7 phrases introverts use to set personal boundaries, according to psychology

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It’s tough being an introvert sometimes.

I say that as someone who usually leaves parties first, needs a hell of a lot of time to recharge, and gets easily overwhelmed by harsh lighting and loud noises.

However, I also love being able to enjoy my own company and have fun in solitude. And I firmly believe no introvert should be ashamed of who they are – we aren’t any less likable or welcoming than extroverts, we just get our energy from a different source.

What being an introvert in a primarily extroverted world does mean, though, is that we need to set personal boundaries.

And that’s not always easy.

Here are the 7 phrases to help you along.

1) “I already have plans”

When someone asks you to come to an event you’re not really keen on attending, what’s your immediate reaction?

Many introverts with people-pleasing tendencies just accept the offer straight away because they don’t want to come across as mean or cold.

If they do reject the invitation, they bubble-wrap their “no” in thousands of different excuses and explanations just to make sure the other person understands they truly cannot come no matter how much they might want to.

You know what, though?

You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Yeah. When I realized this, it rocked my whole world.

“What? Are you saying I don’t have to spend five minutes explaining which kinds of plans I already have or figuring out an excuse?”

That is, indeed, what I’m saying. We’re adults here, after all. If you say you already have plans, most people won’t question you – they’ll understand that you don’t feel comfortable disclosing more and leave you be.

According to psychologists, feeling confident enough to say “no” can help us set clear and consistent boundaries in our relationships, not to mention it makes us feel empowered.

And remember – “I already have plans” is applicable to any kind of plan you have, including lying in bed and watching your favorite TV show.

You don’t have to be “busy” to skip out on events. Your time is yours to spend as you see fit.

2) “This has been lovely! I’m going to head home now”

 If you do end up going to a party, remember that you’re free to leave at any point.

You don’t have to stay for three hours if you don’t feel like it. There is a way for you to say goodbye and head home – but again, it’s all about how you phrase it.

Give a compliment (such as saying you’ve had fun), express your desire to go home (you don’t have to apologize if you don’t want to), and show that you want everyone to continue partying without you (“You guys enjoy yourselves!”).

Author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, Sophia Dembling, writes:

“I always keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to say ‘yes’ to parties if I give myself permission to leave when I’m ready.

“And remember that when people say things like, ‘You can’t leave now! It won’t be a party without you!’ they’re just making noises with their mouths. It doesn’t really mean you have to stay, and it will still be a party after you’re gone.”

3) “I need some alone time to recharge”

Imagine you’ve just come home, and your flatmates want to chat with you for ages about everything and anything.

You do know you’re allowed to shut yourself in your room and have some peace and quiet, right?

As long as you go about it in a polite and assertive way, there’s no reason why you can’t set this boundary.

“I love chatting with you, but I just feel so socially drained. I think I need some alone time to recharge, so I’m going to be in my room for a bit, alright?”

It’s very important that you feel safe enough to say something along those lines and that you receive a respectful response. 

As psychotherapist Sharon Martin, DSW, LCSW, says, “Our relationships benefit because honoring our limits helps build genuine connections based on mutual respect.”

When you set a personal boundary and watch your flatmates, friends, or family members respect it, your relationship automatically gains “plus points” because you feel safer being your authentic self and expressing your needs around them.

4) “Could you please try to text before you call? It would help me feel less stressed”

Ugh. Is there anything worse than random phone calls out of nowhere?

Seriously, it’s almost as if someone decided to suddenly walk inside your house and shout out your name – it disrupts your sense of privacy, rouses you from your introvert zone, and may even make you feel anxious all of a sudden.

If you hate it when people call you instead of just sending you a text, don’t be afraid to bring it up and set a boundary.

Your extroverted friends and family may not necessarily understand you, but that doesn’t matter – what matters is that they respect you despite that.

And if you regularly call with a long-distance friend, it’s a good idea to schedule these calls beforehand so that you know when you can make the time and space for a long phone call in your week.

5) “I’m sorry, I’m not feeling up for going out today, but you guys have fun”

When I went on holiday with my introverted friends last year, I absolutely loved the dynamic we’d set up for ourselves– if one of was needed alone time or didn’t feel like going out, we completely respected that.

We all knew just how draining travel could be and we wanted our holiday to be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

If you make plans but then feel really socially exhausted, know that it is okay for you to change your mind and stay home.

However, do keep in mind that doing this too often can make you turn into “that” friend who always makes plans and never shows up.

Dembling agrees: “Don’t be the last-minute ‘poozer,’ as my husband and I called it—the person who frequently makes plans and then backs out at the last minute.

I understand that sometimes following through on a plan sounds just too hard (perhaps your week was more taxing than you expected, for example) and you simply have to bow out, but use that privilege sparingly.”

6) “I need some space to process my feelings”

Imagine you’ve gotten into a fight with your partner.

Feelings are beginning to escalate, you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you really need to be alone so that you can sort out your emotions, recharge, and calm down.

I want you to know that you have every right to ask for space in a situation like this. In fact, psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein PhD explains that “time apart can provide an opportunity to cool off, gain perspective, and approach discussions or disagreements in a more constructive manner.”

If you just shut your partner out or act passive-aggressive, though, you may make them feel insecure, rejected, and wounded.

This is why it’s very important to say something like, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed. I need some space to process my feelings, but I want to talk about this again when I’m a bit calmer.”

And voila!

A partner who understands you and loves you will respond in a respectful manner – even if they’re upset. Bernstein gives helpful examples, such as:

  • “Thank you for being honest with me and sharing your feelings. I understand that you need some space right now”
  • “Can you help me understand what ‘space’ means for you? Is there anything specific you’re looking for during this time?”
  • “I value our relationship, and I want both of us to be happy and fulfilled. If taking some space is what you need right now, I’m willing to give you that”

7) “I need to prioritize my mental well-being right now”

This last one can be used in almost any situation you see fit.

If you need to cut off a toxic friend, explain that you need to prioritize your mental health.

If you’re feeling down and want some alone time, say that your mental well-being is important to you.

If you’ve been socially drained for weeks and really just need to stay in… Yep, same thing.

And do you know what’s best about this phrase?

It’s a complete and utter truth. Your mental well-being absolutely should be a priority. Don’t forget that.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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