I feel personally victimized by the conceit of this article, which is to point a spotlight on the fact that introversion shouldn’t be called upon as an excuse for being straight-up rude. As someone who’d prefer the guillotine to icebreaker games, “I’m an introvert” is my timeless, grimace-inducing refrain to safeguard me from just about any group gathering that preys on my energy reserves. But though I wouldn’t call myself a social butterfly, I’m also not delusional and do totally realize that many people (me) are guilty of one of the most common introvert problems: unintentionally being disrespectful of other people and their time. But is it possible to lean into your authentic yearnings to honor your JOMO goals without offending everyone you know? Or, in simpler terms, how can I tell the different between being an introvert and being an asshole?
“When it comes to being an introvert without being rude, I agree that some people do tend to use being introverted as an excuse,” says clinical psychologist and self-identified introvert Carla Marie Manly, PhD. “In a humorous defense of introverts, extroverts tend to be rude in the same way—not showing up to a party without notice—they just use the ‘I have too much going on’ rather than the introvert card.”
Score 1, Team Introvert!
“Some people do tend to use being introverted as an excuse…. Extroverts tend to be rude in the same way—not showing up to a party without notice—they just use the ‘I have too much going on’ card.” —clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD
But still, I (and the rest of my team members) stand to benefit from establishing a set of guidelines on how to keep our friends from hating us. Here’s what to consider.
1. Come from the heart if you flake on plans
“Being genuine about where one is at—emotionally, physically, and mentally—tends to be the best route when it comes to handling the expectations and demands of being a good friend,” Dr. Manly says. “For example, if you need to bail on a movie date because you’re too exhausted, a simple, ‘I’m feeling so drained from work; could we reschedule our movie date for next week?’ might do the trick.”
What I love at this two-pronged approach is that it’s honest and takes the other person’s time into consideration. You’re not lying about why you don’t want to hang out anymore, and you’re giving the other person agency in deciding if, when, and how to reschedule. Most importantly, you extend that offer to reschedule, and following up with an intention to firm up a date says, “I care for you, I respect your time, and I do genuinely want to see you.”
And try to stick to that subsequent commitment, because etiquette rules state that after two strikes, you’re out.
2. If you need to take breaks, politely excuse yourself
Bouncing mid-conversation, dinner, or party for a break and not telling anyone where you went is among the classic introvert problems. If you need to take a break, the very least you can do is let your plus-one know so they don’t fly into a “WHERE ARE THEY?” panic attack for 20 minutes.
But if a serious Chatty Cathy corners you and all you crave is personal space? Follow the rule of thumb from guideline number one and just be honest. “When at a social event, disengaging from conversation can be done in a gentle way by saying, ‘It’s lovely to talk to you; party energy leaves me tired, so I’m just going outside for a reset,'” Dr. Manly suggests. “Leaving a party early can also be done gracefully by noting to the host or a friend, ‘It’s a wonderful party. I’ve a long day tomorrow, so I’m headed home.'”
3. In the areas you may fall short, compensate with being a good person
I make major considerations (time, distance, level of celebratory importance, level of friendship, environment, number of strangers present) before I commit to any gathering. That’s because I know where my strengths lie: I’m mediocre at best at large birthday parties, but I kill it at one-on-one celebratory dinners, with cupcake desserts and cute little gifts. And, Dr. Manly echoes my sentiment in self-awareness about gathering-type preferences.
“In my case, my friends all know that my limits for social time are different than theirs, and it’s become a non-issue,” Dr. Manly says. “When it comes to parties, they know I may stay for only 30 minutes, but if a friend wants a heart-to-heart walk in the park, I’ll be a devoted listener for as long as they need.”
Exactly. Being a polite introvert doesn’t have to do with being social. It has to do with contributing socially in a way that works best for you.
So, don’t apologize but do set expectations, be kind, and make meaningful time
I mean, apologize if you bailed as maid of honor at your BFF’s wedding because you’re “really beat from work this week”—because that’s effed up. But overall, you’ll note that there isn’t a lot of saying sorry involved in these guidelines. When we stand firm in our truth, we’re being authentic to ourselves and hoping the other person will continue to love us as we are.
“When we reframe introversion to the positive side—the introvert simply needs more downtime and alone time to recharge—we can feel much better about respecting who we are and what we need to thrive,” Dr. Manly says.
You may find that in leaning into your authentic identity, more people may come to you for a different type of together time. So while I know that group events aren’t my forte, I also know I make up for that by being caring, thoughtful, and attentive. More importantly, I know that I’m not an asshole because I’m an introvert. (I’m an asshole for other, totally unrelated reasons.)
If you’re moving in with your partner and are worried about your me-time, here’s a few ideas on how to happily live together. And introverted or not, these anxiety-quelling mantras will help you get through a wedding where you know no one.
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