Good news, everyone! The first issue of Story Club Magazine is out. Go read my story and others from Chicago writers & performers! I especially love this piece, from J.H. Palmer, about the tiny kindnesses from strangers that knit us back together when we’re coming apart.
And if you like stories and Live Lit readings and live in Chicago, I’ll be reading at Loose Chicks on Valentine’s Day.
And now, a letter.
Dear Captain Awkward:
I am an introvert/social-anxiety-haver living in a house full of extroverts and I feel like I’m going crazy.
I moved in with my (very extroverted!) boyfriend of over a year, and his 4 other roommate/friends. I would like to say that I do, for the most part, love all these people dearly and consider them my friends, in addition to the myriad other friends in the group. I love hanging out with them. But they want to hang out every night and dude, I just can’t.
If I try to stay in me and my boyfriend’s room, sometimes they’ll come upstairs and get me. (Honestly I’m really touched that everybody likes me enough to basically kidnap me out of my room; I’ve always had some trouble with the making and keeping of friends.) If my boyfriend happens to come home and it’s just us hanging out in the room, a lot of the times they’ll come upstairs and come in the room and then hang out up here, which is the opposite effect of what I was trying to do by staying in my room in the first place!
I feel bad saying no to hanging out because a lot of the time it’ll be like, “[Person] from our mutual friendgroup is here! We haven’t seen them in a month!” and then the next night it’s ANOTHER person in the friendgroup that we haven’t hung out with in a month. How am I supposed to say no? Or it’s “LW, you haven’t hung out in forever, hang out with us!” And our friendgroup is massive. So there’s almost always SOMEBODY we haven’t see in a while.
My boyfriend sort of understands the introversion/social anxiety thing, but trying to explain social anxiety to an extrovert is a lot like trying to teach a cat how to use chopsticks in Swahili. So he sort of understands when I don’t want to hang out and he supports it, but with everyone else it’s kinda tough.
Moving out is really not an option, unless I move back in with my dad, and short of kicking out one of the aforementioned roommates, I can’t just get a room to myself. I guess what I’m looking for is a script I can use with my roommates/outside members of the friendgroup and possibly also my boyfriend so I can be like “I love you dearly, but y’all need to get the heck out of my personal space and leave me the heck alone before I smack a bitch” and also “Boyfriend can you get your friends to go back downstairs I know this is your room too but I’m kinda freaking out right now”
Thanks for your time!
— Do Not Disturb
Dear Do Not Disturb:
Right now your roommates are hearing that you want to be alone sometimes and then immediately overriding that with “But yeah, if we go get them, they always hang out and have a good time.” It sounds like they Geek Social Fallacy carriers – “Everyone does everything together!” – and that you and they have an understanding of “politeness” that means everyone invites everyone else to everything, everyone must hang out with everyone for everything, everyone talks to everyone else for as long as they want and it’s rude to put a stop to any form of interaction or conversation. I had a similarly boisterous, friendly, wonderful friend group when I lived in D.C. who would get very sad anytime someone wanted to leave a party. I loved hanging out with them, but I also tended to hit the drunk/tired/ALONETIMEZ! wall sooner than they did, so every time I left anything there would be 20 minutes of “Nooooooooooooo whyyyyyyyyyyyyy don’t leaaaaaaaaaaaaave you haaaaaaaaave to staaaaaaaaaaaaay” which is flattering on one level but really, really annoying when you just want to go home and the party has suddenly become about Drunk People Convincing You Of How Much Fun We’re All Having!!!! But the party didn’t end when I left. I didn’t actually have the power to kill all fun everywhere by calling a cab and going to bed, and you don’t have that power, either!
What if, the next time the roommates come to summon you from your room, you said “No thanks, I’m good here!” and closed the door again? You say “How am I supposed to say no?” but the thing is, you can actually just say no. The thing where your roommates take your closed door as a challenge is on them, but the part where you go along with it and don’t say “No, I’d rather not tonight” is on you. If you always go along with it, why would they ever change what they are doing?
Getting a room of your own is a good long-term goal or solution, but this situation can get more manageable in the short-term. There will be most likely be some temporary awkwardness and friction as you enforce your boundaries, but it is all survivable. You need to teach them that coming and getting you, pleading, making a big show of wanting you to come, etc. doesn’t work anymore. Scripts:
- “No thanks, I’m good.”
- “I’m in the middle of some homework/reading/writing and need a bit of quiet.”
- “I’ll catch so-and-so next time.”
- “I was looking forward to a bit of quiet while boyfriend is still at work. Let’s do it another time.”
- Keep this one up your sleeve: “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just not feeling very social today. I’ll see you tomorrow!”
- See also: “This isn’t actually a haggling session – I’m out! Good night!”
Keep a smile on your face, keep your tone pleasant, but say it ONCE and then physically close the door and walk away from it.
If you’re not used to asserting yourself this way, the moment after you say no and close the door is going to feel very strange. The temptation is going to be to avoid that strangeness and smooth it over, but don’t! Everyone needs to understand what “Nope!” feels like in this situation, and you’ve got to take on the strangeness a bit and communicate “I am okay with feeling weird, and with you feeling weird, but I am not okay with you trying to coerce or convince me when I’ve said no.” The dissipation of the weirdness has to come from them saying “Okay, see you tomorrow!” and going away, and then you being normal and chill the next time you see them so everyone knows that everyone likes everyone. I know, you are worried about causing friction and awkwardness, but the awkwardness is already present, like in how you don’t actually want your room where you live to be full of talking people all the time. You’re just transferring some of the awkwardness over to the source, which is worth doing if it will make you happier and more comfortable in your space. It may take several tries and some practice before you get the point across that you’re really, really not coming downstairs, but hold firm! They will get it.
When the party comes to your room, it will help if you and your boyfriend can be a team about this, so talking to him first will be helpful. “Boyfriend, I love living here with you, but when I need a little more time to myself/need to go to bed/want to just have some private time with you, I need you + roommates to understand and clear out. So can we come up with some kind of signal or way of doing that?” or “In the moment, when everyone’s here, I have a lot of anxiety around asking for that. Can you help me come up with a way that will work for you?”
Your roommates will also benefit from some kind of “I love to be invited, but I don’t like to be convinced (or kidnapped!), so if I say ‘no thanks’ I need you to really hear me and just go about your evening” talk. I suggest trying the cold “No, not tonight!” at least a few times before having said talk, because it gives you information about how reasonable they are likely to be and about who is your most likely ally in this. It gives you an opening to say “Hey, the other night, when I said ‘no thanks?’ I need you to actually hear me when I say that. I love you guys and love hanging out and living here, but I need more alone time than y’all do and if I don’t snatch some for myself sometimes I go a little crazy.” You’re probably going to get a variation of “Why didn’t you just say something?” as a response, so address the social anxiety with them, too – “I have social anxiety, so I worry sometimes that if I say ‘No I don’t want to hang out’ you will think I hate you or you will stop inviting me. That is NOT the case, obviously, but I could really use your help and understanding.”
Other stuff I suggest to generally make your housing situation more pleasant for you:
Make yourself a schedule. It sounds like every night is potentially LET’S HAVE FUN! Night in your house, but that isn’t working for you. It’s easier for you to fully participate in the fun stuff and communicate boundaries around solitude if you’ve already decided that Tuesdays and Thursdays are FUN! and Mondays and Wednesdays are QUIET! On designated Fun! nights, go participate in the fun without being asked, which is how you show your roommates that you like them. By having designated Quiet! nights, you can get into a routine where it’s easy to say “I’ve blocked out Mondays for quiet/work/study/writing letters to the editor/reading. But tomorrow!” Think of Jo March, in Little Women, who has her very special “Don’t talk to me, I’m writing!” cap. It’s hard to enforce boundaries if you don’t know what they actually are. You need some kind of metaphorical cap. It sounds like you and your boyfriend could use date nights for just the two of you. Put it on the schedule.
Become an early riser. Or otherwise carve out a different schedule from the more social folks in the house. My mom, Queen Introvert of Go Away, I’m Reading Mountain, gets up at 5:00 am in order to have 2 hours to herself every day. This has continued even into retirement, as she has been married to my dad, The Mayor of Chattytown, since 1967.
If you are an early riser, then you probably (yawn) have to go to bed early and can’t possibly stay up talking to everyone, which gives you another good out for when you don’t want to go attend living room shenanigans or need people to clear out of your room so you can sleep.
Find a nearby sanctuary. You should be able to kick housemates out of your room and have occasional peace and quiet in the home where you live, so the need for awkward conversations won’t go away. But communal living is communal, and having 6 people in one house means a lot of socializing is just built into the deal. So where can you go to be alone sometimes? The gym? The running/bike path? The pool? The library? The local coffee shop? The more you can control your schedule and make sure that you get the necessary amount of quiet & solitude, the more you can roll with the chaos at home.
It’s normal to have a period of adjustment to any new living situation, and this is what you’ve got going on here. Being super social every single night is not sustainable for you, and that is okay. Take it slow, be really nice to yourself, give yourself and everyone lots of tries to get it right. Love and friendship can survive a little bit of solitude and a little bit of awkwardness.
132 thoughts on “#544 My extroverted roommates come and “kidnap” me when I want to be alone.”
Hew LW, CA’s advice sounds awesome to me. It made me think of a possible signal system (for roommates) you could use after you get them accepting No/No thankyou. If it suits you, that is.
Door Open: Yes! Come get me.
Door Cracked: Maybe, but I might be doing something
Door closed: Most likely Not or Definitely not (you can set that up whichever way works best for you).
This is the system my freshmen floor used in the dorms and it worked well. There was some leeway where people might knock on your door to ask if you wanted to come to dinner/library/etc. If you have the “No thanks!” working really well then a knock is allowable. If the No thanks is not working very well or it stresses you out, then have the door closed be a preemptive no.
If you and BF are both in the room and have polar opposite social cravings at the moment you two will have to work out what to do then. Generally in the dorms the door would be cracked when one roommate wanted to be open to socializing and the other didn’t. Or again, people would respect the busy/introverted roommate politely declining. Also, your boyfriend could sometimes hang out in community spaces when he’s feeling available and you’re not.
Best of luck,
A Fellow Introvert 🙂
Exactly this. I used to live in The House of Six and the door open/door shut rule was very important to me. I had one roommate who got really pouty if I wanted quiet/reading time while in a common area (or even if I just didn’t immediately acknowledge him if I was in a room that he had entered) but even he respected The Door Shut Rule.
Agreeing with this! Having some kind of pre-arranged signal to differentiate between “I’m hanging out alone right now, but I might be up for social fun” and “I’m hanging out alone right now because I need Me Time, so please leave me to it” will probably be useful for you AND for your housemates.
I suspect that, as they see it, they’re doing the kind thing! They’re showing you that they want to hang out with you, and they’re making sure you don’t miss hanging out with That Friend You Haven’t Seen In A Month! And if this were an occasional event, or if you were wired more like them in this arena, it would be. But as it is, they’re intruding at least as often as they’re helping, and there’s clearly a communication mismatch that means they don’t realize that fact. So this — whether it’s a door code, or putting particular magnet up on the whiteboard of your door, or whatever works for you — will help everybody know which interpretation it is. And that will help you be genuinely up for socializing, on the days when you’d like to be, instead of wanting to reflexively hide from everyone every chance you can because OH GOD NOT MORE SOCIALIZING PLEASE.
Yes! I was just about to suggest the same, or even a little green/red flip sign you hang on the doorknob – green = open for business, red = asleep/do not disturb/sweet, sweet Internet time.
I used to have a stoplight system (and accompanying sign): Green meant ‘Come in!’, Yellow was ‘Only if it’s important’ (ie, dinner is ready/there’s someone at the door), and Red was ‘Nope’. It looked a bit like I lived in a kindergarten classroom, but it was super-effective.
I love this idea – I should use it for my kids (they have no clue about boundaries).
When I was an RA, we had to make “door decs” for all our residents once a month. Mostly I did a random cutout with their names on it, but at the beginning of the year I made a spinner-type doo-dad with a moveable arrow, with each section describing some kind of availability: “Studying! Shh!” “Sleeping” “Down for fun!” “Hungry?” etc.
LW, perhaps you could make one for your room, and if you’re feeling extra-crafty, one for each of your roommates, with similar availabilities. “Date night” “Novel night” “Knock for fun!” for example. It’s a less confrontational way of setting boundaries that might not trigger your anxiety. Hopefully that would be enough to stop the intrusions! But if not, it’s a start–and it’s something you can reference when you do have to talk to your roomies.
At work I have a whiteboard with all sorts of magnets. The edge has common location statuses listed on it, and I have a habit of putting up sketches describing my current status, including the state of my hair to say something about exactly how out of cope I may happen to be. I figure it’s only neighborly to let them know that I may be incoherent as hell if they interrupt me when I’m in the middle of something that eats my entire brain. When it’s time-sensitive, I leave a note asking them to e-mail me unless it’s urgent enough to override the current project. It’s not perfect, but it helps me because they by and large respect it, and helps them because they know roughly what to expect from me.
Ooh, I found my old “door clock” from college just the other day. I made it all nice and pretty, with a hand that you could spin around to say whether I was out or in, and if I was in if I was sleeping or working or in a “come in” mood. Since there were four of us, plus two unofficial roommates, plus whoever would drop by, it was pretty handy.
Setting up a code or a sign is a great idea. It’s hard to just ignore something like that.
Back in my parents’ house, the door to my old room has this woodpecker-door knocker with associated statuses attached. (The title translates to “Please knock!”; the statuses are “Be right back”, “In a good mood”, “I’m sleeping”, “I’m studying”, …a pun I can’t really translate basically going “nope, don’t bother me”, “careful! High voltage!”, “will only negotiate through my lawyer” and “really don’t want to do anything” in extremely colloquial German.) I ended up losing the wooden pin to select the status, but thankfully I never ended up needing it that much. But it’s cute and handy if you’re not comfortable leaving the door to your room open and/or want a more detailed system!
For those who wonder: ‘Sprechstunde’ means ‘office hours’ (Doctors and institutions have ‘Sprechstunden’). ‘sprechen’ also means ‘to talk’ to this line says, in effect ‘not available’ as much as ‘this isn’t a time to talk’.
I like all of these suggestions. They also have the benefit of making it very clearly about you and your needs–you’re not rejecting whoever is asking you to come out and saying no to a person, you’re saying no to the socializing generally. That sort of completely depersonalized “no thanks” might make it easier for you to say, and for your roommates to accept with less awkwardness or potential hard feelings.
I feel you, LW. I think a lot of people have internalized the idea that introversion is inherently bad, which may explain why your roommates probably think they are doing you a favour by forcing you to hang out and also why you feel guilty about asking for some alone time. I also feel like the conversation doesn’t usually go the other way, with extroverts having to justify their preference for being surrounded by people at all times, even though this is completely mystifying to me.
To all guilty introverts, and extroverts who don’t get it, I recommend this TED talk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts:
Nice link – I was just about to recommend Susan Cain! LW, if your boyfriend really wants to understand introversion, it may be a good idea to read Cain’s book Quiet together and discuss it with him. The examples in that piece really helped me better explain introversion to my extroverted friends. It also helped alleviate my own guilt about being an introvert, so it may be an excellent resource for you.
In my experience living with other people we always had an unspoken rule about your room being your space. I lived with roommates for 3 years and can count on one hand the number of times I entered their bedrooms. The living room, kitchen, den, whatever, these are spaces for hanging out, bedrooms are private spaces and even when the door is open, you shouldn’t be hanging out in there.
We also had a pretty strong aversion to knocking on closed roommate doors. Presumably if they closed the door the wanted it closed and not opened again.
It only took one time of one of my roommates walking in on something they shouldn’t have for everyone to learn that a closed door means DO NOT ENTER. (The difference between “What?” and “Come in” became immediately apparent as well.)
Perhaps you can talk to your partner about adjusting to a more firm closed door policy if that’s something that needs to happen. That unless something is like, immediately important in that the house is on fire or the delivery guy must be paid, or something, a closed door means do not disturb.
I also agree with the Captain that part of this is an adjustment period. If you stand firm about which nights are play nights, and needing your private space, eventually they will learn that you are not always down for evening playtime, and they will stop pestering you. Living with new people is a learning process.
Oh, yes, this. I had a roommate enter after I yelled “fuck off!” at her. Yes, I really was in the middle of something and it was awkward as hell for all of us. My boyfriend couldn’t meet her eyes for months afterwards. Whereas I lectured her afterwards because that was Trying New Things sex and it took us forever to get back to the Awesome New Thing we had been working on.
I am so glad that both my partner and I are introverts. We get alone time and alone together time that we jealously guard. We both need roughly equal amounts of time between social events. This weekend we spent several hours cuddled on the couch, Netflix bingeing with an assortment of cats and dogs gathered around. Highly recommend it.
Ugh. I’m so glad I was alone. Though I wish my roommate at the time had not been a dude who tended to stare at my ass. At least it is a funny story years later.
This is true. Upsetting at the time, hilarious a decade later. She never even asked something through the door again. What killed me was that, after us scrambling under the blankets, she stood there and TALKED to us for five minutes or so.
No. NO. This is the worst. I don’t care whether people are in shock or really that oblivious, but continuing talking is the. worst. (Also what is unclear about “fuck off”.)
If I had roommates who walked in without permission, I would lecture them and then get a lock for my door. Geez.
When I was in college, one of my roommates stood outside my (closed) door for several minutes asking us if we wanted pizza/are we sure/it’s right downstairs if you want some while my bf and I were similarly involved. I was very curt and responding in no/no really/NO IT’S FINE. Afterwards, she was very hurt that I had been “rude” to her, and I had to apologize to keep the peace. At least she didn’t come in!
Okay, really gross story, but this is something I deal with, oh, every damn day of my life. I live with my mother as her caretaker, and the SECOND I settle in for some private time, she WILL knock on the door. Now, granted, the door is always locked, but she will NOT take any hints like “I’m busy, I’ll catch up with you in a minute.” Between the fish tank, air purifier, and air conditioner, my room is basically a white noise chamber, so if she continues trying to talk through the door I really have no choice but to get up to hear her, and it’s never anything important. And it doesn’t matter if it’s 3am, she has some kind of really sick magical power that ensures she will always be needing something at that exact moment. Really, it’s just as profoundly irritating when all I’m trying to do is sleep. I put a white board up that has answers to whatever the question of the day seems to be (yes, we sent eldest son an Xmas present) and she’ll STILL knock to ask that same question. I feel like I’m a teenager, and that’s not a good feeling at 33.
Perhaps you could take a cue from the stereotype of “bra/tie hanging on the door handle means do not disturb” and instigate a do no disturb signal.
Or/also suggest to them, that if they see your door is closed but they just found your long lost twin at the mall and they’re about to leave for Mars, they can text your cell. This is a less intrusive communication, and you can choose to ignore it and they should respect that.
I also TOTALLY love the schedule idea. It can help show that you have other things in your life like an early class or reading to do or needing of boyfriend only time, and that may help the housemates get the message.
My roommate and I do this. He’ll be in his room with the door shut, and I’m feeling BBQ for dinner or whatever, and I’ll text him to ask if he’s interested.
Yes! My housemate and I are both the “outgoing introvert” types. And we IM way, way more than is reasonable for two people who live ten feet away from each other.
We have a close friendship and socialise together often, but we can go a week+ sometimes without really ever talking in person.
“The difference between “What?” and “Come in” became immediately apparent as well.”
Ahh, this one. I’m currently training my housemate on how to respond to a knock on the door. He tends to use “Yes?” to mean both “Come in” and “I am here and have heard your knock.” which resulted on me very nearly walking in to see more of him and his ex than I ever wanted to see. He’s learning, oh so very slowly, that “Come in” means come in, and that I will stand there in silence outside of his door until he says that.
I know usually it’s the wacky barging-in roommate who has to learn this, but he’s kind of a special manchildish case.
I lived with a roommate who was awesome and I loved that she got me to be more social and introduced me to all her cool friends. But also I was occasionally very much like ‘OMG go away’.
I would use the excuse ‘I have work to do’ as an excuse to retreat into my bedroom. Or a quick ‘Sorry, I’ve got homework.’ Then close the door & don a pair of headphones (even if you don’t technically listen to anything).
It creates real physical boundaries that will help people understand the ‘don’t bother me’ cues.
Also I second the ‘find a sanctuary’ suggestion. I managed to move my ‘quiet time’ to a couple hours of library/coffee shop time before I went home after work rather than expecting to get it at home.
Sometimes (even though I know it is terrible for the environment) I would drive around for 30 minutes or so & try to find a new/different path to get from Work to Home and listen to a book on tape, or like a really good CD.
Bravo! Excellent advice from the Captain, as always.
I’m in a similar living situation – sometimes as many as seven roomies. And while I can deal with most of the stuff that goes along with that (it helps that the roomies are respectful and generally good at boundaries), sometimes I just need to retreat into my own space. Oddly enough, having lots of roommates can be easier in some cases than just one or two. It means that I never have to feel guilty that someone is sitting in the kitchen alone when they want company; if I’m not in a hangout mood, they can always find someone else. Also, when I want to run a one-shot World of Darkness game I can usually rustle up enough players on the fly. 🙂
This is really fantastic advice. If it’s hard for you to jump straight into a “No thanks” cold turkey–which as a consummate people-pleaser-never-rocking-the-boat type I struggle with a lot–I find people respond reasonably to “I’d love to hang out, but I’m really drained and just not up to company tonight,” or “Thanks guys, but I’m feeling tired and need to recharge a bit/read a book.”
It’s not even a lie. You ARE drained/tired–of social interaction. The only problematic thing is that in principle you shouldn’t need to give a reason at all, and by acting like you need to, you reinforce that norm. So a lot of people may disagree with this method, and they’re probably right…but for me, they were the baby steps I needed to realize that I wouldn’t be shunned forever just for opting out for awhile. If the first few times the rocking-the-boat words just won’t come out of your mouth, lines like these *feel* like you’re smoothing things over, yet you’re giving a truthful and unarguable statement as to how tonight is not good for you, so no. At least, it shouldn’t be arguable–decent friends will back off on learning your battery is empty. I know as extroverts that they feed off the energy of groups, but keep making it clear that you don’t–you LOVE their company, but you are too tired for it. (with a silent added: Tired of having company!)
Also, if All The Social is happening in the living room, rather than offsite somewhere, participation might be a little less of an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s entirely okay to make an appearance for twenty minutes, say hi to the visiting friend, then head back to your own quiet room for the remainder of the evening. This is harder to accomplish when it’s some sort of Night Out, alas, although my own tried and true coping methods involve a discreet corner or edge seat (whichever means people won’t be constantly climbing over you) and a good book.
“The only problematic thing is that in principle you shouldn’t need to give a reason at all, and by acting like you need to, you reinforce that norm…”
I actually don’t think that’s problematic at all. I mean, if these were boundary-pushing coworkers or invasive neighbors or even flatmates you didn’t like, then sure, just set the boundary with no explanation. And you don’t have to have an iron-clad rationale (or any rationale) to have a boundary and have those boundaries respected (and to hell with anyone who acts otherwise!).
But… these are friends! People who love and care about us! So when setting boundaries, sharing information about why we have those boundaries and why they’re important to us can give context, help preserve the relationship (i.e. I have this boundary because I’m me, not because I dislike you), deepen knowledge of one another, and set people up for success in the future. Obviously, if you do this and people don’t respond to it, become a No Thanks! broken record and aggressively police those boundaries. But it sounds like this is a situation where everyone cares about each other, but is just having a communication/understanding fail, not a situation where anyone is willfully stomping all over someone else’s boundaries.
What bothers me about all this is that the one person that should be your support system here, really doesn’t sound like he is. Your boyfriend doesn’t have to understand why you’re different from the crowd, but he should be supporting your desire to be.
You need to be more blunt with him that you expect this support from him. When friends barge into the bedroom, HE should say, “Hey guys, Emily needs some quiet time so let’s move this party out to the living room”. When people make a stink about you sitting a get-together out HE should defend you with, “Yea, Emily sure likes her me-time and that’s one of the things I respect about her” (Implying that they need to respect that, too).
Huge sympathies, LW. I’m an introvert too, and your situation sounds incredibly stressful. I think the advice is great — you need to start politely saying “No thanks” and get used to repeating yourself (or just closing the door) when people respond with “Nooooo you have to come!”
Unfortunately, some people react very badly to “Sorry I need alone time.” I’ve had relationships fall apart over it. Some people just cannot accept “I won’t hang out with you even though I don’t have anything else to do.” When they can’t fathom needing alone time, they take this as an affront. So it’s possible that taking this approach will result in some drama about how you’ve started to shun them. I’m still not good at handling these situations — I end up lying a lot, pretending I have work or plans — but I try to remember that they’re the ones being rude by trying to pressure me despite what I’ve said.
One of my friends handles this by constantly reminding everyone that he is an introvert — he will post updates on social media like, “Super long week — it’s introvert coma time. See you all next week!” If you invite him out and he’s not up for it, he will respond “Thanks, but I need introvert time.” Since he’s open and unapologetic about his needs, people remember that he needs more alone time than other people. They also know that begging him to come out never works. When he says, “Sorry, I’m exhausted and just need alone time,” he means it. So it might help to make it known that you’re an introvert, and you need more alone time than most people (although I wouldn’t talk about having social anxiety, since I suspect they will view this as an opportunity to heroically make you feel more comfortable in social settings by forcing you to endure them constantly).
some other options if blatantly saying you need introvert time isn’t your thing. My friends and I often say we don’t feel up to it, are too tired or need to get some stuff done around the house. Sometimes you actually do need to do the laundry but sometimes this ends up being 15 min of straightening up + 5 hrs of internet time. I guess the housework code works less well with roommates but probably saying you have work or a book/sports game/movie you want to finish would be an equivalent. My friends and I tend to couple this with a plan for the next hangout so that the person being turned down or rescheduled has the next schedule to look forward to and won’t be too disappointed or take it personally. I have social anxiety too and used to freak out about this stuff but now I find I can turn someone down ok without making up a big excuse, and I also feel less irritated when someone else cancels on me. I also nag less when someone says they can’t hang out when I know they’re free.
“Unfortunately, some people react very badly to “Sorry I need alone time.” I’ve had relationships fall apart over it. Some people just cannot accept “I won’t hang out with you even though I don’t have anything else to do.” When they can’t fathom needing alone time, they take this as an affront.”
This is so true. When I was married, my husband understood intellectually that I was an introvert and needed alone time, but emotionally he still felt rejected when I would go into another room to read while he watched TV, or when I looked too happy about him going out for the evening. (To be fair, it wasn’t always easy for him to be the one who had to explain to people that I didn’t hate them because I wanted to stay home, or to run interference with his huge family who expected everyone to come to their huge family gatherings every weekend.) It makes me super skittish about ever getting married or having a live-in relationship again, because I don’t want to cause anyone pain, but at the same time I know I’m not going to change.
Yes, exactly. I had an ex who reacted the same way — she felt rejected every time I wanted to be alone instead of with her. It was an excruciating situation, because I would say “I’m exhausted, and I just need to be alone this evening, can we hang out tomorrow?” (we didn’t live together) and she would spend the evening crying and texting me about how I didn’t love her enough.
I’m just not compatible with someone who is extroverted unless they are pretty independent and willing to compromise. The good thing is that there are other introverts out there — my current girlfriend is introverted like me, and we are awesome about giving each other space sometimes, and then really enjoying our time together because we’re both recharged and excited about it.
I’m glad you noted the “extroverted but independent” possibility. Opening up a relationship when one person has a much higher sex drive can be hard; when one person has a much higher socialising drive it should be pretty easy since friendship is non-monogamous.
This is one reason I haven’t dated in YEARS. I joke about what I’d be like with my friends like, “We hung out last week! You’re so clingy!” A couple of them are the same too, and my extroverted friends know that they aren’t going to see me in the wild very often but since I met almost all the people I know in this city on Twitter we’re pretty good at using it to keep up.
That is actually almost me… I generally think two nights a week is a generous and healthy amount of boyfriend time (and we have been together two years at this point). I also have a lover who I see about once a month, which drops off sharply if either of us is swamped, and I won’t hesitate to cancel with him if I’m in desperate need of alone time.
A friend of mine told me once about an ex who, post-breakup, accused him of “not wanting to be a full-time friend” because he took a few days to respond to an email (at a time when he was at risk of losing his job and was trying to move to a new home, on top of a busy social calendar with people who hadn’t dumped him). I appreciate that I’m wired differently than a lot of people, but the phrase “full-time friend” made me break out in a cold sweat. It’s like, do you really want to even indirectly compare a friendship to a contractual obligation?
Seconding what the captain said. It is really, really, really normal for roommates to have some kind of system set up for “having alone time, guys”: headphones, closed doors, opening the door to answer but standing in the doorway so they can’t get in while you talk. And excuses like “hey, guys, super tired tonight and I gotta be at my best tomorrow.” “just don’t feel like it but I’m looking forward to Friday’s dance!” or “gotta catch up on my Netflix, sorry!” should all be accepted. (Everywhere that I’ve lived, it’s been super normal.)
And after a while, they’ll start to pick up on the rhythm of your preferred social schedule and start working around it. Seriously! You can “train” them to your preferred level of socializing, so they’ll start to know that after 2 days, they shouldn’t be worried, but after 2 weeks, maybe they should come and start inviting you and mention y’all haven’t hung out in a while.
A note: Extroverts can have social anxiety and most generally need some alone time at some point, (depending on the level of extroversion.) It’s not Swahili (or it shouldn’t be) to tell an extrovert you have social anxiety/need recharge time. You just need to make it clear you like to socialize less than they do.
Correct. Social anxiety = diagnosis. Introversion = PREFERENCE.
Well, yes and no… it’s certainly a preference in the sense that it’s something a person prefers, but “preference” tends to imply choice, which obscures the degree that it’s a matter of biological differences that one can’t necessarily do much about. The Wikipedia info on the biology of introversion and extraversion is kind of fascinating. (Actually, the whole entry on extraversion and introversion is interesting — I learned several new things, and I have a Ph.D. in personality psychology.)
Bless you you spelled extravert correctly!
Thank you for this comment! I’m an extrovert with an introvert best friend and part of why our friendship works is because she knows she can ask for alone time when she needs it, and I know it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me. (And because she knows that when I say “Want to hang out or do you need introvert time?” it’s not a test and she really can say no.) And yeah, she has articulated really clearly where her social saturation point is, so I have a good sense of when to back off.
That’s the sort of thing that requires a lot of trust, so if the LW’s friends are newer or more casual I can see it being harder to negotiate. But they’re also not mind-readers. I don’t know how much the LW has tried to explain their introversion to their friends, but there seems to be this general agreement that extroverts are pushy jerks who need to be trained like dogs in order to make them go away. You could just explain it to them in good faith. (And then, yeah, enforce the boundaries the Captain articulated above.)
I think most extroverts have nothing but kind intentions – they’re worried that their introverted friends are sad when they’re alone (because they, as extroverts, would be sad if *they* were alone) and feel like to be good friends, they need to “draw them out” and overcome their objections. I have a friend who has known me for 20+ years and knows exactly what I’m like, and she still can’t help asking “Are you sure? I don’t want you to miss out…” when I turn down an invitation. She only asks once, though, and that respect for my wishes is why our friendship has endured.
My old roommate was the introverted one while I was the social extroverted “I will be out with people 6 nights a week if I can afford it” type. Sometimes she came out with my friends and I, sometimes she didn’t. Her method for communicating “I still like you friends and am glad to be included but seriously need my alone time!” was to come out for ten, twenty minutes, hang out a little, chat, and then declare she needed to get back to studying/bed/absolutely needed to find out what happened in her book and hole back up in her room. Admittedly, we never said “NO YOUR BOOK WILL WAIT PLAY WITH US” so YMMV but down the road when boundaries are in place this may be worth adding to the arsenal/using on days you designated for “play days” that you really don’t feel up to it.
Have you actually used the words “introvert” or “social anxiety” with them? Because people definitely have an idea what those words mean, they’ve been a popular subject of discussion on the internet for a while, and they will probably get it. In fact, despite their social behavior, it’s entirely possible some of these people may have similar feelings themselves – I’m an extrovert with social anxiety, and my husband is one of the most outgoing, easily-socializing people you will ever meet and is a strongly identified introvert. Even very strong extroverts know, at least intellectually, that the need for alone time exists – what won’t be clear to them is when and how much of it you need and how they should know when you need it, until you tell them.
I’m also an extrovert with social anxiety disorder, and my partner is a super friendly, outgoing introvert. Neat coincidence! I wish people wouldn’t equate social anxiety and introversion so much; they’re really not the same thing.
I personally don’t like saying I’m an introvert. Even though it’s technically true, it doesn’t really tell people what they need to know. Especially since a lot of people think introversion means shyness or having no friends or being socially awkward. So they’re confused when a not-shy, socially graceful woman with plenty of friends says she’s an introvert.
I find it’s more useful to say things like “I need to recharge after being social,” or “I find solitude relaxing.” Then if I don’t want to interact with people I just say I need some time to unwind and relax.
thank you that Baytree, I’m going to use it. I’ve had people argue with me when I tell them I am an introvert because to many that translates as socially awkward, quiet, shy and I am none of those things. When I am with people I am in the moment and enjoying it and gregarious, when I am drained I just want to go home.
I find “gregarious introvert” to be a useful descriptor for that pair of traits.
Yes! I was just thinking that the labels “introvert” and “extrovert” aren’t really useful for me. I need a lot of alone time, but if you stick me in a social situation I can be very bubbly and EXTREMELY talkative. And I do need time with friends! But most people I know only register the chatty cheerful side of me — they don’t ever see how hard I crash when I finally get to be alone. (ALL THE SLEEPIES. ALL THE INTERNETS. ALL THE ROMANCE FLUFFSTERS.)
This is too true– a lot of people don’t subscribe to the “introvert = needs alone time to recharge; extrovert = needs people time to recharge” definition and assume that introversion is being a quiet nerd without any friends and extroversion is being the bubbly/loud popular kid. One of my sisters took an introvert/extrovert test as part of a class and came home furious– she said “I’m NOT an /introvert/!” like the word was a slur.
My work involves living with six to ten other people for months at a time, so in order to survive, we have a lot of unspoken rules. One of the biggest is don’t go into other people’s rooms unless expressly invited to hang out in there. You and your boyfriend need to start reestablishing your bedroom as a private space instead of a hang out space perhaps by suggesting everyone go down to the living room or whatever as soon as they show up. This gives you somewhere to retreat to.
Also, as Loren stated, headphones are a good defense. You can be physically present while taking a mental break.
“You and your boyfriend need to start reestablishing your bedroom as a private space instead of a hang out space perhaps by suggesting everyone go down to the living room or whatever as soon as they show up. This gives you somewhere to retreat to.”
Yes! Move the party even when you want to be part of the party so you have somewhere to go when you’re done.
Yeah, when I lived with four roommates we had a door code: open meant we were up for talking/hanging out/dropping in, closed meant studying/masturbating/etc.
If it feels weird going “Hello roommates, let’s institute a door code!” I bet it wouldn’t be hard to “train” your roomies to respect that after a few weeks of door open (or cracked) = socialising, door closed = staying in.
I had 3 friends who lived together, all with different needs with regards to alone time/socializing. What worked for them was making posters for each of the doors with various sentences, things like “Taking a nap” “Bored, please bother me!” “I’m here if it’s important but won’t be up for extended hangouts.” I think they printed it off somewhere online and then added their own as necessary.
I also think it’d be OK to just lightly mention “I’ve been needing a lot of alone time lately, so don’t take it personally if I hide in my room!” at times. Saying ‘lately’ actually means ‘since always’ but I think that might make it less awkward, as it’s less like you’re telling them “you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.” Also agree with the posters who say make it more about being introverted/needing alone time rather than social anxiety in this case, as that says to your roommates “and I’m happy this way!” not “convince me otherwise.”
Seconding the Topper’s note, above: I’m a introvert who needs a lot of alone time who also frequently plays event organizer and rabblerouser to various peer groups. When I was younger, I unfortunately had moments of pressuring others to be social AND quietly wishing everyone would go away but not saying anything until I snapped and said something mean. Avoiding both of those situations wasn’t so much learning Swahili as it was acquiring a better set of Empathy and Communication tools.
Anyway, LW, I’ve been reading a lot of 19th century fiction lately and have more than once been amazed that it seemed totally normal for groups of men or women to visit each other and not really talk that much. Particularly the ladies’ house calls: ladies could go visit each other and work on their needlepoint or whatever without feeling the need to banter wittily without break or to keep everyone in the circle engaged in conversation. I think we’ve forgotten what that looks like, generally. The Captain gives you a lot of good examples, and here are a few from my current peer group:
“I can’t deal” is a legit excuse to not attend a social gathering.
If present, no one *has* to drink/dance/play the game/whatever everyone else is doing. Some folks bring books to parties and go off to read them in a quiet room if they need a break.
I sometimes send socially anxious friends a reminder text that (a) we have an event, (b) they would be welcome (c) if they can make it, but no begging.
In return, the more introverted and socially anxious among us may: indicate whether they appreciate the invite and if they would like to be invited again; plan an event themselves, with control over when and what and who; take responsibility for removing themselves from the crowd or activity as needed.
It works well enough. We still all like each other. But it is a two-way communication; despite my own tendencies, it took some time for me to fully accept that if people don’t show, or if they don’t fully participate, it does not necessarily mean that they think me and my activities are stupid.
The I appreciate the invite thing can be really good. I skip a lot of parties due to introversion, and if I miss too many in a row, I often send a can’t make it again, pls invite me again next time note. People sometimes kind of think it’s funny, but I figure it probably clears up any uncertainty.
My best friend often tells me I am her only friend that she can hang out with who doesn’t get upset if there isn’t constant, never-ending conversation. We both enjoy sitting in the same room playing on our ipads and only making occasional comments.
I love this sort of hanging out! I find it works best when it’s two people who know each other super well, or when it’s more than a couple of people. Some people get really really upset about the idea of someone reading or (especially) using an electronic device instead of talking to people, but this is actually super excellent for me at times.
It can definitely be excellent!
My fiancé and I will often do that; we’ll be at our computers together, but doing different things and occasionally commenting.
When I was a kid, I had a neighbor I played a lot with. Sometimes we’d read the same book together. We each had our own copy, but would read it at the same time, and occasionally comment to each other (though I read faster than him so I had to make sure not to give any spoilers). I always thought that was nice.
Yesss my ex thought it was rude to spend time reading or anything when there was someone else there who needed entertainment EVEN THOUGH WE LIVED TOGETHER. And I spend a LOT of time reading, back then just for leisure, now for leisure and school.
My best friend in college, and still a good friend 20 years later and I were both introverts (who nonetheless enjoyed hanging out). And we LOVED food and new restaurants. And we would bring books and read together while we ate.
This is seriously solid advice. I’m in college in a house of 18 people, and everyone is super close and friendly but we definitely do a lot of work as a community around these kinds of boundaries. It’s hard, but it’s seriously worth it!
This part struck me: “I feel bad saying no to hanging out because a lot of the time it’ll be like, “[Person] from our mutual friendgroup is here! We haven’t seen them in a month!” and then the next night it’s ANOTHER person in the friendgroup that we haven’t hung out with in a month. How am I supposed to say no? Or it’s “LW, you haven’t hung out in forever, hang out with us!” And our friendgroup is massive. So there’s almost always SOMEBODY we haven’t see in a while”
It sounds to me like part of what’s going on is that you don’t want to slight all those OTHER people that your roommates Simply Must See. If these are people that you really do want to hang out with, would it maybe work to meet with them one-on-one for coffee or a movie or a drink or whatever, rather than as part of this massive friend group? This would have the added bonus of giving you more control over how you spend your emotional energy, and have only one person to deal with when you’re ready to call it a night.
Which is not to say that alone time isn’t important or necessary. This would just be a way of having more options when you DO feel like going out–options that aren’t necessarily as high-energy or in a big group as it sounds like most of your outings are.
As always, great advice by the Captain and all of the other commenters. I just wanted to add one more point: if your friends are extra resistant to understanding that a closed door means approach-with-caution, then you should feel free to begin locking the door to your bedroom.
Obviously some people in group homes have “bedrooms” which are really dens and don’t have doors (or don’t have locks), but if you have one it’s okay to use it!
Would explaining the ‘spoons’ allegory work? Or just say you need down time. If you can, do the ‘put in an appearance’ thing, as someone above mentioned.
And definitely get your boyfriend on board.
I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of the spoons allegory – it was specifically designed for people with disabilities who legitimately cannot do things after a certain point.
The OP here can be this social – she doesn’t want to or like to and it doesn’t make her happy, which are all great reasons to not be that social – but introversion isn’t a disability. It’s a perfectly valid preference. (Maybe it fits for her social anxiety, but that would be for the OP to determine.)
I really like the spoons allegory but I feel it’s for situations where it’s “I can only do 5 things per day” not situations where it’s “I would prefer not to do more than 5 things per day but can if I have to or choose to.”
I actually think it’s a perfectly fine allegory to use. I’ve used it with the approach that it’s similar to the spoons allegory the difference is when I don’t get my social down time I have a hard time controlling my rage, say mean and viscous things and am in general not a nice person. It’s not any heathier for me to expend more social energy then I have freely available than it is for a disabled person to expend the physical energy to do one more thing.
The Captain’s advise is excellent, and I thought I’d add a little bit to address the difficulties of saying no in the moment, I tend to limit myself to just saying no. I have friends who can be a little insistent, and our conversations tend to go something like this:
F: So, do you want to do this immediate thing?
Me: (checks energy reservoir) No.
F: Are you sure, it’ll be fun?
Me: I’m sure.
Me: Because I choose not to.
It takes three or four rounds sometimes, which is frustrating; but, by keeping the answers simple and non-explanatory it’s harder to be talked out of the choice I made.
I mean, in the original essay (and many of the discourses I’ve read around it), it’s used to explain that people with disabilities *can’t* do things after a certain point. Like: If I go out to dinner tonight, I won’t be able to do laundry tomorrow. Not: I’ll be grumpy and unhappy but still physically/mentally able to do it.
For example: I have shin splits and high impact activities are generally unpleasant for me – they cause mild pain but don’t prevent me from doing any of my normal daily routine, no matter how much I aggravate them. I would rather not be in pain, so I generally opt of high impact activities, but if I had to, I could do it and then do whatever else I had to or wanted to that day, albeit unhappily.
But at one point I had stress fractures and there was a limit to what I could do in terms of walking/running/ect.. and once I hit that limit I was in too much pain to move for a couple hours and unable to do as much the next few days – at the expense of going about my daily life. (This is a really small, mild example, but it’s the only time in my life I’ve experienced hitting a solid limit way before most people do.)
I think either “I literally cannot” or “I don’t want to/will be unhappy if I have to” are great reasons for not doing things, but there is a difference between the two and that’s partially what the spoon theory is, in my understanding, trying to illustrate.
(Also, I gave a physical example, but I do understand that people can have mental or emotional disorders that fit just as well.)
Hi, see my moderator note below. Thank you.
I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of the spoons allegory – it was specifically designed for people with disabilities who legitimately cannot do things after a certain point.
Er…and the people whose mental or emotional energy just runs out don’t count as “legitimately” unable to do things? Speaking as an introvert with a busy social calendar and an interaction-based job, I have no social anxiety but I do have a breaking point beyond which I simply become stressed, miserable and crabby. It’s not physical pain or exhaustion, but it is misery all the same.
I see where you’re going with this and I understand where you’re coming from: the spoons analogy was created to help people understand that having a disability isn’t the same as being tired or sad or a little achy, and that things other people take for granted “cost” much more for PWD. People who try to equate “I’d rather lie on the couch and watch Netflix” with chronic fatigue syndrome kinda get my goat too. However, maybe the LW could use a different-but-similar analogy? Something about a battery on a laptop or a phone, and how alone-time is her charger?
Hi, please see moderator note re: “Spoons allegory.” Thank you.
MODERATOR NOTE: Hi Topper’s Books, and other fine commenters, this exact discussion about the “spoons” allegory comes up literally every time we discuss introversion on this blog.
Please do not ask people to justify or otherwise police people’s use of the allegory. You don’t know what stuff people have going on, and they are not obligated to disclose all their “stuff” or prove they are “disabled enough” when making blog comments or writing blog letters, i.e., we are not having this “debate” here again. Ever. I would 1,000 times rather have someone use it injudiciously than make someone who has covalent conditions have to out themselves or feel attacked. Stop this line of discussion, please.
Sorry about that! I don’t always follow the comments and thus haven’t seen that particular discussion here before.
No worries, you didn’t know.
Captain, I love your space and how you defend it. Thank you.
I sometimes will talk about “executive function” because I’m a nerd. But that’s basically the part of your brain that deals with all the hard stuff, like making decisions, and planning things, and breaking habits. I do a lot of decision making and stuff at work, so I’ll just tell my partner that I’m out of executive function and that he needs to be decisive about dinner.
But really, energy should work to. “I’m tired.” Especially if you have to be social all day at work/school that should be enough of an explanation.
I love this! I know exactly what you mean. As someone whose job requires a lot of interaction and constant questions, sometimes I’m just done by the end of a day and cannot handle being asked about other things. We’ve sort of instituted a “if it’s important but can wait, aim for the morning” policy for discussions/ decision-making/ “Hey so and so is having a party do we want to go?”, since we’re both early-risers and are much more functional after a sleep. Because when my executive function is gone, I will be snappy and will not answer in full.
I typically explain it in terms of terms of gas in a car. “Sorry guys, I’m running low on gas” tends to be an easy explanation, and I can adapt it as needed when it’s “I’m socially tired and need introvert time” or “I’m physically exhausted after this day”. Also, “feed me NOW”, because if I get super-hungry, I am a cranky so-and-so.
“Hangry” is so a thing around my office. We get busy and forget to eat and then we are all snipping at eachother. I have also taken this home with me. It took me a while to figure out that I had to eat something before I went to work out otherwise I was SO ANGRY by the time I got home.
Hangry is my absolute favourite neologism in the world. It’s just so perfect on so many levels.
I’m also a fan of ‘self-regulation,’ the ability to make yourself do something you wouldn’t otherwise choose. It’s a limited quantity, which explains why people who are stressed often lose the ability to control their temper, to follow a specific eating or exercise schedule, or what have you. Personally, this often manifests in me eating a large amount of junk food while studying.
In my group it’s just, “Sorry, out of social for this week.”
Not to clutter up the comment with profanity, but my husband and I use the f-word as our mental energy points.
“I need to go read for a while and recharge some f***s”
“Nope, not going out, I am out of f***s. I have no more f***s to give.”
“Today seems like a good day to do something, I have lots of f***s to give!”
“That took way more f***s out of me than it should have.”
It’s kind of lighthearted, but it also gets across the idea that “No, no I do not have the mental energy to deal with this and if I try I am going to end up setting off an anxiety spiral at worst, or at best the Fun Thing is not going to be Fun anymore.”
I have been known to do this as well, though more of a general statement and not as necessarily a code or indicator… although I suppose saying “I am all out of f**ks” is pretty indicative of a bad mood.
I love this. I love how defined it is. Trying to figure out what the door-cracked-open means has been creating awkwardness in certain situations for me for years. I didn’t even realize there was a code! Next time I’ll just ask.
Whoops, I meant this as a reply to the very first comment. Sorry about that!
Asking is definitely a good call, I think!
For example, a few years back, I had to explain to my housemates that for me, door cracked open means essentially closed, because we have cats and I want them to be able to get in and out of my room. The only time my door is actually closed is if I’m changing, usually, or possibly if I’m really in HIDE FROM ALL HUMANS mode. In my case, cracked-essentially-closed means “feel free to knock, but please don’t just walk in.” Others’ mileage may vary. (Or they may not even realize that you’re expecting a code from it, and go “Oh! Yeah, if I did that consistently, that’d be useful, huh?”)
“trying to explain social anxiety to an extrovert is a lot like trying to teach a cat how to use chopsticks”
I am an extrovert with social anxiety disorder so severe that I dropped out of school multiple times before I got on medication. Mental disorders don’t discriminate! Extroversion and social anxiety aren’t mutually exclusive.
That said, the advice here is EXACTLY the same sort of strategy that I’ve learned to use with people, since my social anxiety does make it so that sometimes hanging out spends more energy than it regenerates (I cannot even express how weird and contradictory being an extrovert with social anxiety is sometimes–just trust me on this one). And it really does work; you just have to stick to it and assert yourself. Sometimes highly extroverted people assume that introverted people are just shy and need convincing before they feel comfortable being around people, and while that is sometimes true, that can lead to unfortunate habits on the extroverted person’s end. Making it clear that you do NOT need convincing by repeating a firm “no” clears up this problem.
I’ve lived communally for 10 years and while I love it, I’ve learned that it almost always goes better if I share aloud and upfront this beautiful tidbit of wisdom a roommate once shared with me:
“Sometimes I come into the kitchen because I want to join the wonderful conversation you’re all having at the table, but other times I come in here because I’m hungry.”
Have you heard the social justice workshop guideline “Step up, Step back.” The idea is that people should reflect on their own inclinations and power in the space, and if they’re someone who tends to be loud, to have tons to say all the time, or who wields a lot of privilege that affords them the floor, they should try to step back– listen more. But if you’re someone who tends to be quiet, to avoid joining in conversations, or whose identity tends to be silenced or marginalized, it’s also your responsibility to Step Up when you feel safe and able to do so.
In a communal home packed with people, we have to be able to allow each other space that we don’t really have by creating imaginary privacy bubbles. This means when we’re feeling loud and sociable, step back and listen first: be attentive to people’s body language (are they looking at the conversants or just focusing on the cereal at hand?) and ask consent (“do you want to hear a story?” “can i ask you a question?”) before launching into a hangout sesh. Learn to be cool with the no, it makes the yes’s sweeter and your story audiences more attentive.
Equally important is for us who are seeking quiet to step up and make that space. Learn to say things like the Captain suggested– being able to explain when you’re not in the mood means you get to regulate how you do interact with people, making those interactions much more pleasant for everybody. I view it as protecting other people from grumpy me when I clearly state that “I’m just cooking dinner right now, not here to hang.”
LW, I super feel you on this, but I think the key question for me is: have you actually articulated your needs to your BF and housemates?
I know that is not an easy thing to do. As an introvert, it actually took me a long time to learn what my needs *are*, and that alone time is what keeps me happy and healthy. Taking a few nights a week totally to myself is what gives me the ability to spend those other evenings hanging out with people without having a panicked “omg can I go home yet??? where are the exits and how do I sneak out of them??” reaction – and not having that reaction means I have approximately 378% more fun when I do go out with people. Learning to realize that has been a huge step, and I would not be surprised if it’s true for you, too. If you have the down time you need to recharge, you will enjoy your up time more.
But the key here is stating this to the people who are enthusiastically trying to socialize with you. If you haven’t yet, please do say to them, “Hey, just so you all know, I’m pretty introverted and I’ve been running low on alone time lately, so I’m gonna start taking some time in my room just by myself.” Because if you haven’t said that, they might actually *not know* that’s what you need. You can’t expect them to magically be aware, especially not if the culture of the house is very social, and if they are your friends, presumably they are not trying to suck your energy on purpose.
I know if you have social anxiety the idea of stating your needs can be really intimidating, but if these people are your friends and you trust them, it’s okay to tell them what’s up. I think extroverts are more likely to get it than they’re often given credit for, but even if the concept is super foreign to them, they should still be okay with it *because they like and respect you*. Telling them what’s up plainly is probably going to help everyone out, because that way when you enforce those boundaries by saying, “Sorry, not up to hang out tonight,” they’ll have a better idea that it’s because you need you-time, and not a judgment on them or you not liking them anymore/being in a bad mood/something being wrong/etc. It may be hard in the moment, but it’ll make things easier in the long run.
I kinda suspect there’s a strong dose of “this is how they’ve always done things” and “I’m the new kid on the block and need to fit in” going on here as well. I know that feel! I’ve found it’s hard to move into an established dynamic and take up the space in it that’s your due, especially if you’re not a space-taker-upper (at least in my experience).
So, a friendly reminder that you’re just as much a part of the household as anyone else there. People don’t always like change, but I’m betting they’ll (eventually) be grateful you’ve taught them how to live in harmony with people who have different approaches to being social. As someone who straddles the line between introvert and extrovert herself, with SOs decidedly on either side of that line (including one with social anxiety), that is amazingly useful. Also, it might seem easier not to rock the boat, but you’re sacrificing your mental well-being, and that’s an account you can be overdrawn on for only so long (which I think you’re starting to bump into, so yay for seeking out help before it gets really bad!).
You do have a point there. They’ve all been living together here for over a year and I’ve only moved in a couple months ago.
And then there’s the “But you’re fiiiiine just hanging out with me for hours on end! You always have so much fun when you go!” 1) Yes, because you alone don’t ping my “PEOPLE” alarm, and because I can read quietly or whatever without feeling any sort of pressure to be “on”. 2) Yes, it is fun, but it is also exhausting, and I seriously need to recharge; if not allowed to recharge, I risk getting snappy with people I really like as my coping skills fray.
Having a series of customer-facing service jobs tested my limits. It’s the same mental muscles that I used when I was acting. I can maintain the effort for quite some time. If I do not get a chance to rest after I’ve been doing it, I will get snappy, cry, and generally feel quite unpleasant until I’ve had the downtime I need. When I have enough regular downtime, it is a preference. However, it is a requirement that I get the downtime, and the effects for me of not getting it are not unlike sleep deprivation. I can choose to do 6 things when I only really have the social energy for 5, but I will pay for it later, possibly by not having the social energy to actually cope well with a situation on the following day. It’s not a disability, in a similar way that people who require 9 hours of sleep a night where some can go with 6 aren’t disabled, but it is a limit that can’t be stretched too far.
“You always have so much fun when you go!”
I hate this one because this is how the cycle gets reinforced. If my friends guilt me into coming out when I’m drained and not feeling it, I’m still going to smile and make pleasant conversation because that’s how I treat my friends. So they never think, “Oh man, she was right, she IS too tired for this.” Instead, they are pleased with themselves and think they did me a favor by pressuring me to come, because clearly, I’m “having fun.”
This happens to me too occasionally. I eventually gave myself permission to not be “fully on” if I find myself at an event I wasn’t feeling keen on attending. I’m polite and I add to the conversation; but, I don’t push myself.
One of the other things I’ve found helpful is always answering the “are you having fun” question as honestly as possible – which for me is only very rarely an unmitigated yes. “I’m enjoying the conversation” or “I’m a little too tired for this to feel fun” are honest; but, not necessarily confirming that I’m having fun.
All very good advice above–I especially second the open/closed door policy! I’ll also add one thing for the OP as well, if/when s/he explains to the roomies that s/he’s an introvert: be prepared for them not to believe you at first. It’s been my experience that some people have An Image of what an introvert is in their head, and since you have socialized and had fun with them in the past, you must not REALLY be An Introvert.
It took a bit of explaining on my part for my people to get it, nothing major, but it startled me at first that I had a disbelieving response rather than immediate understanding. I still have to justify my “no”s sometimes, which is a bit frustrating, but it’s much better than it used to be.
Hah, when I took the MBTI I tested out strongly as INTP. My manager was convinced I was an extrovert and insisted I take the thing again 6 months later…no change. It can be incredibly frustrating to be an introvert who is good at being social.
Super frustrating indeed! For half of every year I have to meet and speak with strangers for my job. It took a while for others in similar positions in my company to understand why, after doing that for 8 hours in a day, I just wanted to kick back with The Food Network in my hotel room and get takeout. So people. Much tired. Wow.
All great advice above! Just one thought occurs to me that hasn’t been raised. Is it possible that it might be actually better to have the “meta” talk with the housemates before starting to enforce boundaries in the heat of the moment? My experience is that in many circumstances, it is easier to get people softened up for accepting a future “nope” when they are aren’t actually dealing with it. So maybe find a time when LW is actually being left alone and quiet to go chat with some of the housemates about the situation, and explain that some boundaries are going to start to be enforced?
As a charismatic (at least, I think so!) extrovert, it can be deflating when people aren’t responsive to my social energy under circumstances that I have come to expect that they will be. So if the expectation that LW is always game has been established (rightly or wrongly), it might be easier to get the desired outcome by starting with a pre-discussion, and then begin to enforce the boundaries. This way, the script if pushback against enforcing boundaries occurs can be “Remember how I was telling you the other day that sometimes it’s best for me to have alone time even though fun things are going on in the house, and even though I really like everyone? Well, this is one of those times.”
I totally agree with the ‘door’ policy above. When I lived in a house with 6-7 people, I definitely had to use this. What I told folks was door open = I’m up for conversation, say hi! and door closed = Only interrupt in cases of emergency/something very urgent (yes, even if that means I miss getting a slice of the pie you just made!). For me, it was partially needing alone time, and partially being on a weird sleep schedule, so knocking on my door at 5 pm was quite possibly waking me up from a needed nap. (People somehow feel way worse about waking people up than interrupting other things, so explaining that helped!) I like the ‘door cracked’ idea above too.
I would also talk to your boyfriend about moving social activities OUT of the bedroom. Yes, we all did this when we were in a college dorm, but it shouldn’t really be needed in a house that presumably has a kitchen and living room to hang out in. Although this is ‘shared’ space between the two of you, ultimately if one person needs it for private space, I think that should trump the other’s desire to socialize (which can, afterall, be easily relocated). For example, if you needed to take a shower/get undressed, take a nap, were dying of the flu and feeling gross in bed, or studying silently for an exam, I think everyone would agree that the socializing would need to move! Your need for private space is no less important, and your boyfriend needs to recognize that. At least for a while, I think a blanket policy of “our bedroom is a two-person zone” is a good one.
one otther thought (maybe for later, after you’ve gotten the idea that you need more breaks across): given that they keep saying ‘but it’s so-and-so who we haven’t seen in a month,’ it might be worth asking them to tell you if they know in advance that people will be visiting from out of town, or taking the one break in three months of writing a thesis or playing Lady Macbeth, so you can save up energy to see the people you really want to. even if, in a month, there are going to be 27 different drop-in visitors who you haven’t seen in a month or more, you probably like some of them better than others. with luck, your roommates will understand that you don’t want to miss Really Cool Visitor from Far Away because you’re worn out after six nights of hanging out with perfectly okay people you don’t really know. i’m guessing that some of those ‘not seen in a month’ people weren’t really planned in advance–but if you’re visiting for a week from the other side of the country, you likely tell at least some people before you get to town.
This is mostly great advice, but I wanted to point out that the science of sleep tells us that becoming an early riser is basically impossible. Whether or not we’re a late or early sleeper and how much sleep we need is pretty much hard wired (though we sleep progressively later up to about age 20 and then get earlier as we age, and we need less sleep as we age). You can force yourself to wake up earlier with an alarm, but it will make you perpetually sleep deprived because even if you go to bed earlier you can’t force yourself to sleep earlier. Likewise, early risers can force themselves to stay up late, but can’t generally sleep in. Obviously if you get exhausted enough you’ll sleep anyway, but that’s a fairly extreme case.
And on top of this, violating our natural sleep patterns this way eventually makes us sick.
My own experience backs this up – I’m a fairly late sleeper (go to bed and get up late), and I worked for a year at a job that require me to get up at 5am. I would lie in bed every night for hours before I fell asleep and in the end my health started to suffer. I gave it a very serious try – I was climbing into bed at the appropriate time, not drinking caffeine after lunch, not using bright screens, everything. I was physically incapable of becoming that much of an early riser.
A lot of early risers will say they like getting up early for the couple hours of uninterrupted peace and quiet, but it turns out they are naturally early risers anyway. So if the LW is an early riser, then great! If not, trying to change it isn’t a great idea.
Till Roenneberg’s book Internal Time is a great run down of the recent research on the subject if anyone wants to dig into it further, and he also has some interesting videos floating around YouTube of talks he’s done on it.
I find this stuff super interesting just because common wisdom ascribes all sorts of positive qualities to early risers, and also claims we can become one if we try hard and aren’t lazy. That being a late sleeper is a choice. Only, the science here says common wisdom is dead wrong.
Oh also, to clarify. I know lots of people have to work bad hours for economic reasons – I was lucky to have a chance to change to a job that suits me better. Also I have nothing but respect for emergency services people and health care professionals and police and so forth who work awful shifts saving people’s lives! I just think that getting some time to oneself is not enough of a reason to wear the sleep deprivation.
While your comment may be true in terms of general tendencies, it’s not universally true for all people. It takes me a while to shift my sleep schedule from late to early, but I can do it. Sometimes dramatically – I’ve had times when I got up at 4am every morning (voluntarily!) and other times when I always slept in till noon. I imagine there are plenty of other people who can do the same thing.
I do agree that the whole late sleeper = lazy thing is silly. Whether rising early is a choice or not, a late riser and an early riser still have the same number of hours in the day!
Count me in on the ‘somewhat flexible’ range: my problem with getting up at 5.30 in the morning is that I often don’t get to bed in time; but when I do, it works for me. Not what I’d choose, but it works.
If I could not nap on my days off and catch up on sleep, I’d struggle much more, because going to bed at or before 9pm just Won’t Happen, not when I come home from work at 6.30 and need to eat and want to unwind a little in the evening, so it’s much less a ‘getting up too early’ than a ‘not enough sleep’ for me. (8-10h when left to my own devices. If I continually get enough sleep, more towards 8).
(Temp job. Great job, but I’m a) glad it’s part-time and b) that it will end and I can go back to my freelance schedule).
I have DSPS (delayed sleep phrase syndrome), so my mental clock is basically flipped from the typical. If left to my own devices, I usually go to bed around 4am and sleep until noon. Before I was diagnosed, I struggled through middle and high school…DSPS is considered one of the hardest forms of insomnia to treat and I was basically in a constant sleep deprivation fog. Going to bed earlier simply wasn’t a choice for me. Being sleep deprived also flared my issues with sleep paralysis.
However, I WAS able to shift my sleep cycle with a combination of chronotherapy and bright light therapy. Chronotherapy requires you to stay up longer than usual, then go to bed a few hours later each night, until you eventually arrive at your desired sleep time. When you wake up, you sit in front of a bright ass light for ten or fifteen minutes. The problem is that you can’t slip up…you can’t ever take a nap or sleep in or enjoy a late night out. Any deviation from the desired schedule basically resets your body to its own clock. Since I’m not working right now, I can sleep when I wish, and that makes a huge difference in how I feel physically (and keeps my sleep paralysis controlled.)
Um, not sure what the point is (I just find this stuff fascinating too, since it’s had a big effect on my life.) But I agree that shifting your sleep schedule to gain alone time probably isn’t a workable solution for most people…the biological clock is not as easily messed with as people think.
My boys both have sensory integration issues and the eldest is especially prone to over-stimulation. While he may not be introverted the end result is that he needs a fair amount of quiet, low-stimulation time. Since he was about 5 he has started asking for “lonely time”:
“I just need some lonely time.”
“Muuuuuuuuuumm [4yo] wont leave me alone and I need lonely time!”
“Can I go sit in [room away from people] and have some lonely time?”
It is 100% OK to ask for time for yourself and it is 100% rude of other people if they choose not to respect that. Use whichever words you feel comfortable using.
I love this!
SecondKid has auditory processing problems (professionals won’t formally diagnose the “disorder” because they think she is too young/may outgrow it but it’s pretty obvious that’s what’s going on). When she was in pre-K last year, she was in an incredibly noisy room with a lot of kids and used to melt down in there a lot – we actually had an informal accommodation that if she couldn’t deal anymore she could go hide in the principal’s office until she felt like she could be around people/noise again. “Lunch by myself!” used to be a treat/reward for her.
That live lit reading sounds AWESOME! I wonder if they have any around here. What exactly is story club magazine? how did it start? 🙂
It’s become a frequent thing in Chicago. Here’s the Story Club site itself. The founder, Dana Norris, took a workshop with the same teacher as me (Brigid Murphy, of Milly’s Orchid Show and Poi Dog Pondering fame) and started it as a place to perform her work, and it’s grown into a pretty big audience thing. Chicago people, the next Story Club North Side is this coming Thursday evening.
Wow, thanks a lot for sharing that. I wish I had that somewhere around here, I’m from Northern California. 🙂
Live lit, its gonna be a thing!
All excellent advice and a good example of a common situation.
I am an extrovert but also need alone time. In my early 20s I had a café nearby where each Saturday morning I would luxuriate in 2 hours of alone-time drinking coffee and reading useless news-of-the-day.
Eventually people knew they could count on finding me here. It took a lot of figuring out how to preserve my solitude but not seem rude. I would allow entire weekends be declared “ruined” if ever this ritual was marred by interruptions or friends now wanting to join me. (You stand up. This shows then they are interrupting and they are not being in invite to join you)
LW– this arrangement is only temporary. But you’ve got a great opportunity at this early stage in your adult life to practice ways to create space for yourself while staying committed to the spirit of your community.
Maybe use some NVC pointers. In that when making a request you already have their empathy in advance. People who are empathetic to how you feel (vs thinking they are responsible for your feelings) are connected to your emotions. They are highly likely to want to fulfill your request once they empathize with your needs.
“Do you ever feel a time where you just need to be alone in your thoughts?”
“Yeah for sure. OcaaaaaaaSionalllly.”
“Right now its that time for me. I just can’t do chit-chat first thing in the morning.”
(I had a roommate who’d be waiting outside my door to pounce on me with his latest “breakthrough” on his project etc until “No chit chat mornings” were codified. But sure I was interested… Later in the day. Why I can’t volunteer at the meals on wheels except for deliveries. The kitchen is a Chatta-thon on a chatto-rama at Chatfest)
Good luck. I loved the commentator up above who mentioned showing delight when their spouse would leave in the evening. Wow. That was me. It was tough going particularly when one of my (ex) gf’s friends would flake out continually. I started to dislike her!
“Honey. Girls night out on Thursday.”
Thursday arrives…gf comes home straight from work. Friend has cancelled again…How to act happy to see her?
When I started college, I developed a routine of going to the local theater’s $5 showings on weekend mornings alone. I loved it – I’d go see a movie, then get lunch/coffee and come back feeling recharged. It retrospect, this was definitely a coping mechanism from sharing a room/dorm suite with 12 people I didn’t like.
While I didn’t have to deal with people joining in, I did get a lot of concern and confusion from my family and roommates. I’m sure my roommates thought I was a complete psychopath, and my parent’s were concerned I was wallowing in loneliness and not seeking out new friendships.
I think those long mornings alone are what gave me the energy to join clubs and gather the courage to spend all night out with people I barely knew (yay, pepband!).
No is a complete sentence.
I understand this completely, because for the longest time my housemate and I shared a bedroom – when he wanted his loud, boisterous, often cruel (disguising their rudeness as ‘just joking’) friends over, they would all gather up in there and I would either be banished to the living room where there would always be someone else and I would have no privacy, or I would have to stay in there and play music at eardrum shattering levels to try and drown out their yelled conversations. (Seriously, these guys don’t have a volume setting below ‘screeching banshees’). I have a lot of social anxiety issues myself, and even without those sometimes I just want to be left the fuck alone and have some quiet time to read, draw or just…be by myself. The fact that I didn’t like those guys certainly didn’t help, but I need time away from even people I do like.
If it makes you uncomfortable, you don’t owe them an explanation. You can just tell them no, and if they try to drag you out anyway, don’t be afraid to bare your fangs. Introverts, especially female ones, have been trained that we are abnormal and need to cater to the needs of the more confident, the loud, the ones who are the life of the party…that we need to keep them happy because if we don’t, we are breaking a societal norm and will be outcast. We have been taught to sheathe our claws, hide our fangs, lower our eyes and let ourselves be swept along in their current, regardless of how much it hurts us to be dragged across the field of broken glass that comprises the constant demands we can’t handle, and to stand there bleeding and broken with a smile painted on our faces and pretend we enjoy it while our cut arteries paint the floor with our insecurities, while they tell you how much fun you’re having and delicately ignore the bloodstains in the carpet, because you’re the one who’ll have to clean it up, not them.
Fuck. That. Noise.
I used to let myself be dragged along like that too, and in a lot of situations still do, especially when I didn’t have somewhere private to retreat to. Just having my own room with a door I can lock made a huge difference, but another thing that did? I finally got to a point where I said enough. I was pushed too far and snapped. Until that point, I didn’t even realize I had the ability to say no. I had no idea that my soft, tiny hands that were constantly made fun of or touched without my consent contained claws, or my always-closed mouth held venomous fangs. I had no idea that my eyes, always downcast and veiled with submission, could send a glare cold enough to freeze them in their tracks. It’s amazing what you’re capable of when you’re cornered, but trust me, you don’t want to get to that point. People like us may be experienced at cleaning up metaphorical bloodstains, but it’s still a pain in the ass, especially when the blood isn’t yours. Of course, you can always choose to do as I did and not smooth things over…if they’re someone you want out of your life, let the stains set and wear the shirt with the other person’s discomfort splattered on it like medals earned in fierce battle. One of my housemate’s friends won’t come anywhere near me, won’t talk to me at all after he made yet another crude comment and I finally cut him with claws I didn’t know I had, and I’m fucking glad he doesn’t. I should have taken a closer look at my hands a long time ago.
If these people are your friends, they will understand. I love the idea of the schedule, but at the same time, that could propose the problem that any of the chunks of time you have not designated ‘alone time’, yet you need alone for whatever reason, they may whine and protest or try to drag you out anyway because funtimes! You need to make it clear that your no is a complete, solid answer. You need that time for you. If they demand to know why, you can tell them if you choose, but they don’t need to know. It’s not their concern why, only that that time is yours, not theirs, and you will do with it what YOU need to. They need to see consequences for trying to force you…whether forcing you through physical dragging or wheedling whines, neither should be tolerated.
Sorry for the long post, but this is one that really gets to me. Sometimes, we just want to be left alone, and if people can’t respect that – and you – then they don’t deserve your presence anyway.
Wow. There is some real poetry in there.
This commet is beautiful
|and also “Boyfriend can you get your friends to go back downstairs I know this is your room too but I’m kinda freaking out right now”|
The advice from Captain and company is excellent. I wanted to come back to the above point – it is his room. Yes, but it is YOUR ROOM TOO. It is where you live. You don’t live anywhere else. You have a right to claim your home to be the place where you can leave the “not your home”-places in this world, and you don’t need to feel bad about this.
There are many good scripts throughout the post, but what I think is the basis for every other good step is that you are convinced that your needs are as important as everyone else’s, and – to you – they are more important!
Next step is to have your boyfriend on board. You have moved in together and he should also see your needs as a priority. Whether he understands them or not, he should trust and respect you enough that you can have a meaningful dialogue on how to set things up in such a way that you can have your needs met.
Oh, hell yes. It is your room too.
At this point in my life, it would take a major disaster to make me move into a space where I did not have a room of my own, that I can close the door to, and lock everyone including any SO out. I can invite people inside if I want, but, I usually do my socializing in the house’s common areas. Sometimes even the cats are too much company in my room.
One thing you should keep in mind, there is a good chance that “trying to teach a cat how to use chopsticks in Swahili.” might be on purpose. It’s not an extrovert thing, Captain has answered tons of questions about “I say I don’t want to do The Thing, but people ignore that and try to make me do The Thing anyway” And it could be entirely without malice, it’s super-easy to go “This has been working for everyone but new person, maybe if we just passively ignore new person’s discomfort, they’ll get used to it!” But that’s faulty logic and entitled and mean. But there are lots of people out there willing to sashay over your boundaries if there are no consequences and only benefits to doing so.
So you don’t need to buy into the idea that they’re big dumb Hollywood vikings who can’t learn new behavior because they’re extroverts. Start enforcing those boundaries, and really work to get the boyfriend on Team You and “She said no, cut out the ‘but whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?’ we’re not in kindergarten anymore, sheesh.”
I don’t see anywhere else to leave this; I loved your camp story Jennifer 🙂
Thank you! And botias, cinderkeys, and misspiggy!
Second that. Camp story was awesome.
Third that! It really deserves a wider audience.
Fourth. I hope that wider audience includes the referenced worthless camp counselors.
Holy shit this is my letter. I feel like a rock star.
I think the biggest thing I need to work on is being more assertive with the “No, this is my alone time and you guys need to go back downstairs now.” Although I feel like they would just sit outside in the hallway and caterwaul.., but then again that’s what headphones are for!
I highly doubt the door code would work; the time they kidnapped me the door was closed, and they love to walk right in (especially when my boyfriend’s in the room) without knocking. Which means we need to start locking the door more often.
I don’t want to give the impression that my boyfriend doesn’t care about my introversion/anxiety. He understands that sometimes I need my space and quiet time but he doesn’t always understand why. But he’s never pressured me to hang out when I don’t want to hang out (including a birthday bash he had last year) and has definitely stood up for me when it’s been needed. I also get the sense that he’s reluctant to kick people out of our room or say no to hanging out with them. He’s one of those people that wants everyone to be happy, a great people-pleaser is my dude. And since we have such a vast friendgroup… there’s a lot of people to be pleased. (But that’s gonna spiral off into a whole other thing, I think, and I don’t want to derail)
I guess my big problem is that I feel guilty when I don’t hang out. I hear secondhand from boyfriend that everyone (roommates and extended friendgroup) like me and want me to hang out *more* than I already do. It’s been such a long time since I’ve even HAD a friendgoup, let alone a really awesome one that ACTUALLY likes me and wants to hang out with me that I don’t even know how to behave being in a part of one and I don’t know what rude is and how much hanging out is enough hanging out or not enough and wow did that sentence run-on. Basically, I don’t even rememeber the rules of social decorum and I was never that great at them to begin with.
As for some of the other things mentioned
– The only time I ever see 5am is either because I have to go work an opening shift at work, or I haven’t gone to bed yet. Also, we all have such wildly varying schedules so there’es never one fixed day a week when it’s like “YES THE HOUSE IS MINE”
– I would probably get out of the house more (there actually is an awesome little coffee shop just down the road a bit) if it weren’t winter in Ohio. Also, sometimes being out-in-public is more stressful then being inside-in-semi-privacy.
Phew! Thank you Oh Captain, my Captain, and thanks everyone else for your comments. I still can’t believe my letter is on here :3
I think the Captain’s idea of putting interaction on a schedule might be really helpful for you. I’m very much a hard-core introvert…hanging out one day a work feels like too much for me. As a kid, I used to make deals with my friends to hang out every other day, or three days a week. There’s a bunch of benefits to that…
It meant I wasn’t saying ‘no’ all the time, so they didn’t feel rejected. Because I wasn’t always saying ‘no’, my own guilt was lessened. Scheduling it also helped my own social anxiety because I could sort of prepare myself mentally AND reassure myself that tomorrow I would have time to recharge. It removed a lot of the internal stress from social interaction because I knew for sure I would have that cushion and space I so desperately needed. Removing the stress let me be more present when we did hang out and have more fun.
Here’s how I addressed it “Hey, friend, remember how I told you I need a lot of me time? I really love hanging out with you guys, but how about we set x and x to be our days to hang out, but x and x will be days for me to recharge. And maybe on x days we’ll just take things as they come. I hate saying no to you guys, cause again I DO love having fun with all of you, so this way we’ll all know what to expect.”
Also, does your boyfriend feel he can’t hang out when you’re having downtime? Maybe you need to reassure him that he can go hang out with the rest while you hide out…not ALL the time (sometimes you’ll surely want quiet couple time too), but more than he is. His wanting to please people isn’t your responsibility…he can do that in a way that doesn’t involve you giving up your needs. He can also be more of a buffer role that way.
And yeah, lock that door. A locked door is not a rejection, so don’t think of it that way. A locked door is just a way of saying ‘we’re already busy doing stuff, catch up with you later.”
I would caution that some people “No, I’m good here” personally. Not as in “You don’t want to hang out with me” but as in “Oh there’s drama here, they’re avoiding someone, lets see if we can find it!”
What worked well for one my friends was CA’s suggestion of being busy. Make it clear that you can’t really come down because you’re doing something (invent something to be doing if you need to). This gives you an added benefit: If you feel like being social you can say ‘But I need a break.’ And then, when you’re not feeling so social anymore, you can say ‘It was great seeing you, but I really need to finish !” And then you can leave and finish thing.
This has the effect of ensuring that more sensitive people don’t go ‘Waaaahhh, LW hates me!’ and gives you more freedom to wander in and out as (or if) the mood strikes you. Everyone understands being busy, and everyone understands procrastination.
Get a doorknob hanger. Write on it in bright color: INTROVERT RECHARGING – PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB, and see what happens. Be certain to remove it when not needed, and also be sure to reward housemates the first time they follow your directions (and perhaps occasionally after that) so they know they did it right.
Hi LW! I think the best course of action is to generally follow the Captain’s advice, with a little precursor. I know some of your roomies won’t necessarily understand or react well, but I still think you should do this just to clear the air and make your intentions clear. Before you start enforcing your boundaries more strongly, I think you should explain to your friends/roomies in the house what is going on with you. Email might be an easy way to do this because you can target the whole group all at once. Tell them that you enjoy living there and being friends with all of them, and that you appreciate having such a large group of friends that likes you–because you do! Tell them that you like and enjoy them. Say nice things at the beginning of this conversation to make them feel comfortable with how you feel about them. And then follow it up with something about being an introvert and needing alone time. Tell them it has nothing to do with them, it doesn’t mean they are bad friends, it’s just about you and your needs. Alone time is important to you, but it doesn’t mean you don’t like your friends. Assure them its not personal and ask them not to get their feelings hurt when you hang out alone some nights.
I think preempting this boundary setting with a statement that it’s not personal, that you really like your roommates, and that no bad feelings are meant could help preempt some of the hurt and confusion your roommates might feel. Some might suggest that this is trying to “manage” the feelings of your roommates, but I think it is just courtesy between friends, putting things out on the table and trusting they understand, and making them feel safe and reassured during the change.
I have a good friend who, when we were first hanging out, I used to think was EXTREMELY FLAKY because he would often cancel hang outs, etc. at short notice. I wondered if he wanted to be friends with me, or what was up. After we had been friends for awhile, he told me he had Asperger’s and cancelled sometimes because he was feeling overstimulated and in need of down time. Suddenly it made much more sense and I knew it wasn’t about our friendship. Now when he cancels, I don’t feel weird about it because I know what is going on. I think it could be similar in your case–context for your roommates before you start blocking out your introvert time could help them be more understanding and save them from some potential confusion or hurt feelings.
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