How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Your Friendships as an Introvert

Introversion and extroversion are personality traits that indicate where you get your energy from. If you’re an extrovert, you typically gain energy from social interactions and being surrounded by people. If you’re an introvert, you get your energy from being alone and often find your battery running low after socializing for long periods of time.

Neither one of these characteristics is right or wrong, but when you mix them together, it can be pretty tough to navigate.

I’ve always been an introvert. Not only do I love having me-time, but I need it in order to feel rejuvenated, recharged, and confident. While I enjoy being around people, I tend to become withdrawn and distant if I’m around them for too long. Due to my introversion, I’ve previously struggled with balancing my social life and my necessary alone time. In the past, I didn’t know how to juggle spending enough time with my friends and spending enough time by myself. My extroverted friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t always want to go out with them, or why I’d occasionally shut down when we were together. In fact, my need for me-time cost me quite a few friendships, because I had no idea how to communicate it. 

If you're an introvert who is struggling to find balance with your extroverted friends, that's totally normal. As an introvert, saying no to hang-outs with friends can cause tons of guilt, FOMO, and even some friction in your relationships. However, there's nothing wrong with needing and prioritizing your alone time. Read on to learn what you can do to set boundaries with your friends and with yourself.

Gif of Moira Rose quote from Schitt's Creek CBC / Giphy

Have an open, honest conversation with your friends

Communication is always key. For those who don’t understand introversion, it can be super hurtful and confusing when a friend chooses to be alone rather than to hang out together.

As an introvert, it’s necessary to explain to your extroverted loved ones why you need space, how it benefits you, and that it’s not personal. Remind them that “I need some alone time” doesn’t mean “I don’t enjoy being around you.” Your alone time is an act of self-care and doesn't reflect how you feel about and/or view them at all. 

While it may feel a bit awkward to start, having a transparent conversation with your friends is the best way to understand and establish what you need from one another. 

Two girls sitting on ground having conversation Photo by Andrea Tummons from Unsplash

Give yourself permission to say no

In the past, I’ve had a really hard time saying no to my friends, even when my tank felt nearly empty. Honestly, saying no to plans or social gatherings because I just didn’t have enough energy made me feel like a jerk. I found myself lying and creating fake excuses with my friends because I needed and craved alone time, but didn’t know how to ask for it. Sometimes, I tried to force myself to be energized, social, and outgoing, which only ended up making me feel even more emotionally exhausted. 

As challenging as it may be, it's okay to say no to someone just because you need to take care of yourself. Needing time to yourself isn't selfish. But, I totally understand just how awkward it can feel when saying no to someone to love. If you're unsure how to turn down an invitation to hang-out because you need to recharge, here are a few phrases to try out:

  • "I'm feeling a little drained today, but thank you for thinking of me."
  • "I'd love to, but I'm not feeling like my best self today. Can I take a rain check?"
  • I'm due for some me-time, but I apprecite your invitation."
  • I need to recharge, but I'd love to spend time with you later."
  • "My energy is running a bit low today. Let's do something later this week."

Saying no to a loved-one can make you feel extremely guilty, selfish, like you're missing out, or like you're not doing enough. These feelings are normal and it will take practice to get rid of them. 

If you want to make sure you're properly balancing your time and energy, try time-blocking your days. Get together with your friends and set aside specified time throughout the week to spend together, as well as time to spend alone. If you set a schedule, you'll prevent having to say no too often or causing conflict in your friendships. It's a great way to show your friends you care, while also taking care of yourself. 

Girl laying on bed reading book Photo by Nicole Wolf from Unsplash I’ve lost many friends because I didn’t understand why they were upset when I didn’t always want to hang out, and they didn’t understand why I sometimes preferred to be alone. Turns out, it’s totally possible for introverts and extroverts to peacefully coexist. All it takes is a little communication and setting healthy boundaries.