Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Extrovert vs Introvert Hostesses and Their Families

I looked around the living room and didn't see my (then) 3.5 year old son anywhere. His brother (about 5 years old at the time) occupied center stage and entertained our guests with gusto. I wondered where the younger boy could be so I went in search.

I found him sitting in his bedroom with one of our guests quietly working a puzzle. My first thought was that he felt sick but, after asking a few questions, I realized he just felt overwhelmed by the 10 or 12 twenty-somethings celebrating Christmas with us.

Since that night I always expect 2 things to happen during any event my family hosts: one son will be found in the middle of the group chatting their ears off and the other son will seek out a quiet corner with only a couple of people to listen to.

The funny thing is that my husband and I are just like the boys. I'm the one who loves a BIG party and feels neglectful if I don't have a conversation with every person in attendance. My husband on the other hand prefers groups of 6 to 8 and looks for a nice quiet corner when he's at a large party.

I confess this difference in personality has caused me a great deal of frustration and annoyance in the past. I wanted my husband to enjoy the same kind of parties I enjoyed. I wanted him to engage people in conversation. I wanted us to host large cook-outs and church-wide fellowships.

But that isn't the way God created my husband or one of my sons. God designed them to prefer small gatherings and me to love a big bash. He made us different which isn't good or bad, just different.

What does my family's personality differences mean for me as a hostess?

Well, I realized after a recent large gathering that I need to consider the introverts in my family when I volunteer to host an event. That means only hosting one large gathering a year and planning small intimate dinners the rest of the time. It also means that large gathering should be in the summer so we can be in the backyard and my introverts won't be overwhelmed by 30+ people in our 1150 sq. foot home.

While I don't necessarily need to give up big parties I do need to adjust my expectations and extend hospitality to my own family first. After all, what's the point of 30 friends and acquaintances having a great time if some of the people I love most in the world are miserable?

It's a balancing act that I'm learning to make for my husband and son. I'd love to learn how you balance the different personalities in your home while obeying the mandate to offer hospitality.

Do you have any suggestions for me or is this the first time you've thought about personalities and their influence on hospitality?


  1. I think the introverts who like just being around a few people will find each other, like your son and the adult he was with. In any large group like that there are going to be a few who are really more comfortable in smaller groups, and your one son's tendency in that way will help him offer that kind of hospitality to that kind of person.

    I think you're wise not to have too many parties that would overwhelm the quieter ones, but to still have them occasionally so they'll know how to interact in them even though it's not their favorite thing.

  2. I think I've come to embrace my introvert tendencies in my "old age" (haha!) However, I find that I can be more "alone" in a crowd than I can in a small group because there is more to tend to and take care of and conversations are shorter. So I kind of enjoy the larger groups if we're going to have people over that I don't know very well. Then I can mix, mingle and make myself busy.

    Thankfully my husband, the extrovert, is content with any kind of gathering - just so that we have something happening. So I try to mix it up and have smaller, more intimate groups of people over that we know well and who I feel completely relaxed and comfortable with.

    Good food for thought, Stephanie!

  3. Both my husband and I are introverts, though he is probably more so than I am. But we both love hosting gatherings. For us, striking the balance seems to mean that we don't host gatherings too often so we don't get overwhelmed, and he will probably disappear into the kitchen to wash dishes at some point during the evening. We also try to arrange parties and other events so that they have a clearly defined end time - not having people expect to hang out for hours into the evening when we're getting tired helps a lot.

  4. This was a timely post...maybe one more reason why we allow excuses (often good reasons) to let us procrastinate having friends over.

  5. Thanks, Barbara. Letting my introverted loved ones do their own thing in a social setting has been a growing experience for me.

    Jo, you are wise to have a definite ending time. The open-ended stuff always gets me in trouble.

    Annette, you are so right that if we aren't careful we use our personality differences to keep us from hospitality. Definitely something to watch out for.