Giving Up And Checking Out Of Social Interactions

You're trying to improve your people skills and make new friends. You're at a social event. You put in an honest effort, but it's not going that well. Suddenly feelings of wariness, resignation, apathy, and irritation come over you. You're over it. You're done for the night. It's not going to work out, so why bother?

If you could leave right away you would, but you've got to stick around a while longer. Perhaps you're in the middle of dinner, or a friend is giving you a ride home later, or it would just seem strange to take off so early. Instead you mentally check out and stop trying. You sit off to the side and don't say much. If you have to talk to someone, you make conversation in a flat, half-hearted way. You're tired, annoyed, and discouraged, and are just running out the clock. You can't be bothered to hide it.

On the surface you may look similar to someone who was having a good time, but is now drained and done chatting for the night because their social batteries ran out. When you give up on an outing, you often do feel depleted, but other emotions, like grumpiness and pessimism, are in the mix. You also have thoughts along the lines of, "This sucks. What's the point?"

Common triggers

Here are some social situations that may set off feelings of wanting to throw in the towel and shut down. They're usually group get togethers, where if things aren't going your way you have the option of mentally checking out and hanging off to the side. If you're spending time with someone one-on-one the context usually pushes you to keep trying, even if it isn't going great.

Ways to recover from the apathetic, checked out feeling

Obviously it doesn't help your cause to give up on a social event and become upset and detached. First, it clearly doesn't feel great to start an outing in high spirits, only to plummet into annoyance and disillusionment. Practically, you can't do as much to improve your people skills or social life if a rough patch in an event causes you to give up on it entirely. There's also a chance that you won't make the best impression if you hang out with a group, then become silent and sullen halfway through the night. In my experience when this happens everyone typically doesn't have a hugely negative response to it. They mostly assume you're too tired or shy to keep up, not that you're a jerk. Still, it would be better if you didn't get that way at all.

Here are some things you can do:

Don't think you can never feel discouraged or irked in a social situation

This article isn't saying you should never have that reaction. Sometimes you will be at a get together that isn't going your way. As you're working on your people skills and confidence you will have frustrating, discouraging moments. But it's one thing to have those emotions and let them pass. It's another to let them unnecessarily ruin the rest of your night.

Recognize what's happening

When the urge to mentally check out comes over you it has the most power to derail the outing if you aren't aware of what's happening, and just get carried along by your thoughts and emotions. The first step is to realize what's going on, and give yourself more control over your actions. You want to be able to take a step back and tell yourself, "Argh, I've been at this party for an hour and no one seems that interesting to talk to. I'm starting to feel bitter and defeated. I'm thinking the night is pointless, and I'll never make any friends. I'd love nothing more than to sit on the couch and sulk until it's time to go. That's what part of me wants to do, but let's see if I can pull myself out of this."

Article continues below...

Question the thoughts driving your desire to give up and check out

Whether they're noticable mental dialogue, or more unspoken and implied, there are disheartening thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, and interpretations fueling your urge to give up on the outing. For example:

If you can catch these thoughts and logically challenge them, you could improve your mentality. Even if you can't make yourself feel better at that social event, you can do some work on your beliefs after it's over and prevent them from affecting you as much next time. Here are some examples of challenging your initial assumptions:

Ask yourself if you're checking out as a way to escape uncomfortable interactions

The answer is often no, but it's worth considering this just in case. Sometimes when people are feeling insecure and uncomfortable in a social setting they'll unconsciously do things to escape and feel better. Suddenly thinking, "I'm annoyed. This sucks. I don't care anymore. I just want to go home" is a way to do that.

Take steps to get your physical energy back

As I said toward the beginning of this article, giving up and checking out is about more than just feeling tired, but that is a part of it. It works both ways: Once you've become annoyed and resigned, you'll often feel sluggish too. And if your batteries are already low for other reasons, it's easier to fall into that "I'm over it" mindset.

Once you've become checked out, recovering some of your energy can put you in a better mood and restore your motivation to socialize. You can try things such as:

For more details see: When You Easily Get Drained And Tired In Social Situations

Do what you can to improve the interaction

This is another suggestion that you may not be able to apply that day, but can pay off longer term. You're likelier to get frustrated and quit on a social event if you don't have the tools to have a good time in it. I can't list every way you could improve your ability to get more out of an interaction, but a few common examples are learning how to start or join conversations, handle hectic group discussions, or hang in there when everyone is talking about a subject you can't add anything to.

Do what you can to ride out the rest of the outing without completely shutting down

Sometimes you'll want to mentally check out of a social situation because it legitimately is disappointing or tedious. The feeling doesn't only come on because you're irrationally, prematurely throwing in the towel. At other times you'll become grouchy and apathetic for the usual reasons, but won't be able to snap out of it.

In either case, your priority should be damage control. You can't change how you feel, but you can try to control your outer behavior:

If you don't think you'll be able to recover your mood, and it's an option, politely leave

If you're really done for the day, don't see your mood changing, and can't be bothered to put on a happy face, you can always take off early. I realize that's not always a possibility, but if it is make your polite excuses and head out. It can feel awkward to take off before everyone else and have to fend off their pleas to stay, but that's something you can get used to.