Christmas time. Time for cheer and conversation, family gatherings and games of charades. Stir into the mix a few large glasses of booze to liven the spirits and break the ice, and we have a recipe for fun and joviality that all can share and enjoy, right?
Maybe. But look carefully at any gathering and we see the quieter ones refusing to wear their party hat, declining to read their Christmas cracker jokes, or lingering outside for a "little fresh air" longer than the others.
Criticised as "party-poopers" at this happy time, these quiet ones shrink away from some of the bustle and in-your-face celebration that they are expected to enjoy. Though we may see these reticent ones as spoiling the fun - they won't make up the numbers for trivial pursuit or twister, it's likely that they're only shrinking away from what in their eyes is rather draining and excessive razzmatazz, the props that are expected to guarantee enjoyment for the extroverted majority at Christmas time.
Spare a moment for the shy or quiet ones this party season. I don't mean the deliberately cantankerous who just refuse to join in but make their own nonsense amusement through awkwardly opposing the majority. I'm talking of those who reluctantly and quietly join in or sit with noses in books avoiding eye contact and prefer to remain in their own private thoughts.
Over the last few years we have established the tradition of a 'Christmas jigsaw'. I don't know how it started or who first chose this much maligned form of family entertainment, but I hadn't done an 'adult' jigsaw for years. This year I found myself on the periphery of a happy family gathering sat rather contentedly in a cooperative and sociable activity with two fellow 'quiet ones', doing a 1000 piece jigsaw. It came to me that so long as you're not on your own, even a quiet activity may be acceptable to the voluble majority if they see two or three engaged in a collective pastime. For once it was acceptable to avoid the raucous games nearby by choosing an alternative form of musical chairs (without the music), our unspoken and fluid movements in and around each other's personal space was a delightful dance with a pace that was simultaneously shared and yet, our own.
When planning your next family gathering, why not roll out the jigsaw mat or set aside a 'chill-out room' for guests to engage in a way that puts them at ease, where introverts can be alone while being together. Give the quiet ones a chance to recharge themselves, and maybe they'll feel more amenable to a game of twister after all.
A jigsaw is not just for Christmas!