Welcome to the Sidebar’s advice column, where pups, peeps, and popes alike sit down for a chat with our very own Muffle. Her advice might be bad, but hey, at least someone’s listening. Today we’re talking about telling your friends to screw off.
I would say I fall between introvert and extrovert. I certainly benefit from the company of others, but equally value a night goofing off without any commitments to anyone. I tend to accept most invitations to events or to hang out if I do not have a reason not to, as I feel like an asshole saying “I’m free that evening but no.” As a result, I often over-commit myself and leave little time just for me. What’s the best way to balance politeness with valuing yourself?
As a huge fan of staying home and doing nothing much (which has lately consisted primarily of playing a farming simulator for hours at a time), there’re several directions you can go here. Personally, I’m a big fan of the white lie, but I’m also an amoral jerk who doesn’t mind lying to her friends to score a night off. (It also doesn’t work if you’re friends with the people you’ve lied to on the video game console of your choice, as they will be able to see that you’ve been playing games for two days straight rather than hanging out with them.) If you do take this route, “I’ve got plans with [family/significant other/friend from out of town whom you don’t know and will never meet]” generally works pretty well. If you get busted, you can always say your plans fell through but you weren’t feeling well so you stayed home. Worst case scenario, though, you can cause hurt feelings because you, you know — lied to your friends.
Option number two is just staying non-committal and no-showing when the time comes, but to me that’s worse than lying because you’re leading your friend on; they might really believe you want to hang out when you have no intention of doing so, and could prepare accordingly by failing to make other plans or by buying food or drink for you that will go to waste. Plus, you’ll develop a reputation for being unreliable, and then people will stop inviting you to things entirely, which isn’t really the goal here.
Option three is probably the best, and it’s just telling the truth. This won’t work as well for acquaintances who barely know you, but your friends are likely aware that you’re not a total social butterfly. Generally, if you tell people that you’ve had a busy or stressful time and you’re looking forward to a quiet night in, they’ll understand. If they try to push you or manipulate you into going, 1. wow, not cool, and 2. just tell them that you’re looking forward to next time but that you’re out for this one. Stick to your guns unless you do legitimately change your mind, because it’s your time to spend as you like.
Don’t feel bad for wanting some time for yourself. As long as you’re a good and caring friend, no one will mind the occasional “Thanks, but not tonight.”
Snark and tipples,
Got a question for Muffle? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.