Sunday, February 26, 2012

Introvert Lies

This morning I chose not to go to church. I'd been planning on going with Jacob up to the church he's working with this year, but I had a busy yesterday (although a fun one) and realized I really wasn't up for social interaction this morning. I needed to just sit at home in my dorm room with my headphones on and relax so I would be mentally and emotionally rested for the homework I have to do the rest of the day.

Last night when I texted Jacob to tell him I wasn't going to make it, the text initially ended, "If for some reason people ask why I'm not there, feel free to lie and tell them I'm not feeling good." When I reread the text before I sent it, I decided I should probably erase that section. I don't want anybody else to start telling introvert lies for me.

Introvert lies are the things that introverts tell people when they don't have the time or the inclination to tell the story fully enough to be understood. My most common introvert lies:

"I think I'm going to go home. I'm feeling a little sick."
"I have a ton of work to do, so I think I'm just going to eat in my room."
"Actually, my arthritis is acting up and I'm really sore, so please don't touch me today."

These are the polite ways of getting out of things and situations that are overwhelming me at the moment. These are excuses people understand. Compare them with what those statements really mean:

"I think I'm going to head home now. I'm feeling fine. I just need to be alone. Nothing's wrong. I just need to be by myself for awhile. The party was great, and I had a great time, and I love hanging out with you guys, but now I'm done. Of course I'm not mad at you. I came, I had fun, I'm starting to be too socially exhausted to have fun, and now it's time for me to go."

"I know I made dinner plans to eat with you guys, but when I got up to go, I suddenly realized that the last thing in the world I wanted right now was to go out and interact with people. It was such a strong reaction, I got a little light-headed. I'm pretty drained from school today. So I'm just going to stay here and soak up some me-time. I still like you guys and would love to have dinner with you some other time, but just not tonight."

"You are not a close enough friend to have not earned the right to touch me. Even if you *were*, I really need for you to ask me first. It really, really bothers me when you run up and hug me without any warning, and it makes me distrust you. So don't. Touch. Me. Not just 'today,' but pretty much 'ever.' At least without asking. Thanks."

Not only are those long explanations, they're ones most people don't understand. They sound rude. People assume I don't like them, or that I'm angry with them, or that I have a terrible time hanging out with them. I don't even dislike people who unexpectedly hug - I just want them to stop doing it, and I can't find a good way of asking without going into much longer, more detailed stories than I want. Even then, it doesn't stop them from feeling a little hurt.

This doesn't apply to everyone. Not everyone reacts to it badly. Sometimes I'll start explaining to someone why I don't want to go to a certain event everyone's going to, and they'll instantly nod and say, "Oh, yeah. I get that. You go do your own thing." And I am extremely grateful. But a lot of the time, I don't know if people will get it, and it's time-consuming to figure it out.

That's when the lies come out.

Everyone understands leaving a party because they have a lot of work waiting for them at home. Far fewer people understand leaving a party because although it's been fun, they've hit their social peak and they're just ready to go.

Skipping out on church is acceptable and understandable if you're sick. It's less so if it's just because you need to spend time on your own.

You save a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings if you just offer them a reason you don't have to explain.

I'd rather not tell introvert lies. Growing up in church, I was taught a lot about how white lies are still lies - if you lie to save somebody's feelings, it's still wrong. It's a little harder to figure out what to do, though, when the lies are told not because the truth is unpleasant, but because the truth is complicated. Am I really obligated to go into the entire spiel every time, especially with people I barely know?

These days I try to find phrases that are at least a little closer to the truth. "I'm tired" is a good one, because when I say that I usually mean I'm socially tired, but they'll assume I mean I'm physically tired (an understandable reason). But it's still a difficult process, and there are still a lot of times when a lie will slip out because I can't think of a polite or easy-to-understand way to say what I really mean.

It's exhausting being an introvert in an extroverted culture. I often worry that by covering up my real reasons for bowing out of things, I'm enabling that culture to continue. But it takes so much work and so much energy to reassure people that my introverted nature really doesn't mean I dislike them.

(This isn't meant to be handy tips for introverts about lying or anything. That's a terrible blog idea. It's just an observation on something I've noticed about myself and about how I deal with the world around me.)


  1. I totally get it. I say the same things to people who don't know me. To people who do know me, I just explain that I'm "peopled-out" and they get it. :D

  2. *wondering if I hugged you without asking last weekend*...

    But seriously.. good post. I do wonder how many people I know are introverted and I just don't realize it. Your posts are great reminders to be a bit more aware. :)

  3. Goosey: Yeah, there are a lot of people I do share this with - most of my close friends get it. (They have to, otherwise I'd probably not consider them close friends, heh.)

    Amy: LOL! I'm pretty sure you're fine. I didn't come away feeling attacked or anything. And "hi-it's-been-awhile" and "goodbye-it'll-be-awhile" hugs always make sense to me. But it's true - I run into a lot of people who consider themselves very introverted but a lot of others don't know it. Or people who just *are* introverted and don't know it themselves and don't know what it means. (That was me through most of high school.)

  4. Hi! This is Kali!

    I can relate to this. People don't get it when I need my alone time. Sometimes, I refer to it as being "socially drained" because it's like I have a certain amount of "social energy" that can be spent in one day. Once that is depleted, I need time to recharge.

  5. 27, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    Several years ago, I'm not sure that I would have related so much to this but I'm becoming more and more introverted as time goes on. My personality very much contradicts itself. There are many situations in which I would be very extroverted and many in which I would be very introverted.

    I do a very similar thing when it comes to special diets I have been trying out related to my intestinal issues. When I'm around people I don't know that well and they offer me food I'm trying to stay away from because of various health reasons it's easier to say, "No thanks, I'm allergic" rather than, "No thanks, I'm experimenting with my diet because I have crohn's disease. It's an inflammatory bowel disease. No, it won't NECESSARILY make me extremely ill, but it may or may not give me acid reflux. Which can be much more serious than it sounds." Even beyond that they tend to end up asking more and more questions about my disease and it gets uncomfortable. Granted, sometimes people are satisfied with a simple, "No, thanks." Unfortunately, the are often NOT satisfied.

  6. (This isn't meant to be handy tips for introverts about lying or anything. That's a terrible blog idea)= LOL I really like this line & wanted to copy it and make it happen again!!!! LOL
    Anyway good post I like it and it has made me really miss having you near me. Coco (Jessica)

  7. Kali: Yeah, that is a great way of putting it! I have started using terms like "socially drained" and "socially exhausted" to try to describe what's going on. Sometimes people get it, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they say they get it but still feel hurt, which is the hardest, because there's nothing I can do about that.

    Erika: I have awakened the introvert in you! Bwahaha! :-P
    Sometimes keeping your responses simple *does* work, and that's fantastic... but sometimes it opens up a whole bunch of other questions that just get uncomfortable. It's so much easier to just tell a simple, easily-grasped lie than to try to figure out who will ask prying questions and who won't.

    Coco: And I miss being near you! :) Glad you enjoyed my post. And that I'm not really encouraging introverted liars. Hehe.

  8. "I'm emotionally drained and need some quiet time to recharge."

    "I'm feeling overwhelmed right now so I think I'll go away and pull myself together."

    "Touch me and I'll break your fingers."

    Wait, that last one might not be a good suggestion.

  9. I know this is an old post, I read it cause it was linked to the most recent post. I find myself doing this a lot because the thought of having to explain why I want to go home (or don't want to go in the first place) drains me even more than I'm already drained. It's nice to live with some people now that I don't have to lie to :)