As an introvert, one of my main struggles in life has been figuring out how to tactfully weasel my way out of social obligations. Over the years, I’ve tried several different excuses on for size, with varying degrees of success.
The tricky part is trying not to sound like an anti-social jerk, while also preserving the other person’s feelings. The honest reason (umm … that sounds painful and boring and I’d rather stay at home and make turtle memes all night) just won’t cut it.
We’re supposed to dress up our excuses with frilly and totally false segues like “I’d love to, but …” or “too bad, it sounds like fun, but …”
The truth is, you wouldn’t love to. It doesn’t sound like fun. You haven’t the slightest interest in participating. But you can’t say that. So, you’ve got to come up with some sort of excuse that doesn’t make you sound too lame. Bonus points if it seems important and/or urgent.
So, in case you’re ever in a pinch for reasons to avoid socializing, I’ve listed some tried-and-true favorites.
I’d love to, but I have homework
I really milked this one during high school and college. In fact, it’s probably the main reason why I got decent grades. I didn’t actually like doing homework. In fact, I avoided doing homework almost as much as I avoided going to house parties. Almost.
This excuse has its flaws. People could label you as “lame”, “boring” or “nerdy”. But at least it sounds important. It’s also top of the list for getting out of awkward family gatherings. Even old gramps will be understanding if you sneak away to work on a school assignment that’s due soon.
Thanks for the invitation, but I have to work
I’ve discovered that one of the main perks of working for myself is that I can use this excuse whenever I want and it’s usually true. I always have work to do, and my office is my laptop. Plus, I actually love what I do. Best. Excuse. Ever!
The downside is that people start to think you’re a workaholic with no life, which is one reason why you should consider breaking out the ol’–
That sounds fun, but I already have plans for that day/evening
Yeah, maybe said plans are to stay home and re-watch The Hunger Games with Fritz the cat. So what. Most people won’t bother to ask you what you’re actually going to do. A little bit of mystery never hurt anyone.
For all they know you could have a hot date, or another more happening party to go to. Or maybe you’re part of a new-age cult that has their weekly meeting that night. Let them wonder.
Thanks for thinking of me, but I need some me time
This is pretty much the same as saying, “I need some alone time”, but somehow “me time” sounds more PC and important. You can thank the media for this. “Me time” brings to mind images of bubble baths, and red wine by the fire. “Alone time” stirs up thoughts of empty rooms, closed doors, and crossed arms.
Of course, this is just perception. For an introvert, alone can be ecstasy. Hopefully, one day people will get that. Until then, let them imagine you sipping wine by the glow of a fire as you luxuriate in some much deserved “me time”.
To be honest, now that most of my friends know I’m an introvert, I don’t have to come up with so many frilly excuses. They get it. I don’t want to go, because, well, I just don’t. It’s not because I think they suck or I’m anti-social.
But lately I’ve been around lots of new people who don’t get my introverted ways yet. So, for now, “I have to work” has become my go-to excuse for not going out more.
What about you? What do you say when you want to avoid a social obligation, but don’t want to sound lame or rude?
The annoying part about all of this is that excuses are necessary. I have an unfortunate tendency (depending on your point of view) to be straight with people and tell them that I don’t like parties, I don’t like standing around and talking, I don’t like going out to pubs…because there is NOTHING to do except make small talk. Of course this gets skeptical responses because why would anyone not enjoy loud environments with lots of people; it’s so much fun…The very least they could do would be to provide an activity to participate in while actively avoiding small talk. 🙁
This is why salsa dancing was my salvation for so long! Some people try to make small talk on the dance floor, but it’s rare. 😉
When I want to leave a social event early I always say something like I have to get home and take care of the cats or my cats need me. The best thing is if my mom is there she will back me up because she understands my needs and as a librarian she was the first to tell me about books like The Introvert Advantage and Quiet. Also as always, great post you do not disappoint and I suspect you do not know how.
Aww, thanks Adam. And that is a really good one. If I had pets, I would surely use them as an excuse to sneak away.
I don’t find excuses. 😀 I directly tell them that I won’t be happy if I come. Its a good thing they already know that I’m introverted (even antisocial). I don’t think they really like me there either, they just think I deserve a break or something. Haha. Its not my responsibility to know.
Good for you, Emmy! Directness is always a good option if you have the courage to use it. 😉
Very good excuses! I usually don’t have to excuse myself, ’cause people don’t invite me to their partys. Whenever they do it, however, it goes like this:
-Hey, there’s going to be a party because we discovered we can breathe.
-Nah, thanks. (Note I sad “nah” instead of “no”, sounds less aggresive).
-I don’t like partys.
-What’s that about.
-Mindless interaction, drunk people, disgusting and loud music, lots of visual and sound estimulation (keep saying).
Usually, people will understand it. They say they have friends like you and they’ll let you be. If they don’t…:
-But partys (they will use
Again, my mobilephone…
-But partys (they will use their arguments).
-Well. I can see your point, but I still don’t like partys.
If they keep trying, explain what introversion
The flip side of this, is that they won’t invite you to partys that have what you told (loud music, drunk people…) but they will tell you about interesting events. AAAAAAND you won’t look like a jerk.
I like your straight forward approach Ivo!
Very interesting post. I find myself having to use one of these excuses almost every week! Sometimes I will feel guilty,but will always feel relieved later that I stayed home.
Hi Lu. Yeah, guilt is something we innies struggle with a lot. Glad you can relate! 😉
“I’d love to, but it makes people uncomfortable when I start to hyperventilate.” Or my personal favorite: “I wish I could, but I have an appointment to have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails. Maybe next time.”
The first is self-deprecation. The second is sarcasm. Both are brilliant, and my favorite forms of humor. Thanks. I’m using them. Lately I’ve been telling extraverted friends that parties make me feel like by battery is overcharging to the point of a meltdown.
What you can do in these cases is schedule a time later on during the day where you can read a book, or do something constructive by yourself. While you decide to bend to the will of your friends and coworkers, always have a plan for what you will do later, and try to make each social occasion worthwhile, by bringing something or concentrating on a smaller group of people.
Oh, I so hate having to make excuses to get out of social events that I don’t want to go to, it’s excruciating and I always feel so guilty! The worst are invitations to special occasion birthday parties but I’ve got to the age where I just won’t go any more, I just can’t and won’t do it. But I still have to come up with a reason why I’m not going and “because I don’t want to” isn’t really socially acceptable! So I tell a white lie and feel bad about it. Guilt sucks so bad!!!
All good thoughts, for sure. I’m curious though, maybe I haven’t seen the right post yet that answers this, what happens when you work in the hospitality industry (or any industry for that matter) and you’re invited to/obligated to/signed up for networking events? Quite frankly, I’m terrible at networking bc I never know what to talk about! I always feel like that awkward person who doesn’t know how to mingle and people look at you like you’re weird. I want to break out of this shell but really have no clue how to do it. =/
Hi Jody, I know what you mean. Networking events can be overwhelming. The good thing is that networking is a skill that can be mastered with practice whether you are an introvert or extrovert. Introvert biz coach Nancy Ancowitz has some great advice for how introverts can network: http://selfpromotionforintroverts.com/category/networking/ 🙂
I feel so sad to read this. My whole life struggling with this issue and having arguments with my family. I am used to pull myself together and just go. Sometimes with a pill to calm myself. When I was younger I really got sick and had a migraine.
I use an anti depressive at the moment and I am doing much better. Still have a lot of excuses not to go if it is not that important . But feeling guilty sucks!!!! Friends mean so well and think they do you a favor.
(sorry for my English I am from abroad)
I agree, the guilt is a horrible thing to deal with! Hopefully now that you know you’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘no’ you want feel as much guilt. xo
Awwww. I can empathise. An old friend surprised me last weekend by booking a train ticket to my city at the last minute, I couldn’t say no to spending the day together even though I was completely spent – I had to take a valium just to get through it, socialising when I feel depleted after a long week with no me time is just horrendous. I’ve booked in an evening at the cinema by myself tonight – can’t wait!
So, I recently (about a month ago) found out I was an introvert. I’m 21 going on to 22. Life has not been easy for me, I was always feeling depressed, socially stressed, awkward etc. because I was living a lifestyle meant for an extrovert. Now that I know, I have other difficulties – explaining to friends and family.
I’ve already lost a few (not too close) friends because of our differences.
Life at home won’t be much different though, thankfully.
Hi Aaron. Well, some friends are worth losing because it leaves room for people you connect with on a deeper, more authentic level. Glad you’re part of the innie community! xo
Hi Michaela, I just found your site through Pinterest, and it’s wonderful!
I long-ago learned 2 important points when making excuses: DON’T LIE (it can come back to bite you;) and END ON A POSITIVE NOTE (people remember the last thing you say to them.) So to people who aren’t in my close group of friends, I say “I won’t be able to come, but it was very kind of you to invite me!” Smile brightly and move on! To my friends, or someone I want to maintain a relationship with, I say “this week has been so hectic, if I don’t take some ‘me time’ soon, I’m going to implode. But would you be available for (coffee, drink, lunch, movie, etc.) on (alternate day)?” That way they know I want to spend time with them, and I get a one-on-one or small group activity that I can handle.
We cannot keep making excuses like little children. I have excused myself from going to meetings with my classmates and I am sure they don’t believe me anymore that I’ve always had to work (they’re right). But if I wanted to explain them (or other people I treat like this) that I am a very strong introvert and if I don’t feel like going out, NOBODY can change my mind. It actually happened to me a few minutes ago. My parents and sister are going to spend New Years Eve with my cousins, uncles and aunts and I’ve refused to go. I know if I went I would just sit, talk to nobody and hope nobody will try to talk to me. NOT to be mean. I just don’t like these gatherings (not saying I don’t like my aunts, …). I am too old (23) to make up excuses like I’m feeling sick (which my mom wouldn’t believe anyway). But if I said I was an introvert who very often just doesn’t feel like being around a lot of people, they wouldn’t understand, because they’re different.
Sometimes it feels like a viscious circle.
I like to use something along the lines of “Thanks but I can’t make it tonight (sad face). Have fun!” I make sure to thank them for the invite to express gratitude (during my decision-making process of whether to go I always torture myself with thoughts that if I keep saying “No” to this person, they’re going to give up on me and no longer want to be my friend) and then end it on a positive, final note which serves two purposes: 1) it closes the doorway to the conversation so they (hopefully) won’t try to talk me into it, and 2) turns the attention back on them, which is likely where they want it anyways. PLUS it’s not a lie because if I’m just not feeling it due to using up my social quota for the day/week, I really can’t make it!
Love this post, I lol’d when I saw it because this is my life!
I’ve started practicing the art of saying no without giving a specific excuse–trying to keep it as vague as possible to not invite questions. My in-laws are classic extroverts, and they want to know why, what I’m doing instead, so they can provide reasons that’s not acceptable or they can come help me with whatever I’ve tried to use as an excuse. Sometimes the plain no works and sometimes not, but it sure feels good.
The great part about being fairly honest, like I don’t like parties or I need some me time is that the people in your circle may start to get used to that and not take it personally.
I rarely get invites any more. Just as well. And I make it a point to NOT apologize for declining the rare invitations I DO get. Those who really know me fully understand. A simple, “no, thanks” will suffice. On rare occasions I give in and go to a function, I invariably regret it. And leaving for me is so hard to do.
When I get asked to go out or do something I don’t give an excuse, I politely decline and if they ask ‘why?’ I reply ‘because I don’t want to’ … The end…
I don’t accept that others have the right to push and interfere with anyone’s decisions about personal space and time.
One of the cool things about being a manual draftsman… It takes time to draw something by hand. Whether it’s sailboats or anything else that catches my thoughts, it can take days and sometimes up to a month to get a drawing done. “I’ve got to draw this while it’s fresh in my mind.” Best part, it’s true. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has stumbled into my den at 0500 and asked me if I’m ever coming to bed. Part of the INFJ thing in me is, if it’s in my mind, I can’t sleep until it’s on paper. So, solitude and the peace of knowing I told the truth.
“You guys enjoy that! I’ve got to get this done before I lose my train of thought.”
I spent this Christmas at my grandparents, and it was absolute torture. After two days of parties bringing 30 people or more over and a ‘small family gathering’ of a dozen the next day, I was completely spent and totally shut down. Of course, seeing as my family is all extroverts, my grandpa decided to cheer me up with small talk, trying harder and harder as my replies got shorter and shorter… eventually I told my mom, who I’ve talked to about this before, that I needed some time by myself, and she allowed me to go to bed early. Unfortunately, I was sleeping in the living room on an air mattress, and my family was stirring loudly around me for nearly two hours more. I didn’t have the energy to explain that this was not relaxing, and barely kept myself from the horrid step that comes after shutting down: completely exploding. Fortunately, everyone eventually went to bed and I spent the next three hours online recharging.
The thing is, I’m good enough at seeking out time alone that I rarely shut down. This makes it seem extra-strange when I do, and less obvious that I need the alone time. I hope I have the nerve to explain this someday, before “I’m watching a few episodes of Doctor Who” becomes synonymous with “I’m free.”
After making many, many excuses in the past I now only say “no, sorry”. And when they ask why it depends on whour is asking.
What hurts the most is that people in the past stopped asking and think they knew I would say no. This way not giving me the chance to make my own decision. Or worse “I will not ask Karin, we all know she wI’ll nor come over”.
Still brings tears to my eyes writing this…
This is exactly how I am!! Thanks for helping me figure me out lol Introvert
I go to computer classes twice a week and martial arts twice a week as well so I have my excuses particularly when dealing with my boss. I don’t like my boss at all and he doesn’t care to help me obtain new skills so I hate it when he invites to events outside the workplace because nothing will change between him and me in the workplace so why bother to put up a facade?
I made them see I love reading novels. So anytime a party comes up and I dont feel like going,I simply tell them “I have a novel to complete”
Or I simply tell those who persist that I wont enjoy myself while there