As an introvert, it can be difficult to say no to friends or acquaintances when invited to social arrangements. Deep down in our soul we are all programmed to please others. For me, it often felt like saying no would make them dislike me. But sometimes we know our social energy level is not up for it. As introverts we just want to be alone and need to say no to a social arrangements.
I truly agree. Many times in my life I wanted to say no, but I didn’t dare. While this post is not about how to say no, it is about common pitfalls done while avoiding to say no. I have done all of them in my life, and I share fictional stories which are inspired by my own experience.
The conclusion from them is simple. But before that, here are the three most common pitfalls I have made. Funny as it is, I have seen many others do them as well, and I can still relate to the difficulty to say no.
1. Making small lies
It seems like the easy exit to make up a small lie. Say, you are invited for a party this Saturday that you don’t feel like going. A story could be like the following.
Hi, Rune (my name), are you joining my party this Saturday, asks my friend called Thomas. (Yes, introverts do have friends. This is not the small lie referred to above, it comes below).
No, I am going hiking and sleeping in the woods this Saturday, I answer hoping he will stop asking further questions and leave. It is very uncomfortable to lie, what if he sees through it, what it I get caught, will he ever trust me again, will he unfriend me in real life and not just on Facebook?
Oh, you are joining the common trip this weekend, he asks.
Yes, that one, I answer, but have no idea about what he is talking about. And please just walk away, I am busy, can’t you see. I don’t know why I just don’t say that I am busy and leave. But I feel so guilty about the lie and so awful letting him down not joining the party that he planned. He really wants me there, but I really don’t want to be there among people I do not know and feel uncomfortable around.
Trap #1 That’s so funny, my brother is going on that hiking too, Thomas adds very excited.
Oh, no, not that one, I answer fast. Thomas has a brother. I didn’t know. And he is joining the hike I am pretending to part of. That’s is not good. I feel very uncomfortable, I just wish to run away, I lied, forgive me, and by the way, I hate myself. Please prosecute me. I am not worthy of being your friend.
Which one is my brother joining, Thomas asks suspicious. I have no idea, because you didn’t mention which one your brother is joining. Is this a catch 22? A situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules? I don’t know, because I do not think clearly. This is worse than a nightmare.
But I am going alone, I say. I misunderstood what you meant. Even I can see this is hopeless. I probably look miserable due to the guilt I feel for making up this, at first, seemingly small lie. I wish I could start all over. But real life doesn’t give second chances.
Trap #2 (back at the point before Trap #1) Thomas leaves. I do not meet him for a long time. My plan worked. I feel relieved. It was so easy to make up that small lie. I continue my daily life and forget about him and his party.
Then suddenly I bump into him. A feeling of guilt grows inside me, but I don’t know why.
Hi Rune, he says. How was your hiking. He doesn’t seem to share my feeling of guilt right now. He seems to be happy to see me.
What hiking, I answer, a bit confused.
Didn’t you go hiking back when I invited you for my party, he adds.
Oh yeah, that was good, I say. Like any lie with no details.
Where did you go, he asks. I really just want to escape this fast. It feels uncomfortable to lie about something stupid like this.
Nowhere particular, I say guilty. He looks at me with disbelief. Surely he doesn’t believe me. Best case, he thinks that I am hiding something that happened on the trip.
When you make multiple lies per week to get out of social arrangements, it is hard to keep track of them all. Being dishonest makes people distrust you and eventually disliking you.
Trap #3 (back at the point before Trap #1) Thomas leaves.
Saturday afternoon you’ve been sitting in front of your laptop all day long, and you have no food in the fridge. You decided to sneak out to the local store to get some supplies for the evening as well as some random one-minute dinner.
In the store you look at the selections of Super Chef dinners for microwave ovens. Unfortunately, they need 3 minutes to prepare, more time consuming than you planned. Of course, each minute I stand here indecisive adds to the total time spend on project get dinner fast.
Hi Rune, you recognise Thomas’ voice behind you. I thought you went hiking.
Right now, I wish to fast forward 200 years and be beamed up to the Starship Enterprise. James T. Kirk would certainly help the universe from a possible singularity causing a black hole from happening right now in my local store, while standing with the Super Chef 3 minute dinner in my right hand being indecisive to choose it or not. This dilemma is of course not cause the singularity, rather the being caught at two places at once. Here in the local store and, supposedly, out hiking somewhere. This is not possible under normal circumstances of the universe, it needs some extremes like a singularity. Call James T. Kirk to beam me up.
Unfortunately, I am here in present time, with no singularity to help me out of the apparent paradox to be present two places simultaneously. Hence, I have no other choice than to run out the store hoping Thomas didn’t see me. Or wait, he already did.
While small lies often seem to be the easy exit, they often lead to more complications in your life. You need to keep track of all your small lies and behave accordingly. Even if you find more thought through lies than the example above, it is still a mess and makes you feel guilty every time you meet the persons you lie to and slowly decomposing your relationships.
2. Giving secondary reasons to say no
Say, again, that you have been invited for a party by your friend Thomas. You really don’t feel like it, because you feel like being alone and recharge your introverted flat social battery after the full week of socialising with your fellow friends at work or study.
The story could be like this.
Hi Rune (still my name), Thomas says meeting you Friday in the hallway at your institute. You promised to tell me whether you are joining tomorrow at my party. We decided to order pizza from your favourite place.
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, I start. But I have to finish the assignment on Big Data Algorithm and Data Structures, and I didn’t figure out the solution. Which is true, but not the main reason why I don’t want to join. I just wish to be alone and watch a movie and feel good about myself being alone. Yes, alone.
Oh, no worries, he continues. It is a bit tricky, if you haven’t seen the solution yet you won’t solve it. Everybody got the solution. I’ll send you mine. You won’t solve it without it, but when you see it, it will take you five minutes to solve.
I panic. But I also need to clean, I add. What a stupid thing to say. I room is always clean. I clean every day. I have a OCD about cleaning. Everything needs to be clean and in order in my room.
No problem, I’ll come by tomorrow, it’ll take maximum an hours for your small room, then you can help me prepare the party, Thomas says.
I must admit, sometimes I got away with secondary reasons to say no. But somehow you always felt guilty about it. Somehow you feel not being honest. I can imagine that my micro expressions in my face would reveal me straight away.
Secondary reasons are not really honest and can can often be solved. There is no real reason to fight for them because the don’t matter enough for you.
3. Postpone to answer
The obvious quick fix when asked for something you don’t want is to postpone answering. This only makes it easier in the moment, not in the long run. Simple examples from my life could be something along the line of the following traps.
Trap #1Hey Rune (again this is me), Thomas says (and Thomas is still my friend inviting me to a party). Are you coming to my party this Friday?
It’s Monday so there is plenty of time.
Yeah, I start. I’ll just check if my weekend is free.
I immediately see the trap myself, I know that Thomas knows that I always stay home and have no plans unless it is with him. This puts me in a dilemma, I knew beforehand that I didn’t want to join his party, but now I have to come up with a really good reason not to join.
Trap #2 Hey Rune, Thomas says to me. I having a party this Saturday, and I was hoping that you would join.
I immediately feel obligated to join, but honest, I don’t want to. I’ve been working with him on a project and we have a lot of fun, but I do not like to party with people I barely know (Surprise, here Thomas is a new acquaintance). What if I would do something stupid, because I tend to drink too much when I am nervous around new people I don’t know.
Let me think, I start, I’ll let you know soon.
Please let me know soon, as I need to plan according to how many guests attend, he replies and leaves.
It should be easy to say no to him, as I do not know him. On the other hand we had such a great time working on the project, and I don’t want to disappoint him. I do not like saying no if he would think poorly of me. Further, I do not want to lie about it and I do not want to use secondary reasons (I’ve read the above two other reasons).
I meet him the day after. I feel bad about saying no, and I have no real reason for not joining.
Hey Rune, did you check your calendar about Saturday, it would be awesome if you joined, I have some good friends coming over and they will love your personality, he says.
My personality. Like me. No, he said love me. I feel no pressure at all.
Oh, yeah, I’ll tell you tomorrow, I say. And I wish I just said, no! I do not like being around people I don’t know. Especially, when I meet multiple new people at once. Why can’t I just say it as it is. I’ve seen others do it. What is wrong with me.
Guess what. The day after I meed Thomas when I arrive. I planned just to say no and that I feel bad around too many new people at the same time.
Hey Rune, I hope you can help me out this Saturday, there are coming more people than expected, Thomas starts. If I could ask you a favour. He looks me begging in the eyes. His eyes remind me of a small puppy begging for food at the table. Right now I wish I was mentally stronger. Could you please pick up a delivery to the party for me. I really wish I didn’t have to ask you this favour, but it is first ready after my first guests arrive. I will owe you one for this.
Now is the time I say no. But he is in need of my help. What to do?
Trap #3 Hey Rune, are you joining on Saturday to my party, Thomas asks me.
I’ll let you know soon, I answer.
The truth is, that if he doesn’t ask me again, I won’t tell him, I just don’t show up.
This is not a good strategy either, because Thomas is probably wondering why I didn’t come or give feedback. That is just bad for your friendships, no matter how close it is.
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- It doesn’t help you to postpone saying no.
- Don’t find secondary excuses.
- Don’t make up small lies.
- Just say no, tell your honest reason.