Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “I Prefer Being a Loner”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I am 25-years-old and I prefer the company of… myself. I’ve always been an introvert; however, that’s not to say I don’t have friends. My problem is that while I have a proclivity to be alone, I have friends that – to me – are needy, but to the rest of the world, are probably normal. I naturally don’t hang out much and there are times when I go into total reclusion. This hermetic bout includes me going hours/days without contact with anyone else. I’m aware this behavior is probably abnormal, but it’s something I need in order to feel more connected with myself. I’ve noticed these episodes have become more frequent in part because I have a roommate/friend who likes to keep tabs on me – the more she wants to know, the more I want to be left alone and the more secretive I become. I don’t know how to have “me” time without coming off as mean, weird, or unfair. What’s a euphemistic way of saying, “You know, you don’t have to text me all day every day,” or “No, I’m not telling you where I’m going,” or “Quit emailing me!” How should I handle this situation? — Loner
52 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Colleen September 5, 2011, 1:08 pm

    You explained your personality and your needs so well in this letter–have you tried sharing the same information with her? You could even just show her your letter. She may have such a different personality that she can’t even fathom why you would want so much alone time. Try to help her understand.

    Sometimes your friends might try to keep tabs on you because they’re worried about you. They may be concerned that you’re depressed or that your isolation is unhealthy, when it reality your needs are just different than theirs. I know I feel more comfortable about my “hermit” friends’ well-being when they can reassure me that they’re okay. They do this by explaining their needs, responding to my messages on occasion, and demonstrating healthy behaviors. Maybe you should strike a deal with your roommate: that you’ll go out with friends at least once every two weeks, or that you’ll let her know when you’re craving space, or that you’ll respond to texts when she uses an agreed-upon special phrase (like, “are you okay?” or whatever she can use to express concern). Make sure to demonstrate that you’re mature, confident, happy, and able to take care of yourself in healthy ways. That will go a long way towards easing her mind and letting you live life on your terms.

    She may also just be feeling neglected. It’s awkward to live with someone who doesn’t want to talk to you, and it may not be what she thought she was signing up for. In your efforts to meet your own needs, you may not be seeing her need to connect with her roommate. Help her understand that it’s nothing personal and that you’re not mad at her. Maybe you can have a sign on your bedroom door to let her know when you need quiet time alone. And when you are feeling social, give her a bit of your time and attention.

    Lastly, if you can afford to, consider getting your own place eventually. One of my close friends is a hermit and she is so much happier living alone than when she had roommates. She can make her entire apartment her own safe space and can control who enters it and when. And since there’s no one to see when she comes and goes (or when she nestles herself in for days), there’s no one to ask questions or to worry. She gets to engage with the world on her terms, and it seems to be working well.

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    • avatar

      Colleen September 5, 2011, 1:15 pm

      I forgot to mention that my close “hermit” friend also keeps a blog and uses Facebook and Twitter a lot. When I haven’t heard from her for a while, those mediums help reassure me that she’s doing fine. Lately she’s gone through some really tough stuff and so I’ve naturally wanted to make sure she is coping okay. Reading what she writes is a good way for me to know where she’s at but without her having to update me all the time. So if you use Facebook, Twitter, a blog, whatever, encourage your friends to connect with you that way. It’s much more passive and requires less of you.

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    • avatar

      Calle September 5, 2011, 1:22 pm

      You ask the LW to “demonstrate that you’re mature, confident, happy, and able to take care of yourself in healthy ways.” To be frank, the LW is an independent person and doesn’t need to justify herself. Unless she had a drug problem/depression, having to do so would make her friends seem incredibly patronizing. I just find that this letter strikes a nerve because while most of my friends get me, a few are like the LW’s friends. I have an active life (graduate student, volunteer, surfer, go out usually twice a night) and a serious boyfriend. I find it crazy that just because I don’t like to text every day a few people worry that I’m depressed or something. People really need to understand that it doesn’t make you a hermit or that something is wrong with you. Just, please recognize that your friends have an independent nature.

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    • avatar

      bluesunday September 5, 2011, 1:55 pm

      I disagree. Her roommate is not her mother, and it’s really not her business where the LW is going or what she’s doing. She sounds pretty clingy and needy to me too. I feel like laying out a minimum number of times the LW has to go out a week, or special phrases the roommate can use to ask about her would just elevate the issue and turn it into a focal point for conflict.
      However, I do agree that living with someone (even just a roommate!) takes compromise, so you should give a little too. LW, if I were you I would probably just mention in passing that you’re a very introverted person and you like to be alone, you don’t have to turn it into a big Oprah discussion. When you’re in a good mood, you should try to make an effort to hang out with your roommate and other friends, and if you’re going out, maybe mention where you’re going before she asks. That way you can share as much or as little information as you want on your own terms, and she won’t feel like she has to drag the info out of you. I think the more you share with her in person, the less you have to respond to her incessant emails/ test messages. You’ll just come off as someone who isn’t great at text- based communication (and I have friends like this! I know to call them, not text them!), but she won’t feel like you’re shutting her out or keeping information from her.

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  • avatar

    Calle September 5, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Ha, I completely understand where the LW is coming from. I have two friends that want to talk/text every day, or every other day, and it drives me crazy. They also want to hang out multiple times a week. I bet LW’s friends are also they type of people who are horrified at the idea of eating out alone or traveling alone. The problem is that people like the LW friends often don’t understand that some people just need space without taking offense. What I have found to work is simply to state that I dislike texting and to please just call me. I have found that this really works, because people who text sometimes don’t want to actually call or are in a situation where they can’t call. Also, if the roommate is constantly questioning the LW to where she is going the LW should just answer “I’m going out to clear my head.”

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  • Public Pearl

    Public Pearl September 5, 2011, 1:40 pm

    I’m also definitely a loner/introverted type. When in school, I had friends, but I just wasn’t one for hanging out if I could be by myself instead. Once I read that extroverted people get energized by being in a crowd, while introverted people feel suffocated, and that was me to a T. I just find other people exhausting to be around for any length of time, even my own family. (Especially my own family!)

    So while I don’t really have any advice per se, I was more commenting because of your line that this type of personality is “probably abnormal”. It’s not. It’s just a different type of personality, and it’s not going to mesh with everyone’s. And it sounds like you’ve just got a personality clash with your roommate/friend.

    I also hate chit chat and talking on the phone; I don’t even have texting on my cell phone (which is rarely turned on anyway). Is it necessary for work/emergenices/etc that you have a texting plan? Maybe you could drop it. Then people couldn’t bug you with texts all day.

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    • avatar

      Anna September 5, 2011, 2:47 pm

      I do agree that having an introverted personality is not abnormal. I am the same way. Large crowds make me feel nervous and suffocated. Occasionally, I like to go out with a small group of friends but I prefer small house parties. Often, like the LW, I just want to hang out alone and have “me time.” That’s perfectly normal and she shouldn’t have to justify anything to the roommate! I would gently let her know I’m fine and just want some space to myself. And if she keeps texting, for God’s sakes turn your cell phone off!!

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    • Lyra

      L September 6, 2011, 2:02 am

      I’m definitely the same way! I use my phone way more often than you do, Public Pearl, but once I understood that I am an introvert and need “me” time to recharge and refresh myself, life made SO MUCH more sense.

      LW, us introverts live in a very extroverted world. If we don’t want to go out and hang out in a club that’s wall-to-wall people (absolutely my worst nightmare), we’re considered “odd”. You are NOT weird for needing your alone time. Just communicate to your roommate that it’s just not what you like to do. You don’t like to be forced into conversation or situations that make you uncomfortable. Once she understands that part of you, hopefully she will respect your space. Maybe reach out to her too so that you can get to know her better personality-wise. Once you both understand where the other is coming from and what the other likes to do, my guess is it will be that much easier to live with each other!

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    • avatar

      AmitR September 6, 2011, 4:15 pm

      Check with the phone company to make sure that texts can be blocked! Not having a text plan can mean that each text costs money. Even the unwanted ones…

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  • avatar

    Betty Boop September 5, 2011, 3:03 pm

    Being an incredibly introverted woman who lives with an extroverted friend, I know that you really do have work together and both compromise to create a healthy interaction. It may seem crazy to have have special phrases and plan a certain amount of time together to keep things happy (as suggested above), but in my experience that sort of planning really helps create harmony. It’s very hard for outgoing personalities to understand that spending 3 days completely and utterly isolated in your room is, in fact, a happy time. For many people this would be a sign of serious depression and, if you don’t understand the difference, it would be an understandable cause for alarm. A very frank and very open discussion of your differing personality types is absolutely the way to go if you’re interested in fostering a friendship and long term roommate situation. If you’re only going to be there together for a year, you’ll probably find a way to get by without this, but if you’re looking longer term, it’s absolutely worth it. Having that kind of a talk is going to be very uncomfortable and probably difficult, but it’s the only way I’ve found to make things work between very different personality types.

    My roommate and I arrange to have monthly-ish roommate dates where we do something fun together, even if it’s just sitting down to watch a movie and eat dinner. We have a shared calendar that has our scheduled events on it that allows me to share my plans without having to actually talk about it at length or explain where I’m going all the time. We have weekly check-ins on the state of our apartment, bills and where we’re at in our lives and talk about anything necessary. All of this has combined to let my roommate know that I’m good without me feeling put upon while letting her share enough to feel involved.

    Not than any or all of these ideas is gonna be required between you and your roommate, but it’s helped the two of us immensely. We’ve been roommates now for 6 years and have no plans to move until the next stage of our lives. A blessing that allows me to afford so much more than if I lived alone.

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  • avatar

    David Jay September 5, 2011, 3:23 pm

    My very first thought was that you might be suffering from depression, but that usually comes with emotional symptoms, and you seem pretty level-headed.
    You may be experiencing what I refer to as “the un-social media”. My hypothesis is that too many people (and I mean in your generation) have lost their social skills and think instead that they are being social by posting every waking thought on Facebook or Twitter. In essence, they waste large amounts of our time and leave us with an overall bitter aftertaste, making us wish we could trade our 100 Facebook friends for just 1 real one who we could go out with every 2 weeks… and more importantly… who would leave us alone the rest of the time so we would actually have SOMETHING TANGIBLE to talk about when we do get together. You’re suffering from “nostalgia”… the desire to go back to simpler times when you weren’t wired to all of your “friends”. Guess what… all of these devices have “OFF” switches. I suggest you use them… right after you call a few friends and arrange to get together for drinks next weekend in a place WITHOUT wifi access. 🙂

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    • avatar

      Lila September 5, 2011, 3:52 pm

      Lol…you are completely right. My best friend and I decided to delete our facebook accounts because we got so sick of hearing inane things that people post in their feed. Tweting (I just had the best cup of coffee!), etc…it all gets old and can get really annoying. LW isn’t abnormal at all, I just think she is more of a quiet person.

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    • avatar

      Betty Boop September 5, 2011, 5:14 pm

      I understand you wish to be helpful, but I find your comment to be incredibly presumptuous and condescending as well ignoring what the LW has to say and her actual question. How is judging her socially inadequate and telling her to turn of her devices going to help anything when she already has people riding her for ignoring them?

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    • theattack

      theattack September 5, 2011, 5:49 pm

      I’m pretty sure the LW said she did not enjoy all the texts and stuff. She wants space from that stuff. She’s not attached to it.

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      • avatar

        David Jay September 5, 2011, 11:41 pm

        If there’s one thing I love about DW readers, it’s that I can always tell how right I am by the number of negative replies, and to that end, I greatly appreciate your support. To the LW, I re-assert what you alreay suspect: Your friends are NOT on Facebook or on Twitter. Your friends are at your door, or on your phone, or in your real mailbox. They are the people who give you a ride when your car doesn’t start. They are the people who send flowers when a loved one passes. They are the ones who bring food to your house when you are sick. These things have not changed, and they never will. Stay the course and the truth, however lonely, will be yours.

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      • avatar

        Carolyn September 6, 2011, 1:06 am

        Oh my god yet again you are completely missing the point and if you really did read this person’s letter, your reading comprehension is abysmal. The LW specifically stated that she goes without contact with ANYONE for hours/days. She is not buzzing away on Facebook. Besides, most of the extroverts I know, including myself, interact a lot online. The nature of interaction is at once changing rapidly and staying the same. I still go out with my friends and hang out at their houses, then go home and talk to them online. My friends ARE on Facebook and Twitter. You have one small point that people shouldn’t really solely on the Internet for interaction, but that doesn’t apply here. Are you a real person?

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 6, 2011, 10:08 am

        Hmm it seems to me that the LW was having more of a problem with the person in her life who is knocking on her door, and actually calling, the person who is constantly checking up on her in her real life, not her digital life. So it seems your advice is pretty far off. I’m not saying the LW should be on Facebook, and Twitter all the time, but she actually probably feels more comfortable checking in with her friends, and checking up on them with the social media, because she can do it on her own terms, and her own time. Physically having somebody there constantly having to know what she is doing, is actually causing here to become more of a loner, and making her seem less social than she actually is. Saying all of the thumbs down and negative replies makes your opinion right, is just acting like you are better than everyone else, and your opinion is the only right one. It is ok to be wrong sometimes, and understand that your opinion isn’t the only one that counts.

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      • avatar

        mgm September 6, 2011, 10:12 am

        I think some people are butthurt because you insulted their generation, and you are an old dude. And because it doesn’t “relate” to the letter. Didn’t you read the site’s TOS? All posts must have to be related to what some “real person” wrote in about in their letter.

        I am 22, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I am not on facebook, because it is a piece of sh**. It sucked me in for a brief period of time before I realized what was going on and deleted my account. I have other time sinks (TV, digital media) but facebook/social media is the worst kind of time sink.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 6, 2011, 10:39 am

        all of this while commenting on social media blog. I also never read in the LW’s article where said she was even on facebook, or twitter, or where it was a problem, so you both have effectively given advice on something that was never talked about. I guess both old people, and young people can give bad advice, and then get butthurt when people let them know when they are wrong. Didn’t you read the site’s TOS? It says that all other commenters have to agree with what every other commenter has to say.

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  • avatar

    Lucy September 5, 2011, 4:01 pm

    There’s nothing whatsoever abnormal about you or your behaviour, btw. Introverts are just as ‘normal’ as extroverts. Personally, I think that you don’t have to have a big talk with your roommate or any of your other more extroverted friends. Over time, as they get to know you better, they will adjust to your lower level of external engagement. But if you do feel like having the conversation, I’ve found that most people are very interested in learning about what introversion really is, and how the mind of an introvert works differently from that of an extrovert. As an example, most people conflate introversion and shyness, which is incorrect. So if you feel like being a little educational with your friends, they’ll probably be both interested in and appreciative of what you can teach them.

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    • avatar

      Lucy September 5, 2011, 4:04 pm

      You could just print this out and highlight the last contrasting characteristic. 🙂

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  • avatar

    Turtledove September 5, 2011, 4:24 pm

    LW, I feel your pain. I’m also an introvert. Most of my friends and family are used to my habits at this point, but I do remember the learning process.

    Have you spoken with her about this problem? Have you actually said to her, “Hey, I know you want my attention, but the more you push, the more I just want to withdraw.” In my experience, one of the hardest things with people who are wanting my attention like that is that the more I withdraw, the harder they push. One of the things I’ve learned to do is that when I need to retreat, I give people contacting me a time limit. So I may say, “Look, we should definitely get together soon, but I need some time first. Can you give me 3 days?” I find that that can go a long way to defuse that situation– they know that in 3 days they’ll have my attention and in the meantime they’re not hassling me so in those 3 days I generally have the energy to give them. I don’t know about the LW, but that has always been the case for me, I enjoy my friends, but I also find being social to be exhausting. So I retreat until I have the energy to be social again. That tends to happen quicker when people aren’t peppering me with requests. So I’ve learned to just ask for the time I need. Blocking texting also helps– when you’re notoriously difficult to get in contact with, people tend to leave you alone (I’ll admit, I usually don’t answer the phone either although I do call people back)

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B September 5, 2011, 5:12 pm

    I know this. I am very introverted and independent. I, too, find the company of other people exhausting, even the people I like. It is not unusual for me to not talk to anyone for a week at a time. (When I was a kid, my parents used to punish me by sending me to my room. What they didn’t understand was that that was a reward for me, not a punishment.) I also hate texting and social media. When I do engage with someone, I like it to be personal and intimate, meaning we are giving each other our full attention. I had roommates for a while, and it did not work for me. I now live alone and am much happier. However, I realize not everyone can do this.

    I found I just had to tell people I needed alone time, and they just had to learn to get it. Give them time, and they will.

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  • avatar

    moonflowers September 5, 2011, 5:29 pm

    LW, your need to be alone isn’t that unusual at all. In fact, I have a friend who only asks to hang out with me a maximum of 3 times a year – and she considers that to be a very close friendship! I think people just think introverts are weird because by definition you don’t see them out and about. It might also be a cultural thing – if you live in the US, American culture strongly favors extroversion, while, say, Asian cultures value introversion more.

    Set clear boundaries about when or how you will communicate with people, and on what terms you’ll hang out with others. Sometimes friends keep “checking in” because they want to ask you to go out, but if you make it clear that you need recuperation time, they might take that into account before bugging you. My friends have learned that I more or less take email vacations every few days and won’t answer anything non-urgent right off the bat, so they won’t keep nagging me unless it’s important.

    Also, try and see if you can make some more introverted friends. Your fellow introverts will understand better when you say you’re emotionally exhausted and need some alone time. They are also less likely to keep bothering you nonstop since they’d just wear themselves out that way.

    Finally, it’s good to see that you still make an effort to be social despite your introversion. Socializing is still good and healthy even if it’s draining sometimes (kinda like exercise?), and I’ve noticed that sometimes I really am dreading going out, but come home in a happier mood than I’d expected. Hopefully your friends are cheering you up and supporting you even as they’re also wearing you out a bit. 🙂

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  • avatar

    MiMi September 5, 2011, 7:12 pm

    Turn off your phone and don’t check your email when you’re in a deep cave-dwelling phase if you don’t want to hear from anybody. When you meet someone new, don’t give them your phone number or email address.
    Cut out some photos from a magazine, laminate them and stick velcro on the back. Put a velcro dot on your door and stick one of the photos on it. Once a day, change out the photo on your door. This way your roommate can tell that if there is a fresh photo on your door, you haven’t croaked in your room and she won’t bother you.
    Write back when you have a problem, not just a request on how to be snarky to people who, mysteriously, care about your ass.

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    • avatar

      Rachel September 5, 2011, 11:29 pm

      There is a thin line between caring and being condescending. Other people mentioned that the LW doesn’t need a second mother.

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  • avatar

    anonymous September 5, 2011, 8:41 pm

    Love this post.

    I’m an introvert, happily married for 20 years to another introvert. My extroverted sister can’t understand that, to us, the height of closeness is to be able to say, “I love you but I need alone time right now, so go away, okay?”

    And we BOTH GET IT. In fact, it is incredibly freeing.

    Maybe you could find an introverted roommate?

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    • avatar

      Turtledove September 5, 2011, 10:05 pm

      Goodness yes. My entire family are extroverts and they simply cannot comprehend that my husband and I are both incredibly happy sitting in the same room ignoring each other– and that to us, that often does constitute “togetherness” time. And they’re gobsmacked that we can and do say, “I love you, go away.”

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      • avatar

        TheOtherMe September 6, 2011, 10:20 am

        I get ( and envy ) that you can be an introvert in a couple but can you still be an introvert if children are involved ? I am actually sincere in this question, I need to know.

        PFG are you there ?

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      • avatar

        Friend of Beagles September 6, 2011, 8:09 pm

        I can’t speak for all introverted parents, but I can share my experience. My husband and I are introverts (him more than me, but I definitely need time alone to recharge), and we have two kids. Our daughter is like us, content on her own much of the time. Our son, however, sigh. If he hasn’t reported what he’s done to at least three people, he hasn’t actually done it. He needs to be with people or on the phone with people and communicating at all times. The intensity of the extroversion varies with the stage he’s going through (he’s almost 11 years old, and he is testing boundaries; not surprisingly, he’s intensely communicative right now, and not just in saying “no”). Is it tough? Yes. Is the tidal wave of information coming from him at all times overwhelming? Oh yeah. Does it cause friction? Sure. But you get through. The love you feel for your child softens some of your natural barriers, at least for me.

        Another thing about introvert parenting: In my case, I learned to loosen up a bit and start conversations with other moms (or, gulp, deal with my phone phobia), because it does take a village to raise a child. It can be much easier to go out in groups (you can actually run to the bathroom alone if you have to if another mom is there to keep an eye on Junior!), and children (especially the extroverted ones) are often more engaged (and not hanging on or talking to you!) when in a group or during a one-on-one playdate. Also, you’ll be going places,interacting with, and advocating for your child with people you didn’t have to before (at least not in the role of parent), like the pediatrician and school. These things get easier with experience. Before I had kids, I scored as a solid introvert on the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. As of a couple of years ago, I had drifted closer to the border between extrovert and introvert. I have a feeling I’ll drift back toward my natural introversion once the kids are grown and moved out, but you never know.

        Does parenthood shake the introvert’s world? It sure does. But it shakes any parent’s world. Your life will change, but, in the aggregate, I’d say it changes for the better.

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      mf September 6, 2011, 11:17 am

      I’m an introvert engaged to another introvert, and I swear, it’s heaven! We both love staying in and watching a movie on Friday night, when the rest of our friends are going out and partying. On the weekends, we sometimes spend hours at home, each doing our own thing without feeling the need to pester each other.

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  • katie

    Katie September 6, 2011, 12:15 am

    umm.. why dont you just ignore the texts/calls/emails when you dont wanna be disturbed? im a very outgoing person, so I really cant identify with what you are feeling, but if I ever just want some “me” time, i just dont respond when people try to call me… i mean i dont think that what you want is that weird, but if it seriously bothers you that people are even calling/texting/email you in the first place, i think that is the abnormal part….

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    • avatar

      Carolyn September 6, 2011, 1:09 am

      I thought this too, but if the LW can get the roommate to stop pestering her by just having a talk with her, then at least she’ll have more peace and quiet. And the roommate won’t worry about her/him, which is nice.

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  • avatar

    Jess September 6, 2011, 2:25 am

    I feel bad for the roommate 🙁 I had an introverted roommate, and I constantly felt rejected by her. I just wanted someone to talk to at the end of the day! The LW should explain her introvertness, and they should probably find new roommate arrangements. It sucks being the roommate in this scenerio! because when you’re an extrovert, its extremely depressing to know there is a person on the other side of the door… they just don’t want to talk to you. 🙁

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    • avatar

      justpeachy September 6, 2011, 4:20 pm

      Yes, but there are two possible scenarios that could have lead to them living together:

      1) They were placed together
      2) They already knew each other and chose to live together.

      If they were placed together, you can’t expect this person to want to be your best friend. And if they knew each other, they either needed to set up some sort of boundaries at the beginning if they didn’t just want to be passing ships in the night.

      Either way, if you want to talk to someone at the end of the day, it’s not the roommate’s responsibility, it’s yours.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie September 6, 2011, 7:42 am

    Having friends is like any other relationship, it requires time and energy. If you want the association you have to put into it to get something back.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest September 6, 2011, 4:45 pm

      THANK YOU FOR THIS! After reading everyone’s comments, I clearly am not well versed in introverts. However, my initial reaction to this letter was ‘be glad you have friends that care about you so much.’ If she has such issues with caring friends, how about telling them she doesn’t want friends and go back into her hole.

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  • avatar

    Liz September 6, 2011, 9:07 am

    I have a friend who has a very similar personality as the LW and I can definitely say that what bothers me (and other friends) about her is not that she is introverted and doesn’t want to hang out all day every day (completely understandable, we all need time to recharge!) but the fact that she ignores attempts of contact, never gets back to anyone about plans and is simply unreliable. There have been multiple situations in which people really could have used her help but she didn’t react until 3 days later, simply because she was ‘overwhelmed’ with the task of responding. Your friends should accept the way you are and know what they are getting into, and they definitely shouldn’t be all up in your business. But on the other hand you should also consider how your behavior looks from the outside and how it can make other people feel neglected and like they can’t count on you.
    If you want to have friends, you need to be a friend. That doesn’t mean you have to become an extrovert or change your personality, just be open about your feelings and if your ‘friends’ refuse to understand the situation you’re in and there is no opportunity for compromise….you might just need different friends.

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  • Budj

    Budjer September 6, 2011, 8:57 am

    As a fellow “natural introvert” I envy that you only have to deal with a roommate checking up on you during your hermit phase….I never get time to myself in my current living situation and am faking extroverted-ness…haha.

    Anyways…since a lot of introverts have dry / sarcastic senses of humour in common and communication is key to any social relationship I’m pretty sure you can find a clever response to make your point the next time she makes a point to inquire about you.

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  • avatar

    Mainer September 6, 2011, 10:37 am

    Just want to address the whole introvert thing. This person is not displaying typical characteristics of an introvert. S/he is displaying characteristics of someone who likes being alone and isolated. Few myths about introverts people should be aware of:

    – Introverts do, in fact, like people. We just like less people. By default, we value the few close relationships we do have very closely. Extroverts can get along with everyone and tend to have more “friends” (or rather people they consider a friend). Introverts are simply more selective on who they see as a “friend.” The ones they see as friends, however, are friends they treat in the same was as extroverts do. If this person were an introvert, they would welcome his/her friend with open arms whenever they wanted to talk.

    – Introverts do like to go out, just not for as long as extroverts. They tend to take everything in a lot faster than extroverts, so if they’re out for a while they tend to get bored faster. They’ve seen what they need to see and don’t feel the need to waste any more time in that setting, so they want to leave so they can process their thoughts somewhere else, typically with no distractions. If the LW was an introvert, s/he would not feel the need to be cut off from everything for days at a time.

    – Introverts do like to talk to people. We process our thoughts and do a lot of thinking by ourselves, but by that same accord we need someone to *share* those thoughts with. If not, we get a little nutty.

    Think of introverts as having more sensitive neurotransmitters. We like to have fun and socialize but just not in busy loud places. That is too much stimuli and we tend to shut down. We’re not adrenaline seekers. The difference is simply in the way we process information. Extroverts need a lot of stimuli to keep them energized, introverts do not. It has nothing to do with locking yourself in your room and cutting yourself off from everyone. THAT is abnormal. By abnormal, I just mean a majority of people do not do it, so it’s not considered the “norm.”

    Please stop referring to the LW as introvert. S/her is not. S/her just enjoys being alone, and that’s fine. Just tell your friends that you’ll shoot them a text or call when you feel like hanging out, but at this given time (whenever that may be) you just don’t feel like it. Hopefully they’ll understand. EDIT: S/he is, technically, introverted, but we should not be attributing his/her behavior to that. The behaviors s/he lists are not a result of being introverted, because introverted people don’t typically function that way. However, on a whole, it is safe to assume the LW is an introvert.

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      Kristen September 6, 2011, 10:50 am

      Thank you! I’m so glad you posted this. I also consider myself to be an introvert: I get easily overwhelmed in large groups, I dread talking to people I don’t know, and I often make trips to the bathroom at parties just so I can decompress for a few minutes.

      However, being an introvert doesn’t make me any less of a good friend to people. I may have fewer close friends (say, 5 or 6) than a lot of other people, but I nurture those friendships and care about them. If someone texts me and wants to talk or needs something, I’m not going to ignore it because it’s too much to handle or “I like my alone time.” To me, that’s just being a bad friend and not considering other people’s feelings. Sure, it may get tiring to have a long phone conversation or repeatedly respond to texts, but it’s worth it to keep those friendships. I’d be really offended if I tried to check in with a friend because I care about them, and they told me they don’t want to talk right now because they’re in “hermit mode.”

      As Mainer said, that’s not being an introvert. I agree that it might be best to just clearly lay out how frequently you prefer to hang out/be contacted. That way, they don’t think you’re ignoring them or don’t care. And I would try to reach out to them every once in awhile, too, so they know you’re invested in the relationship, regardless of how often you see them. I’ve found that even when I absolutely don’t want to go out, or don’t want to call a friend “just to talk,” it ends up being a lot more rewarding than I would have thought. It’s worth the anxiousness and effort that comes with it.

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        mf September 6, 2011, 11:13 am

        I like this advice from Mainer and Kristen, especially Kristen’s suggestion to reach out to your friends every now and then. I’m also an introvert, but I’d be hurt if my calls/texts/emails to a friend were never reciprocated. If you take the initiative now and then to contact your friends, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the gesture as a sign that you care about them. Also, if you contact them, you can talk to them on your own terms, when you’re in the mood to be social, and you won’t feel so pressured to hang out with them when you’d really like to be alone.

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        Kristen September 6, 2011, 11:18 am

        That’s a great point about reaching out to them when you’re feeling social. That way, both of you get your “friend time” in, and it’s during a time that’s convenient for you. (And your friendship doesn’t become one-sided!)

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 6, 2011, 11:23 am

        Ugh decompress time…..when I found out the occassional cigarette was a better decompress time than the bathroom (outside and “stress relief”)…that was a bad day.

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        Kristen September 6, 2011, 11:28 am

        Haha. I can’t even describe the kind of mental relief I get from just closing the door and being quiet for 3 minutes at a party. I’ve described it to people as being similar to having a “social meter.” When I’m in a large-group situations, it takes a lot of mental effort for me to engage in conversations, think of small talk topics to discuss, etc. The longer that goes on without any breaks, the higher my meter rises. When it gets to the limit, I have to escape somehow – usually to the bathroom because people don’t think anything of it – and “recharge.” Then the meter is reset and I can go back and be social for another half hour or whatever. It’s weird, but that’s just how it feels. By the end of the night, when we get in the car, I’m just exhausted. Not because I didn’t like the people I was with, or because I was bored, but just because those situations are stressful for me. I’m hoping I’m not alone in this!

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 6, 2011, 11:31 am

        Definitely not. I’m glad to hear more people are like me and don’t just loooooove being in a crowded bar talking to everyone and their brother’s sister’s cousin’s roommate from 4 years ago for 4 hours straight. I like being social, but the more external stimuli the harder it is.

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        Kristen September 6, 2011, 11:35 am

        Exactly. I think the worst is when you’re with acquaintances… you know them just well enough to feel obligated to ask about their family/school/whatever, but not well enough to carry on any type of extended conversation. At least with people you’ve just met, you can say “nice to meet you” and move on without feeling awkward.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 6, 2011, 11:47 am

        haha I totally agree with the acquaintance comment – I think it’s because it is just really hard to have an indepth conversation with someone that you know isn’t going to be really involved with your life much past that conversation. Which I would say adds more evidence to Mainer’s point.

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      Blitzen September 6, 2011, 12:19 pm

      Very accurate, Mainer. Thumbs up!! =)

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    • Budj

      Budjer September 6, 2011, 11:20 am

      Dude good job. You described me to a T – I would say being annoyed by people in general to the point of seclusion for days at a time is atypical social behavior.

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    Nick September 6, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Here is a left-field suggestion: do a silent retreat. Go to a monastery or some similar arrangement that conforms to your values, and try existing in a real certified hermitage for a meaningful amount of time, like 30 day or more. Your body/ mind / spirit may be telling you something.

    We were not born to conform. There is no such thing as a typical person. Be extraordinary in your way and be proud of it. Our worldly progress is owed to people embracing being extraordinary. Lean into it and discover your way.

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  • Tracey

    Tracey September 6, 2011, 11:40 am

    I don’t think there’s a euphemistic way around this – you’re just going to have to be up front with your friend. Sit her down, show her this letter, and tell her in a firm but friendly manner that you are the type of person who prefers to be more to yourself. Tell her you appreciate her concern and her friendship, and that you know she’s there for you, but you’re not the type to go for the daily chats and constant contact. Tell her that it’s nothing against her personally – that it’s your personality and that you’d appreciate her respecting your personal space. Then gently enforce it. If she calls, let her know you appreciate the call but that it’s not a good time and you will call her back when it’s good for you. If she visits, do the same thing. You are not required to entertain a person just because someone calls or comes by. Keep the lines of communication open in some sort of form – maybe look into Facebook, Twitter, a blog, texting, when you feel like it so your friends know you are okay.

    The social media or blogging can also be used by you as a tool to open yourself up more should you decide to become more extroverted and less of a loner – an electronic journal of your thoughts, feelings and emotions that you can open up or keep as private as you desire. Since you say that you think this personality trait of yours is abnormal, perhaps you can talk to a counselor to explore why you think this is. Or maybe join a group like Toastmasters to bring yourself out more if/when you choose and at your own individual pace.

    IMO, there’s nothing wrong with being a loner preferring not to be totally connected to your entire circle of friends at all times. Sometimes, solitude can be healthy. But if you think your solitude is not normal, then this should be explored. At the same time, your friends, no matter how concerned they are about you, should respect your space, boundaries, and requests for privacy without imposing themselves on you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

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