinner!”
If you are an introverted guest:
- Don’t be shy about saying you’d rather stay in a hotel, if that’s the case. Some people are offended by that, but I’m not sure why as long as you aren’t asking them to pay for it. Make sure to tell them sincerely how much you are looking forward to spending time with them, but also make it clear that you need time alone to recharge your batteries because you are an introvert. If they look at you funny, this is your chance to educate them on the subject.
If your host is introverted:
- Jane knows I start my day slower than she does, so she sometimes goes out to sit in the hot tub with a good book and a Diet Pepsi while I check my email, drink coffee, and wake up in silence
- Do offer to help (e.g. in the kitchen), but don’t insist. It could be that your host is using that time alone in the kitchen to unwind in silence after a long day together.
If your guest is introverted:
- If you can’t dedicate a whole room to your guest, consider putting up a screen in the corner of the room where they will be sleeping so that they will have a place to retreat and recharge.
- Jane is over-stimulated by shopping malls, superstores, and crowds. So I shop for anything we might need (even if it’s just groceries) before she arrives. I ask her in advance what special things she might need and get those while I’m at it.
If you are both introverted:
- This is when it gets easy, because you both know how the other feels.
- No matter how early I rise, as long as we have no specific morning plans, I let Jane sleep as long as she possibly can. She’s on vacation, after all, but this also gives me time to myself. Of course, this is easier the more private your guest room is.
- Stick to mutually desirable activities and don’t try to do too much in a day.
- Declare an afternoon “me-time” so you can both recharge however you see fit (i.e. napping or reading). Then neither of you will be cranky at dinnertime.
- Work out a mutually agreeable signal, or just say, “No more talking, OK?”, if you need to suspend the conversation and concentrate on something else for a few minutes (or longer).
- One of the things we implemented long ago is something we call “The List”. The List is where we jot down topics of conversation that we don’t want to forget to address during our visit. We keep in touch between visits, of course, but some topics are best discussed in person or in depth. This way we can feel free to declare, “No more talking, OK?” without the other person worrying that we might not get to their favorite topic.
As with any relationship, every situation is different, and the key to guest/host relations is communication. You can read more of my tips for making guests feel comfortable in my blog article: Is Your Guest Room Guest Worthy?
This year Jane and I were both a little sadder to part than usual. While definitely looking forward to getting back to normal, we weren’t quite as anxious as usual to retreat to our respective homes and introverted lives. And she was here for four days!
How do you deal with having, or being, a houseguest? Let us know by leaving a comment!
Hazel Thornton is a professional organizer and genealogist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico; creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection; and author of Go with the Flow! The Clutter-Clearing Tool Kit for an Organized Life. Visit her online at www.org4life.com.