One thing I consider is what the rest of the week will demand of me, energy-wise.
People who don’t know me think I always choose solitude over socializing. But that assumption is short-sighted. As an introvert, I do love and cherish my alone time. However, I also find tremendous enjoyment in doing specific, intentional social things. Similarly, over the years, I’ve learned very well what kind of socializing is more likely to drain me than make me feel alive.
Life as an introvert in today’s society often means getting misinterpreted by others regarding social activities. Turning down an invitation to do something might make the asker think I have something against them or are just being rude. Plus, I worry if I pass up invites too many times, the person will eventually stop asking. That’s not necessarily what I want either.
What most people never realize is that I weigh a multitude of factors before deciding to accept or decline their invitations. I’ll share several of them here. I hope they can help you enjoy the social experiences you choose to partake in rather than feeling you made a mistake and should have stayed home.
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5 Questions to Determine If a Social Invite Is Worth the Energy
1. Will it be a large or small group?
Most of my favorite outings over the years have happened in the company of just a few close friends — or maybe one. I heartily enjoy experiencing things with people I care about, treasuring the memories we make together. It becomes much harder to do that when in a huge group made up primarily of individuals I don’t know.
Part of that is because I don’t want to expend the energy that’s seemingly required to get noticed among many people (hello, extroverts). But it also takes me a while to get comfortable talking around strangers — even if they’re fellow introverts. I prefer to sit back and observe others in the group rather than immediately participating.
So, the group size associated with a social invitation is a major factor I consider before choosing how to answer. I know if it’s too large, I’ll quickly feel overwhelmed and spend too much time lost in my thoughts. And if that happens, what was the point of trying to be social, anyway?
You’re the only person who can answer what size group is within your comfort zone. Knowing the answer can help you have better social experiences.
2. How well do I know the person who asked me?
Even though the internet has made it easier than ever to communicate with others, I’ve found it incredibly challenging to make friends as an introverted adult. That fact has made me more likely to accept social invites from people I’ve only recently met, even if I’m not really up to it. I figure I shouldn’t sacrifice any opportunities to make friends, and do my best to forge a connection (or at least not sever it).
This question also works in reverse. If the person extending the invitation is a long-time pal, I feel comfortable turning down their offer. Alternatively, the chance to spend time with them might be just what I need. One of the first friends I met after moving to Ireland seemed to intuitively understand my introverted nature, even though we haven’t explicitly discussed it. We no longer live close to each other, so we don’t see each other as frequently as we once did. But she “gets” me.
However, I make it a point to do whatever I must do to spend time with her. This friend’s presence, and the mere thought of being in it, energizes me. When inviting me to an event — such as a group dinner where I don’t know most people — she’ll always sit near me to make me feel comfortable. She makes a point to introduce me to everyone and explain how we know each other. She’ll also gauge to what extent she should include me in a conversation or let me stay quiet. We’ve known each other for nearly a decade, and I know any social outing with her will be extremely positive. I’m also certain there’ll be no hard feelings if I have to go home early.
So the next time you’re feeling conflicted about whether or not to accept an invite, try recalling what past experiences have been like and how you’ve felt after them. You can use those memories to make a more confident decision in the present.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
3. What will the rest of the week demand of me?
Once people learn I’m an introvert, they’re often surprised that I also like rock music — on my terms. Once, a friend invited me on a weekend trip, and I wanted to go to a small rock venue I hadn’t been to in several years. “Rock music?!” she asked me, bewildered. “But you like folk music!” “Yes, I do, but I also like quite a lot of rock bands,” I responded, smiling.
Now, to be clear, if we cross paths at a rock gig, you’ll find me on the outskirts of the crowd rather than in the mosh pit. And my attention is solely focused on the musicians on stage rather than any strangers around me. Plus, I always wear earplugs to keep the auditory stimulation manageable.
Even though I take those steps to manage the environment — which is important to us introverts — I know rock gigs are among the most draining on my social battery. Whenever going to one, or anything else that’ll be demanding, I always consider what other things are happening that week.
I’ve found it only makes sense to go to the social events that are outside my comfort zone if I’ll have plenty of time to recover. (After all, having an introvert hangover is no fun!) Before accepting any social invite you’re on the fence about, take a look at your schedule for the rest of the week. If it has a lot of other social stuff in it — including things you can’t avoid — it’s probably best to keep your social life low-key for the time being.
4. Is it a rare opportunity?
I don’t buy into the gigantic fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) emphasis that’s seemingly seeped into all parts of society. As an introvert, I know that sometimes I must miss out on things and be content with it — or risk being sapped of all energy.
That said, there have been a few times in my life where it has been clear that declining a social invite might mean I miss out on a fantastic chance. One such case came in early 2015. A friend I’d gotten to know within the Irish activism community invited me to a fundraising dinner. The two guests of honor were fellow activists — a couple who had made a significant difference in the United States while working toward the same goals we were aspiring to in Ireland.
Going to the dinner meant making a lot of quick plans, including staying overnight in the city. However, I knew how meaningful it would be if I even got the opportunity to say a few words to these American activists, both of whom I greatly admired.
Much to my shock and delight, I arrived to discover the friend who’d invited me had arranged for me to be seated at the same table as the guests of honor. I got to have in-depth conversations with the couple, and the introductions made that night turned into friendships built on mutual respect that lasted beyond that one event.
The dinner was a small, very crowded place, and there were certainly a few times I felt uneasy. But the solidarity and inspiration from being among like-minded people far outweighed them. It’s unrealistic to balk at accepting all social invites that might make you feel a bit uncomfortable. When those arise, think about what you could gain by choosing to be there.
Know, too, that you might need to prepare to swing things in your favor. As much as I usually clam up around strangers I admire, I psyched myself up for weeks before the event. I promised myself I would not leave the dinner before at least thanking the activists for all their hard work. All that practice and positive self-talk came in handy since I ended up getting to do much more than that.
5. Does declining the invite have major ramifications?
I’ve had jobs over the years where the employer’s social events are officially optional. Unofficially, though, if I didn’t attend, there was the risk of being perceived as not fitting in with the company culture or people thinking I didn’t want to get to know my colleagues.
Encountering these situations is always frustrating. Why isn’t it enough for me to clock in, do high-quality work, clock out, and not think about work until the next day? I have to pretend I’m a social butterfly, too? Great. Whatever pays the bills, I guess. Sigh.
So much of navigating modern work culture means reading between the lines. Even if the invite you receive in your work inbox says “optional,” could staying home put you at risk of losing your job (or at least not getting a promotion)? If so, be very careful with your decision.
I wrestle with a similar dynamic regarding family events, too, especially since I moved abroad (to Ireland) about a decade ago and plan to spend the rest of my life here. It can get quite intense to plan a visit to the United States and know for certain I’ll be expected to see a steady stream of relatives I haven’t been around for years.
In those cases, I know they’d be extremely hurt and confused if I flew to the U.S. and didn’t set aside time to see them. So, the best thing I can do is control all the aspects within my influence. For instance, that might mean arranging to see relatives one-on-one instead of in a group.
It could also entail establishing a few time restrictions. If an extended family member invites me to their house, I could say “I’m free between 4 and 6 on Saturday. How does it work to meet then?” That way, there are some immediate expectations about me being there for a limited time. (Hello, boundaries!) In return, I’ll be as engaged and present as possible, making the most of the time — and energy — I have.
Be Picky About Which Social Events You Attend
I’m a people-pleaser by nature and have learned the hard way that I can’t always give the answer others want and expect — especially in social situations. Going through the above questions has helped me analyze various factors before deciding how to respond to someone’s invitation. This process helps me feel at peace with whatever I choose, because I know I’ve taken my time in reaching it.
Remember, social events should be (mostly) fun, not stressful. I hope these questions can assist you, too, in reaching that delicate balance.
You might like:
- How Introverts Can Conserve Energy While Socializing
- 13 Times Introverts Just Want to Stay Home
- Why Is Socializing Exhausting for Introverts? Here’s the Science
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