I posted the following on Facebook the other day:
You don’t need to use an excuse when declining an invitation. It’s ok to just say “No thank you,” or “No thank you, but thanks for inviting me.” If the person asks “Why?” you have an excellent opportunity to discuss your introversion.
Saying “No thank you” without any made-up excuses may be hard, but it’s honest, and I sincerely think that the world will be a tiny bit better if we learned to just say no.
According to Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, introverts make up over 50% of the population. So let’s do some lazy math. Let’s say half of introverts are either gregarious, like to network, try to live like an extrovert, or think they will have enough energy on that day to go to the party. That leaves 25% of the population who really don’t want to go. That’s a lot of people, and potentially a lot of lies.
We may feel that we’re sparing the other person hurt feelings, but by giving a false excuse we’re normalizing lying and strange-ifying our occasional need to be solitary to recharge. We have the “right” to decide what we want to do with our time. The more people assume that the default answer will either be a Yes or an excuse, the less room there is for solitary introversion to be seen as normal. And by saying No you’re taking control of your life and your introversion.
“But I’ll hurt the person’s feelings,” you may be thinking. And you may be right. However, in the long run it’s better to be honest and deal with the consequences than lie and perpetuate of the myth that most people are extroverted and that everyone loves going to tons of parties.
If you go with the simple “No thank you,” you may be asked “Why?” This is a good opportunity to mention your introversion. You don’t need to give a long speech, just say something like “I’m an introvert and will probably want some downtime that weekend. By the way, have you seen Susan Cain’s TED talk (or, “Have you read Quiet?”).
That said, if you’re dealing with a very sensitive person, or if just saying no is too much of a stretch, try an honest excuse:
“Sorry, parties stress me out, but thanks for inviting me.”
“Not this time, sorry, but please invite me again.” (Best for gregarious introverts who may actually like to go to the next one)
“Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m an introvert and I have too many plans for that week/month already.”
“Thank you for thinking of me, but it’s been crazy at work and I just need to take it easy this weekend.”
“I really need a day to myself, but thanks for inviting me.”
“Thanks for inviting me, but I’m a solitary introvert.”
“No thanks, I’m more a small group of friends person. Say, you want to go out for lunch next week?”
I know it’s hard to be an introvert revolutionary, but I feel like we’ll all benefit by being honesty (but polite) and by owning our introversion.