Does budgeting our people-time mean introverts are snobs?

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Whether we think of introversion as a matter of spending energy when we’re interacting with others and recharging alone, or as becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated by human interaction, and resting when alone, we definitely know that being with people comes at a cost. We can’t possibly do every social thing that our extroverted friends are doing, even if we really think each event would be fun. We have to budget our social time. If we over-spend, we may get very grumpy or withdrawn, and worst of all, we’ll feel miserable until we can get our alone time we so desperately need.

I decided to try to look at this from an outsider’s point of view to see if I can learn anything new.  I’m asking myself:  Since we have to be selective about who we spend our time with, does that sort of make some extroverts’ accusation of introvert snobbery or aloofness a little bit true? Are we insulting people by our picking and choosing who we spend our time with?

I can see myself thinking, “Hmmm..I don’t think I’ll heat up my lunch right now, because Ron’s in there and he’s going to talk and I really don’t want to be with anyone…,” but later deciding, “Joe and Dave are going for a beer after work, and those two are so funny I think I’ll go too!”

So am I saving myself for only the cream of the crop as far as people to spend my precious energy on? Or is it more a matter of time and situation?

We have to be discriminating in who we spend our people-time on, because of course some things we just have to do, because they’re good for our careers or necessary to keep peace in the family. Then there’s the matter of how much people-energy we’ve spent on a given day or week. If I’ve been in close contact with other people for hours on end, I don’t care who’s going out for a beer, I just want to get away by myself! But if my family and closest friends are unavailable for a couple of days, I find myself seeking out people I like very much but usually don’t spend much time with. That sounds as if I consider them second tier or that I’m desperate, so I wanted to examine what’s going on.

The real issue is that I only have a certain amount of people-time in my “bank,” and I try to spend as much of it as possible with my family and a chosen few others. If I’ve spent all my social-hours, I actively avoid others, although I always hope and imagine that no one notices. At a conference or other gathering, when there’s a break, I head for the vending and restrooms off a deserted hallway, even if it’s much farther away than the one the growing knot of people is occupying. I know all the ways to get from Point A to Point B without getting detained by “quick question” and other things that will delay me and interrupt what’s going on in my head. There can be lots of nice and fun people there, but if I’m spent, then that’s it

As I said though, I really like most of the other people I see too, and they’d be great to be with if only I had the people-time. But this is sort of like how I’d love to have a new sofa: I know it’s not in the budget, so it’s not going to happen. 🙂  Maybe it be a good idea to consciously insert one of these people in place of my usual people and events sometimes, but of course I love my routine with my family so much that it takes a conscious effort to make plans with someone new.

So – although as an introvert I may have  an “A list” of people I spend most of my people-time with, I’m really not trying to insult anyone.   Likewise I may consider certain other people even nicer, smarter, and more fun to be with than some of the people in my inner circle.   I just can’t afford to deal with anyone else right now!

Photo credit:Jeff Keen

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40 Comments

  1. I think this is a “worry” we (introverts) go through too often and unnecessary. Most of it we can probably thank our fellow extroverts for.

    Extroverts, even how many times you try to tell them, they seem to be unable to understand some people have different needs. Some extroverts can be so pig-headed they go on repeat until you give in to their demands.

    Unfortunately they make us think we are selfish, when we are not. And they are very surprised if we lash out by accident when we have been overstimulated.

    In the end, we all have to do what is best for ourselves. Even how hard it might be, it will pay off in the end. If the end result is you being happy, without deliberately hurting people, do it!
    .-= Mr. W´s last blog ..Haphazard inanity. =-.

    • Ah, of course you’re right Mr. W! Having others push and insinuate somehow makes me start to question these things, but we really do have to do what’s best for ourselves.

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  3. We can’t stop other people from thinking what they want, that’s simply unavoidable. Everyone has their own opinion and judgment, let’s just learn to deal with it. More or less, people won’t care for your reasons. It might be valid for you but not for them.

    • Absolutely true – for all of us, introverted or extroverted. We have to live our lives, and we can never control the thoughts of others, so we can’t worry about them. Once in a while I like to stop and try to examine a question though, to make sure I’m not getting too far off the beaten path. 😉

  4. I probably have an “A-list” too, but it’s not because I don’t want to spend time with people NOT on the “A” list, but because we don’t “click” as well together and/or doesn’t share enough common interests. Then it becomes one of the usual talks about the weather and how’s life…
    .-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Twitter Bug: Force People To Follow You =-.

    • Exactly. And it’s still fun in its own way, but it just “costs” more to you than being with the people on your “A” list – never as easy or relaxing. I’ve been trying to branch out a little and make an overture to someone I like but don’t know well once in a while – that “while” may be a month or more though! 🙂

  5. Snob, no. I’ll own the description of “aloof,” but I don’t think it’s snobbish at all to budget our “people time.” We budget our money, don’t we? That’s only sensible. Why should budgeting our “people time” be any different? Just like we only have a certain amount of money to spend each month, and must prioritize how it will be spent, we only have a certain amount of “social energy” to spend and must prioritize that, as well.

    Who are our “A List” people? Sometimes family, but not always. “A List” people, for me, are those who accept me the way I am, those with whom I feel comfortable, those who don’t drain my energy too much. (I am lucky. My blood relatives are all introverts!) My “A List” people respect me and therefore, I will make time and space for them. It really does need to go both ways. I have zero interest in accommodating people who aren’t interested in understanding where I’m coming from in a relationship or friendship. I can and will extend myself a great deal for people who are decent to me, but those who push me or try to make me into an extrovert will soon find themselves “kicked to the curb.”

    I think the word “snob” carries a negative connotation. I don’t think that I am a snob. I am, however, selective. I have to be. I think we all do. We only have so much “social energy” to give and there is nothing wrong with being mindful of how we spend it.
    .-= hermit loner´s last blog ..The Challenges of College (and the good stuff too!) =-.

    • We definitely only have so much to spend, and knowing that really helps us to spend it deliberately, instead of running totally out of it mid-week each week. 🙂 “Snob” is definitely a negative word, but I was trying to ask myself if it could possibly apply to the way I keep to myself much of the time. And like you, I don’t think I am one either, although of course it may look that way to outsiders sometimes. Can’t do anything about that! 🙂

  6. Exactly. And it’s still fun in its own way, but it just “costs” more to you than being with the people on your “A” list – never as easy or relaxing. I’ve been trying to branch out a little and make an overture to someone I like but don’t know well once in a while – that “while” may be a month or more though! 🙂

  7. This post made me think – I just realized that I also have an A-list
    but isn’t it the way it all works? do we have time fot B-list?

    • Yeah, I guess everyone has their A-list and B-list, but we introverts may hardly ever get to our B-list. I think extroverts call their B-list people anytime there aren’t enough A-listers available to do whatever they want to do at the moment!

  8. For the most part I am an introvert in reference that I want to be alone, but most people won’t think so as I am pretty chatty in a gathering. Thing is, rather then going out to party I prefer to blog, this for me is my leisure time. So I just go with my friends every now and again, budget the time, so they won’t feel I am dissing them.

  9. I don’t have a “B” list. For me, the “A” list is anyone I truly consider a friend, and the rest are acquaintances. A lot of my “A” list people are in different cities than I am. I’m not sure, if we all lived in one place, how often I’d see them. It wouldn’t be every week, that’s for sure.

    Aside from situations like some (not all) work events or family gatherings, I don’t think we have a responsibility to socialize with other people just because they want us to. As someone said, it’s only wise to be careful how you spend your money, and it’s wise to be discerning about how you spend your time and energy, too. I don’t think that makes me a snob, but anyone who would think so would never be someone I’d want to spend time with anyway.

    • Thanks for your response. My family is pretty kntroerted and due to some parental decisions, I grew up pretty isolated from anyone who knew and appreciated us. It took its toll, but it also enabled me to travel and meet more suitable friends and environments and not really depend on outward “signs” of bonds to understand or benefit from relationships. But now, having been recently surrounded by extroverts invalidating relationships that aren’t in-your-face, attached-at-the-hip, or are any form of long distance as “bad” or “abusive”, I was beginning to feel like maybe there was something wrong with me.
      *cue record scratch*
      thanks for validating with your own experience. and on the other hand, many of those same extroverts have no idea how to communicate and actually think of it a cheapening the “relationship”, but also don’t know the difference between communication and talking, or don’t believe it when it’s happening, anyway! I guess would be missing much, even if there was something wrong with me!

  10. Like you said, I think that an introvert’s capacity for socialising becomes exhausted, and after that point, a lonesome recharge must take place. It’s the same type of process as with a battery really.

    We introverts of course know that we are not being snobs because it is caused by a character limitation. But don’t expect extroverts to ever understand this. As an introvert, I think you’ve gotta embrace the fact that anyone who isn’t similar will never understand you!

    Cheers

    Sam

    • We do have our human limits – just as we wouldn’t expect any human being to be able to stay awake for 72 hours (unless they’re a new parent or medical intern) we know that everyone has to recharge sometime. And the way we do it is by being alone. So true – no one who’s not in the same boat could ever truly understand it!

  11. I don’t feel that it’s a character limitation. It could be argued that it is a limitation on one’s life…but being either an extrovert or an introvert comes with upsides and downsides. Extroverts get energized by being with people, and they probably have more fun than we do. But I don’t think they have the rich inner lives that introverts have. The ability to be alone and be happy that way is a gift. The best of both worlds would be to be toward the middle of that continuum, and get some of the benefits of each.

    • Yes – when it’s “wedding season” or the beginning of some sort of group trip, we have to envy the extroverts, who are eagerly chomping at the bit. But now that I’m middle-aged, I wonder what happens to extroverts as they retire and become widowed or divorced later in life. Do they go stark, raving mad when they’re alone – and then have to corner everyone in their path in order to be able to talk all the time? So although I’ve always enjoyed my inner life so much, I’m happy to know that I’ll always have it and no one can ever take that away from me. Unless they manage to be within earshot and won’t shut up! 😉

  12. No, I hardly think that introverts are snobs. Everyone is different, and everyone’s needs are different. Even among introverts, there will be variations on how much “people time” each of us can tolerate – the only common factor is there being a “people time” 🙂

    And it is difficult for one side of the group to completely understand the other side – simply because we can never be completely in each other’s shoes. And there is a price to pay either way – while introverts may not have as much “fun” in traditional sense, who is to say we are not having fun when we are alone, and by ourselves?
    .-= Prashant @ eBooks for Sale´s last blog ..Panic in the Sky =-.

    • Ooooh, and we absolutely are having a great time! Funny thing though, sometimes I find myself with some extroverts who ask me in a friendly way, “Whatcha been up to?” Well, should I tell them about the legal thriller I’m reading? Or the awesome group who’s talking on Introvert Zone? Maybe the last episode of my favorite nerdy TV show? So instead I say, “Nothing much..” 🙂

  13. Oh boy, I know that one. I must seem like the most boring person alive. But often it’s just too much effort to try to explain, or I know they wouldn’t understand anyway. So yes, “oh, nothing…”

  14. In reference to the article’s title, I can only answer from a personal perspective; yet provide sound reasoning for the answer to it at the same time, which is “NO!”

    First, as people here know, introversion, as defined in a strict, congenital sense, is not a choice.

    Secondly – if budgeting time for certain people was in large part based on snobbery (which it likely is for extroverts…ha ha!), then I would have availed myself to the many opportunities I’ve had to meet and hang with many different famous people (my family includes former professional and Olympic athletes, actors, and actresses, and these people have gotten to know many others of this sort, whom I ALSO avoided when they would come to town together to visit, OR invite me to a given function).

    Anecdotally then, if introverts were snobs, wouldn’t I have budgeted my “energy credits” for meeting/hanging with these people (versus the fact that no such alterations in my schedule were made…I continued with my normal routine of minimal interaction with other “commoners”)?

    • Absolutely! I think you have a better test than most of us to apply here – and you’re definitely not a snob.

      You may even have some extroverted friends who tell you, “Oooooh, you could be going to all those….parties and ….” and they wish they had your connections, but I absolutely understand avoiding anyone or anything that doesn’t fit well with you.

  15. Well, I think you must be a much nicer person than me because I have got to a stage in my life whereas I have given up on trying to please everyone and make a good impression all the time. I am as I am and although polite, I certainly do not go out of my way to make others feel comfortable to my own detriment. Many years of mental and physical illness has taught me that being an extreme introvert is OK and I have many other gifts to give the world other than entertaining others. A snob? Yes, maybe. Stuck up? Probably. But do you know what? That’s just too bad. I save my limited resources for those that deserve it most – that is my closest family and one or two friends. Life is too short to worry about what everyone else thinks all the time and I have found this out the hard way.

  16. I am SO happy I found this site! I have really been thinking there was something wrong with me and was going to seek medication. I simply could not understand WHY people always had to be out doing things and constantly around each other, popping in others homes etc. My husband and I recently moved to a new town, where unfortunately, for me a lot of his friends live and they LOVE to just pop over and it’s always when i get home from work and every single day. I’m just exhausted and don’t want them there and it has caused many fights. I really thought there was something wrong with me for feeling like “this is not what I want, constant people at my home or dragging me out to this party and that party” and now I know why. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and this site. It’s a huge relief to know that A. I don’t have a social anxiety type disease requiring medication and B. there are so many others out there who feel exactly like I do. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this site and all of the links and am now able to research more about introversion. I never really knew I was like this until the move. Well again, thank you. Please keep the posts ongoing. Much love 🙂

  17. Polite people describe me as “reserved” and others think that I’m “arrogant.” That’s okay, though because I could care less about their opinions. I’ve met some genuinely sweet and friendly people, but a lot of people have a hidden agenda. If someone makes too many demands on my time, I automatically cut ties with them.

    I became friendly with a classmate during my sophomore year of college. She was very nice and even suggested that “we hang out sometime.” Then she started asking for favors (i.e. sending her examples of coursework from other classes). They were small favors, so I truly didn’t mind. However, when I asked her for a favor- she came up with every excuse in the book to turn me down. I suspected that she was using me, so I asked her if she wanted to hang out after class. She gave me a panicked look and immediately said “I can’t because of my husband.” The final straw came when she followed me into the library and suggested that we share my textbook for a class we were both enrolled in. She even had the nerve to say “I’m trying to get away with not buying the book.” When I finally told her “no” (along with a few other choice words), she stopped talking to me and found another introvert to be her doormat.

  18. This site makes this introvert feel better too. I have always felt “weird” and different than everybody else. I hate small talk, I don’t fit in with the group of girls at work that spend every break and lunch together gossiping and chatting endlessly about nothing meaningful. I do not use the term “friendship” lightly and don’t make friends easily, I don’t really have the time, or put the energy into making time for friends, so I don’t have many friends. I just want to be home alone at times and with my mate and kids at times. This is the only way I feel comfortable. I love being with my mate and kids but I end up staying up late at night and functioning on less sleep than I should have just to have my “me” time after they have gone to bed as this is how I get energized. I explain it to my family that too much socializing gets me anxious and is stressful to my nervous system. Being home and away from people calms my nervous system and makes me a happier person. I am only learning to accept my “weirdness” and not feel like a freak of nature now at 43. Thanks for sharing and letting me share my feelings here. <3

  19. I will also add that my sister calls me “selfish” because I do not spend time with her when she lives right down the street. Not only do I work 6 days a week with people all day and do my shopping and house cleaning on my only day off, while she is an at home Mom who is home all day by herself while her kids are in school, but I have learned over the years that being around her, I often get my feelings hurt as I am a sensitive who is for the most part non-judgemental and cannot stand confrontation and debate, and she is the opposite. She is the kind of person that will judge others negatively and does not hesitate to blurt out whatever judgemental, negative thought she has about a person. This in itself rubs me the wrong way as I have always had compassion for people and have always wanted to let people to just let people be. I love my sister and am sad to say that being around her drains my energy and for self preservation, I have to keep my distance.

  20. Since we have to be selective about who we spend our time with, does that sort of make some extroverts’ accusation of introvert snobbery or aloofness a little bit true?

    In my own opinion, I don’t think we can call it introvert. There are times that we want to spend privacy with the person we love to be with, in return we are about to turned away from the group we used to go with, that is how they find us snobbish because we do not have time to be with them as per demand.
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  21. I like your comparing our “people budget” to our money budget. It’s a great comparison. If it’s not in the bank, you can’t spend it. That doesn’t make us snobs. Extroverts, and everyone for that matter, have their preferences on how they allocate their time. All of us know extreme extroverts (cheerleaders, the football team, you get the picture) who really are snobs, because they actively seek to build themselves up by surrounding themselves with only the “right” crowd. Introverts don’t do that.

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