An Introvert's Hosting Survival Guide Needed.
June 8, 2009 1:10 AM   Subscribe

How can an introvert survive and hopefully thrive while entertaining short to medium term house guests? (Long term being out of the freaking question!)

I'm not anti-social but I find it extremely exhausting to have guests stay in my flat for any longer than a day or two. My batteries just don't seem to recharge unless I get time alone in my own place. However, it feels rude to leave guests alone and I suspect it might also makes them feel rude/neglected.

How do other introverts manage it?
posted by srboisvert to Human Relations (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When someone comes thru town that feels inclined to stay at my place, I rent them a hotel room. I don't ask, I just do it as part of the "let's get you settled in." It's cheaper than having a guest bedroom and saves my sanity. I insist on paying for it. I might let someone crash on my couch for a night, but some people are draining, and with those that I know are draining - even if I love them - I get them a hotel room.
posted by bigmusic at 1:14 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

For me, the worst thing about staying with someone is that they won't leave me alone. I don't think I'm so incredibly magnetic, I think that -- like you -- they think that I'll feel neglected. Just be straight with your guest. If you have a guest room with a door that shuts, they may be hugely relieved at your encouragement to go in there and shut the door behind them. Since they are guests, and presumably you want to see them at least a little, arrange definite times/events: let's have breakfast together at 7:00, let's go visit the volcano this afternoon.

Warning: if the guest is your mother, especially if she hasn't seen you for awhile, the "I need time alone, please don't disturb me" doesn't go over so well. With certain guests, I'm with bigmusic: get that hotel room.
posted by kestralwing at 1:25 AM on June 8, 2009

I'm the same way.

However, most people I invite to stay in my home know me pretty well. They fully understand when I disappear into my bedroom for a couple hours. It doesn't normally require any more explaining than, "Alright, I'm felling antisocial. I'm gonna go chillax* in my room for a bit. Figure out what sort of food you might like for supper."

With everybody but those close friends, yeah, they need a hotel room. IncludingEspecially family.

*Used ironically.
posted by Netzapper at 1:46 AM on June 8, 2009

im completely against the hotel room idea. As a guest, i'd be a bit weirded out if they got me a hotel room!
posted by freddymetz at 2:12 AM on June 8, 2009

Unless I was mere acquaintance, I would think it very odd if the person I was visiting got me a hotel room. Perhaps slightly offended and definitely put off. Also expensive for you!
posted by Grimble at 2:21 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

How do other introverts manage it?

Depending on the visitor, you (okay, I) say, "I need some downtime/I have a deadline so I need x hours on my own. You will totally love this [exhibit/activity]. Let's meet up [here] [then]."

Family goes to a nearby hotel/B&B, always.

You shouldn't need to herd your guests everywhere they go. They're adults. Provide them with everything they need to go out and do something interesting and make them do it, on their own.
posted by dogrose at 2:31 AM on June 8, 2009

Go to a movie and enjoy it as alone time.

Take any excuse to run an errand. Be sure to dawdle.

Acknowledge to yourself that you are suffering with a smile, and that you only have to make it to when they leave and then you get your life back. But beware of when the guest(s) unexpectedly have to stay an extra day (or your SO uniltaterally invites them to *shakefist*) and don't let your annoyance show.

In general, minimize time spent at your place with the guests feeling sort of bored and helpless. Games, activities, whatever... Load up the schedule. Strongly hint/suggest that the guests go "make a day of something" on their own and do all of the legwork and research necessary to make it easy for them. If you feel you have to go with them, make it something where you aren't just stuck somewhere bored looking at each other. If the schedule is too full you can opt out of something and then you might actually enjoy just spending time with them not doing anything.
posted by fleacircus at 2:59 AM on June 8, 2009

"I have some things I need to do tomorrow morning, so I'm going to hole up in my room for a bit, but here's some information about local events / maps of local hiking trails / whatnot if you want to go out"

Nobody needs to mention that the things you have to do are reading your library book and talking to the cat.
posted by emilyw at 3:17 AM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jump on board with activities that other friends are arranging or attending -- going to concerts, bars, museums whatever -- to take some of the pressure off you for organizing, and to give both of you other people to talk to for an evening. I've found having a "buffer" is hugely helpful when I'm spending an entire weekend with one person.
posted by katopotato at 4:22 AM on June 8, 2009

If you're like me, the difficult thing about guests is not the need to be available, but that they're there, in your space, and I start resenting them quite quickly. Doesn't matter who it is, and hiding in my room is not good enough, as they're still outside, or in the guest room, breathing away (hopefully).

In my circle it would be bizarre and insulting to be put up at a hotel, and rude to explicitly demand alone time.

Given these constraints, I find it easier to deal with house guests as long as we mostly interact outside the house. I'd rather take them to a museum, a park or a restaurant than have them in my kitchen. Then coming back and disappearing into bedrooms is ok.

If that's not how you work, I second arranging things for them to do outside. It's critical to make it as easy for them as possible: when I stay with others I find myself depending on my hosts in a way that I never would when at a hotel. So lend a car, or rent one, keep up to date city and restaurant guides around, make sure they know their way around the public transport, buy them travel cards, take them to and from the metro, make sure they have mobile phones.
posted by tavegyl at 4:40 AM on June 8, 2009

I'm the same way, and I've had good luck with a couple of different approaches:

--If they're good friends, or of a similar mindset to you, honesty is often the best way to go. Just say hey, I need some alone time, so if you're looking for suggestions of things to do in town let me know. Me and my friends can be pretty blunt at times, though, so YMMV.

--If they're not people you know very well, or you don't think they'd take to being told you need some solitude (IMO, they should, as they're landing on your turf, but that's another discussion), tell them before their arrival that you're pretty busy right now with work/projects/whatever, and you'll need to be setting aside some time on a daily basis to take care of these things. You can even put a positive spin on it, something like "Hey, if I get these couple of hours to myself to take care of this stuff, I'll be able to set my mind at ease and be a better host for the rest of the time."
This is not rude; nobody can expect to come into town and have their host clear a schedule for the entire time they're visiting. Again, give them suggestions of places to go or things to do--even just going out to dinner might be enough to get you some breathing room. If you don't feel comfortable doing this or can't make it work daily for whatever reason, see if you can find someplace outside of your abode where you can recharge. Working at the library, going to the park or a coffeehouse or a bookstore or wherever.

Wanting some alone time is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about. If you phrase it in a neutral manner and don't make it seem like a big deal, it's nothing that any good guest should take offence at. If they do, you've learnt something about them--primarily, not to have them as a guest in your home anymore.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 8:01 AM on June 8, 2009

Have your guests read this article before they come.
posted by neuron at 8:37 AM on June 8, 2009

I completely understand wanting alone time. I think good guests recognize that their hosts need a little time on their own.

At the same time, I would never want to be the guest shunted to the hotel room--that would happen once and only once, and then I'd never attempt to visit again. Frankly, it would make me feel unwelcome--and perhaps that is the actual message there.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:50 AM on June 8, 2009

I'd agree with emilyw that the way to get time to yourself is to have lots of resources--menus from the local restaurants, pamphlets from all the "touristy" places, etc.--on hand for your guests. Have breakfast with them, help them plan out their day. Maybe there's a place you've been to a million times that they want to see that today, and you don't. Since that's the plan, no one should be offended if you bow out to do your own thing.

Also, it's perfectly okay (at least in my family) to say, "I'm really behind and need to catch up on _____ (laundry, writing, housework, etc), so I'm going to sit today out. Let's plan to get together again tomorrow."
posted by misha at 9:19 AM on June 8, 2009

I host people a lot and I'm somewhere on the line between introvert and extrovert [used to be very E but now I find myself needing the alone time and recharge of an I but I still plan social occasions as if I were an E]. I think one of the big things that affects the answer to this question is whether people are coming to visit YOU or if you have a place in a desireable location and it's a convenient place to crash.

So for two examples, sometimes people come to Vermont during October because they want to see the leaves. They know/like me, so they ask if they can stay here and I say okay. I do not feel that they are my responsibility as guests, they are here for the leaves and tourist stuff and they'd like to see me but I am not the purpose of their visit. When I went to SXSW this year a friend offered to put me up. It was pretty clear that I was going to be really busy but I also liked having a non-hotel place to stay. We arranged some specific together times [a few meals] and otherwise I made myself scarce. Part of it I think is setting expectations correctly from the get go [i.e. if I had been wrong about my friends who came in Oct, I would have felt a little bad so I checked "I have a few things to do that week but you are more than welcome to use my space and we can have dinner Thursday..."] and then having some checkin time as you go along.

Another part of this is that some guests are clueless and some are clueful. Clueless guests can be exhausting because you try to be polite and/or project what you're thinking as far as plans and they either miss cues or think they're one sort of guest when they're another. So, before they come over I try to get an idea

- what their plans are as far as are they visiting me or needing a crash space
- how long they plan to be staying
- my plans, making sure they get across to my guests

Once they're at my house I try and make sure that the "help yourself to whatever" message gets across [so that they'll make their own coffee, take a shower on their own etc] and let them know when I'm around and when I'm working. Since I work at home, I do have to sort of make an active "okay I have to go work for about 45 minutes, do you want to meet up for lunch around then?" statement and then follow through.

I also save a little post-retiring time to just chill and read and get into my own headspace and I tend to sleep late [which I let people know "I probably won't be up until 10, feel free to forage for breafast or here are a few places to go. Want to grab dinner?"] which is also some me-time

I guess I just figure that I can always say "no" if I dont' want people to visit, so if I say yes I'm committed to trying to find a decent outcome to the visit, even if it's a little tiring. I find that couples are often easier than singles [they tend to occupy themselves/each other] and friends are better than family. Most people will follow your lead as the person who lives there which is not a natural thing for introverts to sort of do -- to manage the expectations and sort of nudge your guests -- and of the few who don't, some will have their own plans and some will be the odd lump who is a bit of a challenge to get independently motivated. View helping your friend the lump out as a personal mitzvah/social grace and try to figure out what you get/enjoy out of hosting people and try to maximize that for that friend and others.

And oh yeah, parents always (in my universe) stay at the local B&B.
posted by jessamyn at 9:31 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd be a little bit careful about that Jonathan Rauch piece. It feels a little aggressive to me, and I'm not extroverted at all. A number of people in this thread seem to interpret "I'm introverted and find houseguests draining/exhausting, so why don't I put you up in a hotel?" as "You are not a good enough friend to stay in my house, and I'm sending you to a hotel to let you know how unwelcome you are." If I wanted to educate people about introversion, I think I'd try to find an essay that has less of a "STFU extrovert!" vibe to it.

I just survived 3 days of houseguests, and one thing that helped was sort of wallowing in solitude immediately before their arrival and after their departure. Playing stupid videogames, screwing around on the internet, reading, and whatever else helped me recharge. Sort of an acknowledgement to myself that the guests are a huge imposition on my temperament, and I could indulge myself a little.
posted by creepygirl at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

If it's really a big deal to you, communicate with them at the beginning of their visit, or even before they arrive. Let them know that you need a certain amount of down time or me time or time to unwind or whatever you want to call it and that, while you're thrilled that they will be visiting, you've found that you really need your time in order to function. If they know going in that this has everything to do with you and your needs and nothing to do with being mad at them or not wanting to be around them, they're likely to be more accommodating. This is a good idea to do with any houseguests you may have--have a chat about expectations: What's your work schedule going to be? What meals will you be eating together? What prior engagements do you have?

During their visit, find creative ways to get your time alone. Maybe you can leave them at your house with some DVDs while you go for a walk. Or maybe a friend of yours would love to take them to the museum while you stay home. Or maybe you could come home from work an hour later than usual, taking that time for yourself.

They're going to be sacrificing so remember that you need to sacrifice a little, too. Maybe you can't sit and watch tv in your underwear for three hours but you can manage to grab an hour in your bathrobe.

I've stayed with several friends who are innies and the most awkward experiences have been when the hosts and I haven't fully communicated our needs and expectations.
posted by wallaby at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2009

Some of the nicest short breaks I've had involved me staying with friends who basically run an open house for family/friends to visit but who are very upfront about getting people to look after themselves - they both work, one from home, and they basically make sure you know to help yourself and then ensure they spend time with you in the evenings having nice meals and catching up but during the day they very much leave guests to their own devices. Some of the things they do are:

- find out what their guests' plans are before they come and manage their expectations as to how much time they'll be able to spend with them during their stay and how much time guests will have to entertain themselves
- ensure 'help yourself to anything' message gets across on arrival
- facilitate the entertaining themselves thing by having a box with leaflets on local attractions/area maps/public transport information to allow guests to find stuff to do alone
- having told guests before they arrived/when they arrived that they work from home/have to do xyz go and do xyz and suggest you all meet up for dinner somewhere nicea few hours later

In addition as somebody who values alone time myself I'd recommend:
- get some alone time in the morning by staying in bed after waking up (after all you told your guests where the coffee is and how to use the espresso machine) and in the evening after retiring to bed
- remember that some guests will take a lot more 'looking after' than others, very old or young guests or those not in the habit of traveling to different places for instance. Just try to keep visits by these people short and sweet and/or get them to visit with somebody else who is more able to cope with being left alone and thus can 'look after' the other guest
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2009

I'm exactly the same! I'm an introvert and I'm also just a tad territorial (or private, it might be nicer to say). I do feel very uncomfortable when most people occupy my space and I mostly don't enjoy being a guest in other people's homes, unless I am very close to them. I think of my home as almost a "safe haven" or something and it can be a little unnerving to have people traipsing about in it. I have always felt guilty about this because it seems so anti-social, but that's who I am and I'm definitely becoming more comfortable with that. I really enjoyed that piece in the Atlantic bc it showed me that I'm not selfish -- just different.

People have given lots of good advice about how to handle this issue that I will have to use as well :) I second the idea of having pre-planned "meetings" or something of that nature that you need to get out of the house for. Or you can say that you are dedicated to an exercise habit and need to take an hour for a walk/run (this is also a great way to burn of some anxiety brought about by the guests). Or, you need to go pick up some groceries for that night's dinner, etc. This doesn't solve the problem of you getting your peace-at-home time, but it's definitely one way to at least get some alone time.

I would love to be able to put guests up at a hotel, but the way most of my extended family is I would never be able to even if I had that kind of money! I think they would be really insulted by that, and I'm willing to take a day or two's bursts of irritation over a potential familial rift (and the ensuing gossip). I don't know if you're a drinker, but booze can help! On the more responsible side, I would suggest going to bed kind of early and reading, watching tv, surfing the net or that sort of thing. And I second the idea of waking up and hanging out in your room a little bit. And hey, throw in an afternoon nap and you're barely spending time with your guests at all! Jk. Seriously, though, if you're like me, having these small times to yourself will make the overall visit much more pleasant for everyone involved.
posted by imalaowai at 7:15 PM on June 8, 2009

I completely understand. I had someone staying with me for six days last month, and "unfortunately" I had to go into work on the fourth day for something important.

Try to change your perspective of your house while they are here, claim possession of your bedroom, but see the rest as shared space. And taking up jogging might help. If you say you're going for a walk, they might offer to come with you, but jogging, very few poeple will go jogging just to be polite.
posted by kjs4 at 9:28 PM on June 9, 2009

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