Should introverts “force” themselves to do things with others?

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“Aw, do I hafta?” You might hear me saying that to myself right before a friend’s wedding or a business dinner. I’m pretty strongly introverted, and although I love my friends and family and want to have great working relationships, I’d happily skip a lot of social events to which I’m invited. My idea of a fun night out is dinner or a movie with one or two friends, and I’m just as happy if a week or more goes by before I do it again. So shouldn’t we just say no to almost all office lunches, parties, and reunions unless we really want to go at the moment?  I think we get the best of all worlds if we select some things that we know we would benefit by attending, and go to them.

Picking important events to go to will help relationships in life and at work.

One reason I consciously decide to go to some events even when a good book sounds appealing is that I believe the only way I am going to reach my goals or have the quality of life I want in the areas of career, friends, and family, is to do things that are a little bit outside my comfort zone once in a while, attending events when I would rather just stay home and “veg.”

In the case of the office events, it really is important to develop good relationships with coworkers and others with whom we hope to work, and going to these events shows our interest in doing that. We can always leave early!  I don’t go out to lunch daily with the guys I work with, but I do it on occasion, and when someone from another department reaches out to me I definitely make the effort.   We may have the best credentials and skills in the world, but if we don’t interact with others, they may never know about us or think of us when opportunities come up.  Human beings are the ones who are making the decisions, and they aren’t just looking at resumes.

In the case of family and friends, of course we want to see them, but we may not like the sort of events they are holding or we may just want to go home after work or stay home on the weekend. I still go to many of these things, because

1. I want to have strong relationships with family and friends throughout my life. It is a non-financial part of my “retirement plan.”

2. Although no one may appreciate how much effort your attendance is taking, an absence sometimes looks like a rejection to your host. It’s like how we don’t notice if the power is on or the network is working, but if either of those fails, it’s a big deal!  So I’ll usually go to a wedding or party, but I just make sure to greet my hosts and slip away when I want or need to later.

The more I stay home, the more I want to stay home.

I love staying home.  I love my home, I love the quiet when I want quiet, and I love just doing whatever I want.   But the more I avoid social events which would “waste my time,” the harder it is to make myself go to them even when I know I would benefit from them in some way.   Maybe it’s just a matter of getting “spoiled,” like we all do when we have a long weekend.   In my case it feels analogous to how a muscle loses strength when you don’t work out for a few weeks.   Socializing and talking to others is not my strongest skill, and apparently I lose that strength quickly when I don’t exercise it.   When I don’t practice talking to people and expressing myself verbally, I am noticeably less able to do it well.   I’m sure extroverts probably don’t have to “practice” talking to people and interacting with them, but I see that when I get out of practice, my skills diminish.

So when do I get to stay home?

I believe the answer to whether to go to everything vs. stay home from everything lies somewhere in the middle. There’s a balance to be struck somewhere, a balance that will give us the peace and renewal we need while helping us to show our value in the workplace and maintain our good relationships with others we care about.   I think we all know our limits, and I have a lot less “people-energy” than most people I know.  If we’re having an all-day meeting, some people just love to go out to lunch as a group during the middle of that sort of day.  For me, if I can create an excuse to escape and eat at my desk or run out alone, it is just the refreshing break I need to get through the rest of the meeting.  Likewise, I may enjoy going out with a friend one evening.  But I would not plan things with friends several nights in a row.  I really like my nights to just relax, especially after being with others at work all day.  I also go to events which seem reasonable to me because it is like “money in the bank” as far as goodwill with family and coworkers when there’s something you just can’t stand the thought of doing.   Yes I’ll come to your birthday dinner.  Yes I’ll be at  that office lunch.   Team building exercises in the Poconos?  Um,… no thanks!  :)

Sure we are having to stretch our usual limits a bit when we go to events and socialize with others, but extroverts have to get out of their own comfort zones anytime they force themselves to sit alone and study or to keep quiet while the big boss is talking. There are times we all benefit by expending some effort to do things in a way that don’t come totally natural to us.

I’d love to hear about how you decide when to let yourself relax alone and when you may make the effort to do things you may not immediately feel like doing!

Photo credit: emdot

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32 Comments

  1. I agree when my wife says I’m very much like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. I don’t like being around people and I do tend to say things without thinking it can be hurtful, as I sometimes forget that people don’t always like the truth.

    With most big social activities I tend to have the same opinion as Sheldon Cooper when he was asked if he would join the guys when they went to Vegas: “I’d rather have a blowfly lay eggs and hatch larvae in my auditory canal.”

    I think it’s very important to know what you want and let people know and understand it. Those who don’t understand, they are not worth the effort; but those who understand where you’re coming from are your true friends.

    Extroverts tend to be a bit difficult of course to make them understand, but in the end they will, if they care. I think one of your articles helped my wife a lot, as she is an extrovert, to understand that the more time she lets me do my thing, the more I actually want to be social; especially with her.

    I think that is something extroverts have a real hard time understanding. They forget that giving us 30-60min can energise us so we want to be social for hours in the right setting.

    This last weekend is a perfect example. I was dead tired after work on Friday, and we just did nothing and I spent a lot of time with myself, which also continued a bit in the morning of Saturday. That resulted with me wanting to spend rest of the day with her hiking and the next day too.

    I also think that is way we are misunderstood by extroverts. Introverts don’t use so much verbal communication. We just say what’s needed, and we act. We don’t see the need to inform a person we love we spend time with them, because we feel the act in itself is or should be obvious.

    That’s my two cents. :)

    • I might also add it might also be a cultural thing for me. Norwegians tend to be very strict with their opinions. When we decide to do something, we just do it. If you don’t like it, boohoo to you. ;)

        • i can’t believe i found this site and i actually typed into google ” should introverts force…” and the whole time i was reading the article and most of the posts i was thinking i could have written this word for word

    • LOL I will have to remember that blowfly line next time I do get an invitation to something “fun” and “exciting!” :) Thank you so much – I’m so glad one of my articles helped your wife to understand! I know that if we don’t tell extroverts why we have to be alone they must find it terribly puzzling and hurtful. Sometimes I lose hope that some of them could ever understand at all. But you’re so right – once we all learn that introverts NEED our recharge time then we can have some good quality time with our loved ones once they let us go recharge alone.

  2. We as introverts should definitely stretch ourselves and get out of our comfort zones. This is true for every one, regardless of our personality type, we can only grow if we continually challenge ourselves. We also have to strike a balance between understanding our needs and our fears.

    I am personally going to be challenging myself this weekend. I am going on a cruise ship with 2000 of my closest friends. I’m also going to have a roommate that I’ve never met. I will definitely be way out of my comfort zone.

    • Yes, I do have to stop and think sometimes – am I in need of recharging alone right now, or am I avoiding something because I don’t feel comfortable with it? (Often it’s both)! :)

      Wow Nick! I can say for sure that roommate would have been a deal breaker for me right there, but I know you will have a wonderful time. Hope you will come up with some good posts about your adventures – the roommate might even provide lots of material! ;)

    • I kind of get where you’re coming from and what you’re getting at, but I still kind of disagree with you when you say:
      “We as introverts should definitely stretch ourselves and get out of our comfort zones.”

      I’ve done that far too much in my life. Letting myself think I’m the one who is strange and seeing to it that people and employers are me are being pleased.
      That has now resulted in me meeting my emotional limit, having to be extremely picky with what job I apply for and ending up having to go to therapy.

      I would rather say, we should only get out of our comfort zone, IF it doesn’t make us feel discomfort.

      If you feel discomfort and dread, and that it’s forced, when leaving your comfort zone, you should not do it. As in, the time is not right. I think that is what most introverts mistakenly do and think, that they have to force themselves to be social.

      Over a short period of time no one really suffers from doing something they are forced to, but over a long period of time doing something you are forced to can have detrimental effects on you as a person.

      Most of my life I’ve been skateboarding, riding inlines and now I’m back at riding street BMX. Extreme sports are a perfect example here. To be really good at what you’re doing you have to push yourself, BUT you have to be careful. If you push yourself too much and too far, it can sometimes cost you your life.
      In other words, if you want to be sure you’ll be fine, know your limit, but be able to stay in your comfort zone when you are pushing the limit.

      If you know you’re going to be able to a 360 down a flight of stairs, go for it! If you’re just doing to show off to your buddies, don’t be shocked if you crash. ;)

  3. @zen I’m not suggesting that we try to become something that we are not. I’m saying that we should strive to balance an understanding of ourselves without using our introversion as a crutch.

    I am much better off now that I understand why I think a certain way, in regards to being an introvert. At the same time I strive to push myself without having to force anything. I definitely don’t want to try and be someone that I am not.

    • I wasn’t talking about using introvertism as a crutch, but more that when you know you’re an introvert you will know your limit. And by knowing your limit you will be able to do what you want without forcing yourself.

      Our level of introvertism might be different and also it might be a cultural difference when it comes to ‘forcing yourself’ to do things.
      Personally I don’t agree with forcing yourself to do something, because generally it’s something not too many enjoy. I also grew up learning it’s fine to force or make yourself do what you really want, but never force yourself to do things you don’t like.

      • @xen What I really hate is if I know an event is one that I would enjoy, but I have already spent my people-energy on some situation that was not beneficial at all, like a long meeting or hours of one-on-one time working with someone I don’t know well. When I get finished with those things, I’m going straight to being alone, I don’t care what pleasant event is happening next. ;)

  4. Funny that I should run into this site. I just finish reading ” Introvert Power” and it opened my eyes to the fact that its normal for me not to want to go to large gathering having unstimulating small talk w someone I will never see again. However, there are times when I have allowed myself to leave my comfort zone and hang out w my extroverted friends because in a funny way they keep me sane. I know myself well enough not to force myself to do something I don’t want to do, but sometime you have step out of the box ,even for a minute, to get a prespective in life. Sometimes risks are worth taking…

    • Hi Jennie! Well said. I know sometimes I just have to give myself a little push if the event is something I know I’d enjoy, with people I like, and my only reason for not going is that I’m comfy curled up with my book. There are a lot of things about the world and people around me that I just totally don’t see until I talk to some extrovert friends (or rather, let them talk). :) Thanks for your comment, and please keep coming back to Introvert Zone! We’re all figuring this thing out together, and it’s so nice talking to other introverts who are in a lot of the same situations.

  5. I know this is an older article, but I found it interesting, because the question of “when to stay and when to go” is one I always struggle with. I’ve only recently learned that I’m an introvert, thought for many years I was an extrovert. I find myself “on” when I’m with people, and though I don’t do it consciously, I am aware while it’s happening that I’ve done it again … I don’t want to call it acting, but it’s like I’ve lit a spark inside myself. I think that’s why I get exhausted and burnt out when I’m around people. (There’s maybe 4 people in my life I don’t do this with, and it’s not a conscious decision.) It isn’t that I don’t like people (though sometimes that’s how I feel), it’s that I run out of fuel.

    But conversely when I have long weekends, my tendency to hibernate (as I often feel) can bite me in the butt. It *does* get harder and harder to leave, and that actually starts to worry me. I start feeling trapped in my condo, and if I leave just to go to the grocery store or coffee shop, that feeling is broken, and I feel so much better. I feel recharged by being around others, in those times.

    And I don’t know why, but I’m a stranger-talker. Not sure that fits, but I am actually energized by talking to people I don’t know. Not so much in a party, but it’s sort of a joke with a friend of mine, because we can’t go anywhere without perfect strangers starting up a conversation with me.

    Of course sometimes this makes me dread going to the grocery store, and I find myself listening to the noises in the hallway to make a guess as to whether the laundry room is empty or not.

    Often I feel very mixed up. I need a balance, but it’s so hard for me to find. I fantasize about working from home, but part of me is terrified of the hermit I might become if I had the opportunity. I never want to go out and do things, but I know that if I don’t, I’m hurting myself in the long run. (I don’t even want to go out and do the things that I actually do want to do, if that makes sense.)

    For me, I definitely agree with Nick, that I have to push myself sometimes. My comfort zone can be a negative thing if I don’t leave it once in a while. (Another way of looking at it is that pushing myself expands my comfort zone, which seems like a good thing to me.)

    This is a great site. Glad I was pointed in this direction!

    • Hi Deb! Oh I totally empathize about not even wanting to go out and do the things you actually want to do! I want to do some things, but in my case a lot of it is that I want a certain amount of time at home… a LOT of time at home. :) So I don’t go on even the errands I’d sort of like, because then when I get home I’ve “lost” an hour or more of my blissful evening or weekend day. I think if I could work from home I’d do better in that department – would probably look forward to errands and some social occasions. However, if I ever DID have to go into the office for a meeting, I think I’d be so spoiled from working at home I’d dread office and meetings to a ridiculous extent.

      No post is too old to comment, so I’m glad you did! Everything we talk about on here is timeless, so always feel free to comment on any post. Thanks for your comment, and I’m very glad you were pointed in this direction too!

  6. Being married, I don’t really have to force myself to go out and do things – I get forced instead. My husband is much more inclined to accept event invitations, and of course, wants his wife to be with him.

    I really don’t think people need to force themselves to do things unless they are those kinds of events that could alter a relationship in work, family, or friends. Like company holiday parties are kind of mandatory, but happy hour at the bar isn’t. Weddings are important to friends and family, but the Superbowl party not so much.

    ~ Kristi
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Who You Are Meant To Be =-.

    • I agree – and I totally understand.. since you’re married to someone who likes to go to things, of course you go with him for his sake. He wants you with him anyway, plus for some reason some people make an issue of it if one person of a couple comes to an event alone.

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  8. This article is great. Until being “diagnosed” as an introvert by my manager I thought I was weird or depressed because I don’t like to interact socially all the time. I find myself RSVP’ing yes to an invite but when its time to go I am never in the mood. While my manager has expressed being an introvert is something I need to overcome to advance my career, reading blogs like this and others and some research, has helped me to realize, that I am normal. I am an introvert and sometimes I just don’t want to be bothered I am tired of being “forced” to do things I don’t want. However you have tayght me something very valuable that was in my face that I didn’t realize, I don’t have to go to all the events but I need to be strategic about what I attend. Thanks so much.
    .-= MalikMilan´s last blog ..How to stir up controversey as an Introvert =-.

    • Thanks so much! Wow, I’m sorry to hear that about your manager! But I’ve found that a lot of people have a very negative idea about introversion so we just have to be more strategic about doing the things they want to “see” us do – vs. taking our refreshing retreats.

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  10. Home is where my heart is. I can’t wait most nights to get home from work and spread out of my couch. However, as much as I am introverted and love to stay in my own space- I have a roommate that is constantly around, and in some cases… annoying. I’ve been finding myself forcing myself out of the house just to avoid her. Sometimes I’m not necessarily doing something with other people, but I do make an effort to go out of the house. Do you think I should approach her or keep trying to things and use it as a force to?

  11. I think it depends on each person. If he feels OK by himself he can stay alone and do his thing. If he wishes to socialize he should try harder. Or he can simply keep his feelings for himself and play a role when he is out with other people…
    epikoo@windsurfing´s last post ..Windsurfing Wallpapers

  12. I’m “forcing” myself to do things these days. Otherwise I could literally die alone in my flat and no one would know except my employer (and only because I didn’t show up for work). If I died on vacation, no one would miss me really. I think it is sad.

    I’m a loner, introvert and I’m quite happy with it. I take quite a long time to warm up to someone. The very rare occasions I click with someone, it eventually peters out to nothing …no more contact. I’m no longer a huge fan of sitting in bars/cafes drinking myself into a stupor cause it is a way to oneself occupied.

    I force myself, cause even though I am a loner, it gets lonely. While the forcing doesn’t feel right, it’s either that or exist in solitude. Meh.

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  14. Iam 35yrs old. I am an introvert and I sometime feel I’m quite happy with it. But at times when I see people, I don’t like myself and want to change myself.

    I love to stay in my own space. At office, I always run towards my desk to hide my face in the monitor, before someone notices and wishe me. I only wish and greet people who come to my desk.

    Everytime I have tried to chage my self, I put myself in an embarrassing situation which pulls me back from contnuing the effort to change myself.

    Do you think I can myself at this age.

  15. I am quite content to spend time alone. I noticed posts referencing Norwegian heritage. Only one of my grandparents was not Norwegian and my mother has told me that Norwegians tend to be independent individuals. I am less social than my other siblings but I attribute that to being the last of 4 children and living in a rural community. I didn’t have playmates as a child and I adapted to life on the farm by playing with the cats and finding other things to do. I remember some loneliness and awkwardness in grade school but all of that is in the past now. I’m 53 and I cannot change my childhood. I get along fine with co-workers but I have turned down so many invitations that I am rarely invited anymore and it really doesn’t bother me either. I dread the events I must attend as they seem to drag on and it seems quite difficult to carry on meaningful conversations or even small-talk with other employees. However, my job involves working with the public and I engage in conversations with clients quite easily. Perhaps those conversations come easily because I know they will be brief. It’s not unusual for me to speak with a stranger in the grocery store for 10-15 minutes from time to time. I feel that I am an introvert at heart but I have moments when I am an extrovert. Does anyone else experience this?

  16. This is not a one size fits all type of existence, as much as many people would like to believe. Being introverted, we value and see things differently on a social scale.

    Attending gatherings, partys, social events packed with people, its a sacrifice of our own personal comfort, for the happiness and well being of the people we do if for.

    Less if more with us, we don’t need a lot of friends, or events, to be happy.
    The best analogy I can give is a person who requires smaller servings of food, to keep them satiated and to maintain their health. Some people absolutely need a lot, some need an average amount, on that’s widely accepted as the “norm”, and some need very little.

    I need a little, but I will feel just as good as the person who needs a lot, because those are the proportions that will satisfy my body and my mind. I believe this concept holds true to every aspect of life , why not our social one?

    • I know exactly what you mean. I like your analogy about food. I feel that it’s quality over quantity. I hate to say it but I’m kind of a social snob, in that I’d rather not talk to anyone at all than sit and have pointless, dull conversation with several people all the time. If it’s an intelligent, compelling conversation, then I can go on and on for hourse. In other words… a nutritionally sound large meal once in a while is far better for me than a diet of constantly eating food like chips and cookies, etc. My problem is I’m horribly moody and painfully aware of how my moods affect others so it’s just easier to stay away when I’m not in the mood. I try to make the best of my happier moments by socializing with people I enjoy talking to, but they’re few and far between unfortunately.

      Luckily for me, I’m a pretty good actress so it comes in handy when I have to be social for work, or a party with my boyfriend’s family or friends. It does take it’s toll on me though, and I def need time to just be by myself, no pretense!

      The real problem comes when you realize that the people who like you, only do because of the facade you’ve displayed while acting like you want to socialize. Hard to feel good about yourself, or like you want to chat with others when you don’t feel that your true self will be accepted or understood. Just another way society forces us to conform and reject our true selves just to fit in and function.

      All in all… I say if at all possible, do what you feel is best for your own sanity, but when it comes to relationships you value, it’s usually better to sacrifice your temporary happiness and put on your best social face. In my opinion, it’s better than losing the few people who will forgive and understand my hermit-ness. I’m learning to not give a rat’s rear end about the others :)

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