By Eva Forslund
Everyday you meet at least one new person. Every night there are numerous parties, to which you are unsure whether you are invited. Everyone seems to already know one another, or maybe everyone else is just a little more socially adept than you?
Anyone in a new setting recognizes these feelings and questions. It might make you feel as if you always have to say yes to new opportunities to meet new people. You should not – sometimes, we all need a pause from being social in order to appreciate company.
This is my second time as a student in the US. Four years ago, I went to Atlanta for a year, and this time I am spending four months in Austin, Texas. While the heat, people, and my own maturity level are different this time around, the social environment bears many similarities. A strong initial excitement to get to know the new university culture is combined with a social stress to getting to know it as quickly as possible. I imagine these issues are amplified in the US; Americans uphold a strong extrovert as the ideal persona.
With that in mind, it is easy to forget that there is a virtue in saying no, especially when you are thrown into a new social context. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, engaging in a social group will lead you to adapt even your most personal beliefs to the group’s. It points to an important insight – if we want to foster independent thinking, we have to acknowledge that all people need time by themselves.
Always saying yes strips you of a choice: you need to exercise the choice in order to have more control of your life. This might mean choosing to watch Netflix alone in bed rather than having dinner with a group of new friends. It allows you to set the boundaries of your own agenda. It can be as empowering as it is healthy.
It is true that in order to develop as a human, you need to sometimes leave your comfort zone. Saying yes to new things is clearly a virtue – but it does not mean that saying no is a vice. After all, it is not until you are comfortable being on your own that you can truly enjoy the company of others.