It's all very well to say that all of us, especially those of us who are introverts, are entitled to live as we choose. But sometimes the words we need to use to set boundaries without causing offense don't easily come off our tongues. So we stammer justifications and fumble with excuses—and often end up just acquiescing to whatever others want anyway, because we simply can't find the solid ground we need for expressing our need for space, time, or solitude.
What is that solid ground? You need what you need, and whether what you you need solitude, or to go home, or to just say no or set any other boundary you feel you need, no one should be able to convince you that you're not justified.
Sure, a little white lie now and then can do the trick, but the upside of actually telling the truth about your introverted needs is that the more honest you are, the more people will understand and the more accustomed they will get to letting have the space you need.
Following are some suggestions for what to say in various situations:
No plans for me tonight, thanks. Are friends trying to get you to commit to fun, fun, fun when what you really want is quiet, quiet, quiet? Don’t invent "previous commitments." Tell the truth: It's not them—and it really isn't—it's you. You need downtime. They can try to argue, but what do they know? You know yourself best; don't let them throw you.
- I'm going on lockdown for some "me" time this weekend.
- It's been a long day, I just need a TV couch party tonight.
- Can I take a rain check? I'm really due for a quiet evening.
The party's over for me. You went to the party, you had a nice time, and now you would like to leave. "Nooo," your friends wail. "You have to stay! We're just getting started! You'll miss the best part!" First of all, no, you really won't. It will almost certainly just be more of the same (only with less food). Second, when you're done, you know you're done. Remember: It's a lot easier to say "yes" to future invitations if you're confident that you will let yourself bail out when you've had enough.
- I've had all the fun I can handle for one night.
- I've given it everything I've got. I have nothing left.
- I'm leaving before I embarrass myself by falling asleep on the couch.
More isn't merrier. Sometimes an invitation to a group event sounds fun, especially if you're single and trying to meet someone. So I recommend saying yes to as many group events as you have energy for. However, most of us know when an invitation just sounds wrong for us, even if it's from people we really like. Often it’s the planned event, not the person, that we need to decline.
- I'm no good in groups; let's have lunch instead.
- It sounds fun but I'd prefer to spend some time when it's just the two of us, to catch up.
- I think I'll pass on this one but can we make another plan to get together?
I really, really need to back out of this plan. I do not advocate backing out of plans willy-nilly—especially if the plan is with just one other person, as opposed to a group, where you might be missed but you won't derail things altogether. Backing out frequently is rude and unkind. However, good friends will give us get-out-of-plans-free cards now and then, when we really need it. Just use them sparingly and thoughtfully. And, needless to say, no backing out because you got a better offer, unless that better offer is restorative solitude.)
- Would you hate me if I beg off tonight? I'm in dire need of not doing anything.
- Would I leave you high and dry if I ask for a rain check?
- I promise I'll be a lot more fun if we can reschedule this for another day when I have more energy.
As a professional introvert, my most recent book is The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Lifei n a Noisy World. As a professional traveler, I just published 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go.
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