Sunday, January 15, 2012

On Bowing Out Gracefully

Often I'm invited to hang out with acquaintances, and I find myself declining because I'd prefer not to be social at that moment. Although there are times when I'm more open to it (or when I force myself to be), those times are few and far between. Thus I'm regularly faced with the task of declining, which is something I haven't yet figured out how to do well.

For one thing, describing my reasons seems like an overly personal exercise. It feels like opening up more than I want to. Also, all of the potential explanations seem too lengthy. I want for a simple, concise, and friendly way to get the message across. Saying that "I'm not in the mood to hang out" seems like it would invite too many questions. It might also appear to be too harsh; I'm not a harsh person, despite how I may come across, and I don't want to come across that way.

So how is it done? How do you turn invitations down without:
  1. Being an ass, or
  2. Being too personal, or
  3. Making others more curious, or
  4. Lying outright

If it's an impossible task, then maybe I can understand why many introverts come across as cold. Of the four options above, being an ass does seem like the easiest solution.

Unfortunately, I think I tend to veer towards being too personal. It's a compulsion: I hate saying anything that I don't mean, and I certainly don't mean to hurt anyone. It's a wonder I speak at all.


Marisa said...

I found your blog recently and can relate to a lot of what you say. Personally, I find it's easiest to tell a simple, non-offensive white lie if I want to turn down a social invitation. I don't feel that saying I have another obligation, am not feeling well, or had a long and tiring day at work makes me a bad person, and it prevents me from having to say that I just don't feel like hanging out -- which in my opinion is a lot more insulting to the other party. We didn't ask to be born introverts, we're just wired this way -- and we need to do whatever is necessary to maintain our own sanity! (That being said, I think it's probably best to accept a social invitation every once in awhile to make your future white lies less likely to arouse suspicion!)

Zeri Kyd said...

Welcome, Marisa, and thanks for the input. I don't disagree with you, but I find it odd that the truth -- as you put it -- is more insulting. I know that a lot of people tend to take the truth the wrong way, but it would be nice if there was more understanding and if we could simply tell the truth. I also agree that accepting invitations is often good; and not just to avoid arousing suspicion, but because it's an experience that pushes our boundaries a little.

By the way, I like the name of your site!

Mei said...

I am sorry. I have other plans. Perhaps another time?

It is honest. You plan to be spend time with yourself or whatever else may present itself.

Zeri Kyd said...

Mei Lian, yes, in a sneaky way, I suppose that is the truth. They usually ask what those other plans are, though. :-)

A. Gonz said...

Just happen to find your blog and it's interesting. I'm an introvert and can relate to a lot of things you say especially about turning down invites to go places. I always feel like I'm being cold or antisocial but I really just prefer staying home when I can.

Zeri Kyd said...

A. Gonz, agreed; getting away is very nice, even (or especially) when it's to home. Thanks for visiting.

Cristina said...

Hi! I found your blog, as I am currently friends, boss, etc. of introverts and I'm trying to be empathetic. I completely understand everyone has varying level of introversion, but any knowledge I can gain would be helpful. I'm curious about 2 things if you could shed any light:

1) If it's a close friend's birthday, and he/she is an extrovert and wants to have a party - do you feel inclined to go, or would you just decline? I, personally, find it rude to not step outside of your comfort zone for a close friend, especially if she/she would like for you to be there.

2) If there is a professional meeting, why would an introvert feel that it is okay not to join the meeting and not even tell the team that he/she won't be attending?

I will be asking this directly to the people that I am speaking of....but trying to get as much understanding as possible.

Thanks for any advice you can provide.

Zeri Kyd said...

Hi Cristina --

About friends and parties: the question doesn't have a simple answer. Personally, I'd be inclined to attend a friend's party, and I'm sure I'd have fun. But in order not to get too worn down, I might step away for breaks. Or I might limit the number of hours that I remained at the party. A close friend would understand that, and not expect me to be a different kind of person. Though of course friends should make special efforts for each other, I think it's also important to make a friend comfortable.

Depending on the circumstances, someone else might have a different answer. An introvert whose week has already been full of social activities or family life, for example, might be starving for any possible chance for a break, and the idea of a party might be too overwhelming. This sort of thing can be a daily struggle. Being exposed to so much stimulation can feel like an onslaught, and making an introvert feel guilty for being "rude" probably won't help matters, especially if they're simply trying to preserve their sanity.

About ditching meetings without notice: I can't answer that. Was the meeting scheduled for the introvert without his knowledge? Did he accept the invitation? Meetings are clearly not going to be favored by introverts, but that's no excuse to be unprofessional. If he agreed to join a meeting and didn't show up, then he should have said something about it. On the other hand, I know it's common practice at companies to schedule meetings for other people without consulting them, and that can seem inconsiderate, as well.

Anyway, kudos for trying to be empathetic. Hopefully you succeed.