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Every so often I find myself in a situation where a friend or coworker asks if I want to do something social, and I don't want to for some non-committal reasons. By "non-committal" reasons, I'm referring to nights where I need time to myself (I'm generally an introvert), don't feel like spending money, or have various personal things I'd rather get done (maybe work on some personal projects, clean my apartment, cook a meal I've been preparing, etc). In other words, I don't have a "solid" excuse such as a previous engagement, illness, etc.

In these situations, I feel that it's unnecessary (and rather cumbersome) to go into detail in my response, so I usually say something along the lines of, "thanks for the invite but I don't really have time tonight". Depending on my relationship with the person, or the type of personality they have, this is often met with friendly peer-pressure. They'll respond with questions and statements to sort of egg me on, such as:

  • "Oh come on, what else could you be doing?"
  • "What, are you doing laundry or something? You can do that kind of stuff any time!"
  • "It's just for a few drinks, it's not like we'll be out all night!" (with my particular friends/coworkers, it's rarely "just a few drinks")

This sort of peer-pressure, no matter how playful or well-intentioned, always frustrates me immensely. I see it as an invasion of privacy, and strongly feel that I shouldn't be expected to dive into the details of my night. With friends/coworkers that are particularly aggressive with their peer pressure, the situation usually ends in one of two ways:

  • a) I give in, despite my best judgement. This is not ideal because it means I'm not taking my own needs seriously.
  • b) I become openly frustrated with them, and say something mildly hostile, such as, "I said I was busy, why don't you understand that?" This is not ideal because it creates a pretty uncomfortable situation for the both of us. They are usually taken aback (they weren't expecting their playful egging-on to be met with anger), and I feel bad and somewhat ashamed with myself.

How can I better handle this situation, so that neither party feels bad in the end?

Additional info:

  • I'm a 28 year old male
  • I'm introverted but certainly not a loner or reclusive, and I feel that I socialize a healthy amount, so please no, "you just need to relax and get out more" responses.
  • I understand that they're only egging me on because they enjoy my company and want to hang out, which is flattering, but doesn't make me any less frustrated.
  • I do enjoy hanging out with the particular friends/coworkers I have in mind, and as long as I at least know a few days ahead of time, I'm usually happy to go out with them. The scenario I've outlined here typically occurs when I'm asked spontaneously, and is certainly not the "norm" of our social interactions.

Why this peer-pressure bothers me

As dbeer mentioned in the comments, it may be helpful to delve a little deeper into this topic. Off the top of my head, here's why I believe I become so frustrated with this type of peer-pressure:

  • I feel it's an invasion of privacy. I could very well not want to go out because of a highly personal matter that I'm not ready to talk about.

  • I find it a little disrespectful. This may be a bit overkill, but when someone tries to coerce me into going out even after I stated I couldn't, it tells me that they don't think I'm capable of making my own decisions. As a side note, I'm specifically talking about persistent egging-on. A small little, "aw, but it would be fun" isn't a big deal to me.

  • I'm nervous about their reaction. This ones a bit more personal. Growing up, I had some bad experiences with friends who seemed legitimately angry any time I told them I didn't feel like hanging out. Sometimes I would even find out that they gossiped about me during the social outing that I didn't attend. In retrospect, I can tell that the issue was really on their end, but some of the anxiety that caused me has definitely carried over to adulthood.

  • Can you explain why peer pressure frustrates you so much? I feel like it'd be easier to offer some helpful advice if you could clarify that. – dbeer Aug 24 '18 at 19:02
  • @dbeer sure, I've edited my question with more detail. – AltoidsAndTabloids Aug 24 '18 at 19:32
  • How often does this happen? And is it usually a select few friends that do this? – scohe001 Aug 24 '18 at 20:01
  • @scohe001 recently, it's been roughly once every week or two, and specifically with a select few coworkers. More often than not, it ends in scenario A (I just give in). A recent, slightly aggressive outburst on my part prompted me to write this question. – AltoidsAndTabloids Aug 24 '18 at 20:08
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There's only one reason that your friends would continue to ask you in different, more pressuring ways to do something--it's because they believe they have a chance of changing your mind. The fact that you've ended up giving into this pressure before doesn't help, but at the end of the day, this seems like a problem with the art of saying no.

If you know that this is a friend who's susceptible to consistently pressure you, I'd say you do the following:

Thanks for the invite, but I'm going to be busy then.

And if this conversation has happened before with peer pressure and you feel comfortable, I'd add with a wry smile:

This one's non-negotiable.

Don't get dragged into giving details. If you begin to discuss your reasons, they will see this as a negotiable point, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid. Instead, if they say something like "Come on, what else could you be doing?" change the subject to a future hangout.

Sorry, but I'll be there at Larry's birthday this weekend with you guys!

No one likes a rejection, but this will at least give them something to focus on in the future.

  • 1
    "this seems like a problem with the art of saying no" So far I think this is the most concise and accurate description of the issue. I've always felt uncomfortable saying "no" to anything, and I'm sure that it shows, even when I think I'm being clear. Accepted for the simple suggestions. – AltoidsAndTabloids Aug 24 '18 at 20:47
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With friends/coworkers that are particularly aggressive with their peer pressure, the situation usually ends in one of two ways:

a) I give in, despite my best judgement. This is not ideal because it means I'm not taking my own needs seriously.

To invest in a friendship sometimes you 'have to' do what others want, on their schedule. If it's not worth the investment you should make that clear in a polite manner. You might explain that you ration 4 hours a week for recreation, outside of that you have many important things to attend to.

If they are part of a group that you particularly enjoy hanging out with, and they always do great things, then perhaps it's useful to alot more time for them; if introvertion is a problem that you want cured this is your chance - otherwise, don't.

b) I become openly frustrated with them, and say something mildly hostile, such as, "I said I was busy, why don't you understand that?" This is not ideal because it creates a pretty uncomfortable situation for the both of us. They are usually taken aback (they weren't expecting their playful egging-on to be met with anger), and I feel bad and somewhat ashamed with myself.

If they are pushy it is not wrong to push back, if they are offended why not ask why they escalate things to the point where raised voices are all they can hear (acknowledge).

Why would they ask you if your opinion is invalid or you can only say "yes"?

They have asked, you have answered, explain that you need to be on your way.

It's really a bullying or microaggression that you can only agree, do what you are told. Why not pick better friends, say that you are spending your time with the other more interesting and less pushy group with whom you have common interests.

Making an escalation, then trying to turn it around into a joke, and further pile-on that you have overreacted is manipulate. You should call out that behaviour. If it's you that's so poorly behaved then surely they are withdrawing their offer, and now you can be on your way - or is all forgiven, and you'll do what you are told?

Explain politely that you don't appreciate this situation.

It's probably that you give in that encourages their tactics and they may well only seek the company of people whom accept that behaviour. Don't be an enabler, explain that you will see them only at work and not after work, or if they are with a friend that you have in common, but that you won't be seeking them out on your own - they don't respect your opinion and schedule, and are argumentative.

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Why don't you be honest and say you're an introvert and you need time alone? After some time people will stop asking you to go to things because you keep saying no. Expect people to take it personal. If your not willing to be more social for people, don't expect them to like you as much or to not take offense. They can't understand why you wouldn't go hang out with them and you can't understand why they want to all the time. You can't expect to maintain relationships properly with people without work. Maybe in the future think of it as relationship maintenance chore with only those you want/need to have a relationship with. You're unfortunately in the minority. The minority usually suffers.

  • Thanks for the response. I may not have made it very clear in my original post, but I certainly do hang out with these particular friends more often than not, and we generally have a good time together, so I have to disagree with the idea that I'm not putting work into the relationships. I'd say the frustrating scenario I outlined in the post happens "once every so often", not "every time". I've edited the first few words in the post to clarify that a bit. – AltoidsAndTabloids Aug 24 '18 at 20:40
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How about option "C"

I'm sorry, not tonight, how about Wednesday?

That demonstrates that you do want to be social but this night isn't good for you, you then reverse the situation by suggesting another night. it takes away their arguments. Because their argument isn't about laundry or anything else, it's about them feeling rejected.

By proposing an alternative time, you are saying

I want to hang out and socialize with you guys, just not on this one occasion.

Also, by immediately proposing an alternative date, you cut them off from prying into your personal life. soooo.

If they respond with "what are you doing laundry or something?" You can reply:

It doesn't matter what I'md doing, I'm busy tonight, but I'm free on Wednesday, what's wrong with Wednesday, is that your laundry night?

The important thing to remember is that you don't have to justify yourself just give out the signs that the problem is that particular night and that you are free on other times. Then your business becomes irrelevant.

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