How can I better exert my introversion?
February 5, 2010 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I am a happy introvert between the horns of what must be a common dilemma, yet I have not seen a clear answer to it: What do I say when my SO or best friend or cousin invites me to do something and I would very clearly rather just stay home and read?

I almost always end up in one of two scenarios because of my reluctance to tell them the truth:

1. Lying and saying I have other plans, or making some other fake excuse.
2. Grudgingly going along, sometimes enjoying it, sometimes resenting the fact my alone time is being taken from me.

Neither of these scenarios are ideal, and while the obvious answer seems to be "honesty" of course, I just can't bring myself to tell people I truly do care about and value, that I would rather be alone than with them. Most of the time I really don't think they would understand Part of me truly thinks that it will hurt the relationship any time I do this.

Few more notes: I'm not some cave dwelling anti-socialite, I do leave the house, have a healthy work life, spend most weekends with my SO, and don't feel like I am neglecting any of these people. I see them regularly. I have already read that "Caring for your Introvert" piece which has some good tips I have tried to convey to them but I really don't think most people truly "get it" if they are not one themselves.

The question basically is: What reply or steps can I take to help the people I really like in my life to understand that 2 out of 3 times I would rather be at home by myself than out to dinner with them? Any success stories, or lessons learned would be gratefully received.

posted by the foreground to Human Relations (31 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
"Can I take a rain-check? I really need a night at home to recharge my batteries." Then call them the next day to make more specific plans. The second step is really key.
posted by muddgirl at 8:58 AM on February 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

"I'm just tired/stressed and need a night off, you know?"

Everyone has felt this way, and it's sort of true in your situation, and hard to argue with.
posted by brainmouse at 8:58 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's a tough balance to strike, since you don't want to be the person who stops getting invited to things because you always turn them down (or maybe you do want to be that person and that's the point?). But I think that simply saying "I'm a bit tired, think I'm just going to stay in and take it easy" should do the trick.

Your SO, best friend, and close relatives should probably understand this, and likely are inviting you because they like your company and want you to know you're welcome, not that they demand/require your presence at every event or function. And if they do demand your presence, you should be able and willing to tell them the real deal, you need your "me time" and it's no slight on them if you turn them down, you just prefer to spend some time reading and staying in. There's no reason to hold back on that, so long as you make it clear that it's your personality, not that you don't enjoy their company.
posted by dnesan at 9:01 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agree w. Muddgirl. Everyone understands the need for personal downtime. And definitely make the effort to make plans another time.
Otherwise, the invites may eventually stop...
posted by smelvis at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You care about them and don't want to hurt their feelings, but they also care about you and don't want to hurt your feelings. I would just tell them that although you love them very much (or value their friendship or whatever), sometimes you need to stay at home and recharge. You need to bring yourself to do this, because your friends are not mind readers and they don't understand your needs. You will also feel much better about yourself and your personal needs for solitude if you don't feel compelled to lie in order to attain the solitude you desire.

You probably can't do this all the time, because the more-extroverted people who are important in your life probably need to go out and do fun things with their friends, family, and/or SO's. However, once you find that you have the freedom to sometimes turn down an invitation from a friend or family member, you might find that going out seems a bit more appealing (since it isn't an obligation anymore).
posted by kataclysm at 9:05 AM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: Heart to heart with SO - they deserve full disclosure on the total "you" package. Your needs and desires - regardless of how quirky they may seem to you, everyone has them and if your SO is your SO, they need to know now (unless you plan to change . . .. )
Friends and Family - No thanks, I have some things that I need to take care of at home, but I appreciate the invitation and would love to get together with you _________, and then, as recommended, follow through with that.
Other folks don't have to get it - you get to be you, and they get to be them - no apology required.
This time you refer to is called "Cave Time" in my relationship -- sometimes I need to go into the cave - my wife understands it, and after a particularly stressful day, it is clear that I need to go into the "cave" (workshop, library, whatever) before I am ready to be with people.
posted by cactus86 at 9:07 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nthing muddgirl and brainmouse.

You and I sound very similar, down to the guilt I felt around options #1 and #2 and spending weekends with the SO. I've learned to usually just let my friends know I'm tired. Hanging out once or twice a week is perfectly fine IMO, and since I'm one of the oldest in the group (I'm in my early 30s, they're mainly mid-20s) it's not all that unusual for me to say that the previous night's debauchery was enough fun for a couple days.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:09 AM on February 5, 2010

"I really need to stay home and unwind" or "I have to take care of things around the house" often work, followed immediately by "but I would love to get lunch with you next weekend if you're available" or something similar.

I think it's important to figure out the types of social situations that you are comfortable with, and propose them as alternatives. If you'd rather have a person over for dinner than go out, then propose that. If same-day invitations trip you up, suggest an alternate activity that you plan a few days in advance. Or if you prefer daytime get-togethers to evenings, and so on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:12 AM on February 5, 2010

Ask these folks to read "Caring for Your Introvert," since not everyone understands those of us who need alone time to rest and recharge.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: Honesty doesn't necessarily equal full disclosure. You can honestly say, when you're in a situation like this, "I'm sorry... I'm not available," or some variation on that. "I'm busy." "I've got other plans." All of these are technically true. Part of enjoying one's introversion is thinking of time you spend alone as a planned activity, rather than something you do when you lack anything better to do-- at least this is the case for me. It's not a lie to say that you already have plans, and you shouldn't feel bad about it.

If you're worried about friendships suffering, though, maybe you could make plans and invite other people. I wonder whether part of the problem here isn't that you're being invited to events that are far more enjoyable for extroverts -- group dinners, parties, etc. What is a social setting that's more comfortable for you? Inviting a friend over for dinner individually? Walking in a park? (Just throwing out random ideas here - you'll know better than I, obviously, how you take pleasure from socializing.) If you take the reins of planning playdates, you may find them less of an obligation...
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

usually if i DESPERATELY need "going to the mountain" time i just tell people i'm busy (after all, it's now scheduled me-time to do stuff i need to do on my own- just as i'd schedule lunch with a friend), but raincheck for another time so they won't feel brushed off.
posted by raw sugar at 9:28 AM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: I agree with all above who suggest you should be honest about this need with your SO.

I wouldn't classify either of us as introverts, but my SO and I *love* to read, and we prioritise this need. But, we don't live together, so we also try to maximise our time together. To balance it out, on a weekend afternoon, we often go to pubs or bars that have comfy couches and good lighting and spend a couple of hours reading. There is some conversation, though not much. It works amazingly well and is something I value in our relationship
posted by unlaced at 9:35 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a similar type. When I am extroverted, I'm raring to go. But, most of the time, I'd rather be at home with a book, game, or needlework. I don't even need to be alone; SO can be nearby pursuing his own interests. My SO is rather frustrated with me at times because I need a lot of quiet time (alone or silently near), particularly because he is only available week-ends while he's working out of town.

Most of these suggestions work very well if one is "recharging batteries" occasionally. I hope you get some suggestions for when you need to spend "me-time" a bit more often.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:36 AM on February 5, 2010

I have a 4/5 rule for this. I personally hate going out, but I recognize that I tend to have fun more often than not when I do take the plunge. So if I say 'yes' four times when I'm not really feeling it, I'm allowed to say 'no' on the fifth time without feeling any guilt or regret.
posted by sid at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm also an introvert that faces the same issues. I think the ground has been well covered by the answers above, so I'll just suggest another approach that sometimes works for me. I find that it's less draining to hang out with friends at my place. Why not invite them over for a board game or movie night, or something more in line with you and your friends' interests? It's good to spend time with friends and not leave them feeling neglected, but this may be more bearable for you than driving to someone else's less-familiar pad. If you have minor control issues like I do, you'll find it much more relaxing to have the hang-out on your turf, in your terms.

Obviously this won't always work but it might be an option after you've turned down someone else's invitations one too many times.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2010

As _paegan_ says, the hard part is when it's not just "a few days to recharge" but almost constantly refusing things. Maybe you're spending energy on some other people or activities, so your friends don't get to see you for a long time. Once you've turned down several consecutive invitations for the same reason... it really starts sounding like you're too busy/tired to be a friend. I think the suggestion to try more introvert-friendly activities or initiate hanging out more often is a good one for making sure your friends know they're valued, even if you don't want to go clubbing with them.

One of the hard parts about having an invitation sprung on you when you were planning to spend a night at home can be that you were [em]planning[/em] to spend a night at home. You'd been thinking about how pleasant and relaxing it would be and now you have to switch gears and try to think about how nice it'll be to see your friends, etc. This is something that being the planner helps with, as does making plans a bit further in advance.
posted by Lady Li at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2010

"I'm so sorry I can't make it, have a great time"

No explanation/excuse required. Seriously. It's not like school.

If they're a really good friend, you'll have explained to them that in general you need a lot of down time. If they're not, there's especially no reason you have to justify yourself.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:51 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just be honest and tell them. True friends will understand and stay with you over the years. Those who don't -- the ones who see you as some type of "project" that needs to be fixed -- will eventually get bored and move onto someone else. You'll save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety by just letting them go.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:52 AM on February 5, 2010

Make sure to be extra-careful about this if there's any kind of "issue" happening at the moment between you and said SO or friend. People should hopefully be able to accept/understand/anticipate your need for alone time -- under normal circumstances. However, if they have any reason to feel shaky about your relationship -- you've had an argument, say -- it will be difficult for them not to interpret your staying away as evidence of your feelings about the relationship.

In these cases, you should be looking for ways to reassure your companion. One way, as others have suggested, is to suggest alternate plans in the near future (and then stick with them!). Another way is to acknowledge the situation: "yes, I realize I've been pretty antisocial recently, and I want you to know that even though we had that issue between us, my need for alone time right now is just me being me; I still value your friendship."
posted by wyzewoman at 10:02 AM on February 5, 2010

cactus86 has a crucial point: the SO is special. S/he deserves full, transparent, honest, heart-on-the-sleeve disclosure. "I'm just not up for socializing tonight, because that's how I am sometimes, because I'm introverted," or however you want to put it. Politely evasive excuses might be appropriate for others, but not for the SO. Other people might reasonably prefer to not hear about your introversion-based reasons for "taking a raincheck," but your SO needs to accept this about you.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:04 AM on February 5, 2010

My SO sometimes paints an inviting mental picture of the two of us, curled up on the couch, with matching XXL sweatshirts (he actually bought these) and a comforter, reading or watching movies together, with homemade brownies and tea.

Sometimes I'd rather go out, but this is kind of hard to resist. Of course, I'm about half introvert myself.
posted by amtho at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lying and saying I have other plans

You do have other plans--you're planning to stay home and read. That's not lying. You just have to try to move past feeling guilty about it, or feeling that you owe other people an explanation (except for the SO, as Jaltcoh says).
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:56 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good friends will accept an honest answer, hopefully with a bit of a sense of humor. I have a good friend who is actually more extroverted than me, but with a more streamlined lifestyle. While I have 2 kids, 4 cats, 2 dogs, and one husband in a cluttered house, she has no kids, no dogs, no husband, and one lazy cat in a tidy little apartment. Sometimes she will flat out tell me "You know I love you, but I just can't cope with your madness tonight." It's all good. Although I am a bit jealous sometimes.
posted by SamanthaK at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: the foreground: “... while the obvious answer seems to be "honesty" of course, I just can't bring myself to tell people I truly do care about and value, that I would rather be alone than with them. Most of the time I really don't think they would understand. Part of me truly thinks that it will hurt the relationship any time I do this.”

This is something which will you'll have to approach differently for each of the different people in your life. Some may indeed be distant enough that telling them a little white lie - "I'm actually too busy tonight, sorry" - will work quite well. But the people closest to you, particularly your partner, will need to know this at some point; this isn't just because 'they deserve to know' - it's also because, on a practical level, no other solution will work. If you always happen strangely to be 'too busy' to go out, your closest friends will notice, and think this is odd. If you always go out begrudgingly, and aren't happy to be losing your alone time, no matter how hard you try to disguise your feelings those who care about you will realize at some point that they're putting you through a certain form of torture. They will simply need to know at some point.

I think you're sort of creating a difficulty for yourself, actually, by imagining that this will be like picking at a scab rather than pulling off a band-aid. The goal is to try to set it up so that you only have to do this once. In the case of particularly close friends and especially in the case of a partner, pick a time when you're alone with that person and they've asked you to go out to one of these things, and when you have a few moments to talk. Tell them exactly what you've told us - that you're the type of person who doesn't like to go out much, that you find yourself going out often merely in order to avoid being impolite, that you really value your alone time highly and don't like losing that. If they're really close friends, they'll probably remember an instance that illustrates this that you can mention - 'you remember last Friday, when we all went to that party? And remember how I totally didn't seem into it? Yeah... that's what I mean.'

If they're close friends, they should understand if you explain this part of yourself. And explaining it carefully as a part of who you are will help for the future, because it will mean that, if you refuse invitations in the future, they should know why, and they won't be hurt or offended or confused - they'll just say 'oh yeah, the forefront doesn't like to go out constantly, so that's why s/he doesn't really want to do that particular thing.' Your close friends should even be able to help out, dropping the invitations to stuff that you'd really rather not go to and making sure other people don't hassle you when you take a rain-check on supposedly 'important social appearances.'

In fact, if anybody should be able to do this, it's your partner. I know if I was dating somebody who didn't like to go out so much, and really valued her or his alone time, I'd want to know it, because then I could be there first as backup - 'oh, you're having a pointless, boring party where everybody just sits around and stares at the walls? That sounds lovely, but x and I are busy that year.' Believe me, having a 'partner in crime' when it comes to ducking out of boring crap is really, really helpful.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on February 5, 2010

"I need some 'callmejay' time."

Cheesy, but it works. And people get used to the idea.
posted by callmejay at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Thanks, but I'm beat. I'm just gonna stay home and chill."

Do this often enough, and they'll stop inviting you -- which may or may not be what you want and may or may not create some hurt feelings on their part. (They like you, they want to spend time with you, but you don't want to spend time with them?? Hrmph!)
posted by LordSludge at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: What you don't want to happen is to have a big heart-to-heart with your close friends about how introverted you are and how you generally dislike parties and so on, and then end up with their all feeling bad whenever they invite you somewhere. Not even because you're a party pooper or boring or anything, but just because they don't want you to feel pressured to do things you don't want to do, so they start assuming you won't want to do [whatever] and start leaving you out of things.

I'm extremely introverted, but frankly I do still like being invited to things, even if I do end up turning them down sometimes. What works best for me is to let them know that I need to stay in to get things done around the house or something like that. Don't say you need to be alone, because that makes you sound antisocial and/or unhappy, which is an attitude you probably don't want to present. I do agree that coming up with a specific alternative plan in the near future with these people works best. With your SO, it's a more delicate issue if SO wants to go out doing things with you all the time. You should be upfront with the SO about it and see if it's something he/she is prepared to deal with.

Just remember it's about compromise. While I generally agree with most of the points in the "Caring For Your Introvert" article, some of it makes the writer kind of sound like a jerk. It may be a balancing act for a while, but remember to see things from their perspective as well.
posted by wondermouse at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have said in the past (in a very weighty/gravitas fashion), "There is some personal business I need to attend to at the moment, and man, I just really don't want to discuss it right now."
posted by yoyoceramic at 2:24 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: I don't like saying I'm beat or stressed out or need to recharge - unless that's true.

For most people, turning down a night out because of stress is a big deal. Friends who do that when they are really stressed will be concerned if you use that excuse.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:36 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

And if you do decline something with an excuse like "I'm stressed" or "I have something I have to do", for the love of dog, don't post a facebook update about what fun you're having doing something else.
posted by canine epigram at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2010

"Hay, I'll take you up on that but I'd rather stay at home tonight."
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 5:30 PM on February 6, 2010

« Older This show taught me about making pro and con lists...   |   Help me find just the right word Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.