Dear Charlotte,

I hate talking to people when I’m in certain moods and I don’t know how to avoid social situations where I feel forced to think and talk and listen and just want to be in my own world. 

Do you have any suggestions for either making these encounters easier for me or ways I can avoid having to engage? I’m a social animal when I feel like it but I’m an introvert too!

Dear social animal, 

You describe a subtle problem for all social animals: the delicate balance between solitude and engagement. I’m guessing that you are caught between your innermost longings and your concerns about how you come across to other people. Whether it’s with strangers or acquaintances or relatives, engaging in chit chat feels very different to having real and connecting conversations. Chit chat can be draining and unrewarding, especially if it robs you of valuable alone time. Solitude can be reviving and so important, and keeping yourself good company sometimes means disconnecting from other people for a bit.

People can be hugely distracting and emotionally cluttering. Some of us feel overwhelmed and disorganised if people are talking to us and we are trying to be alone— it throws off decompressing and processing and calm grounding, and if you’re a monotasker, the emotional labor of conversation can be disorientating and you can feel pulled apart by the different demands you feel in response to people.

Here is my suggestion: have one moment of awkwardness and say that you need a moment to switch off and you can’t talk. Try it. It’s liberating. You can say it in a pleasant way. It doesn’t have to be offensive. If it’s inflammatory and too rude feeling to ask for non-conversation, put your headphones on or go for a walk or close your eyes. Partial freedom is always possible, even if it’s internal.


Charlotte Fox Weber is a verified Welldoing psychotherapist and the author of What We Want: Understand Your Deepest Desires and Live a Fuller Life