I am an intern returning to a company after having interned here last summer. As such, I have made friends with a lot of my coworkers here, and am regularly invited to lunch with them. I will go with them about a quarter of the time, but I much rather enjoy eating alone and going for walks in a nearby park. I am an absolute introvert at heart, and my lunchtime walks are literally the only time I can see sunlight during the week.

My coworkers and I aren't necessarily close but we are on very friendly terms and enjoy having laughs together, and I've explained this to them, and they say they understand; however, I can't shake the feeling that they feel wronged by my refusals. Am I being selfish?

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    Here's some suggested language for you, Christian. The principles are be honest and just state what you are doing, but don't in any way apologize for it. So what about ... "That's a great idea guys, but I absolutely have to get some fresh air at lunch time. Look at my cramped office! I'm taking a brisk walk - come with me if you want." You know? Enjoy!
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 14:01
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    Keep in mind that they are inviting you because they want you to have a good time with them. If going more often does not qualify as "a good time" or as good a time as other activities, you don't have to feel bad about it. Since you've explained it to them already, they probably understand, and aren't bothered by it. People are different, and most people can accept that. Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:14
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    Keep in mind that repeatedly declining their invitations will likely decrease the frequency of the invitations. Maybe this is a good thing for you, but maybe there will be days that you want to go with them and they end up not asking.
    – Egg
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 18:09
  • Depending on the rate, you can turn it into a routine. In one internship, the team was inviting me to lunch every day, but I didn't want to go that often. I made it a habit to eat lunch with them every Monday and decline most of the rest of the time. It worked out well.
    – Justin
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 20:39

2 Answers 2


Introversion is something you can't control, so no selfishness here, it's all about comfort.

Just tell your colleagues that you are an introvert, which makes you uncomfortable when you're not alone for too long and that you need that break at noon so that you can still be happy and energetic on the afternoon.

If you just explain to them that you have a particular thing that does that and that's nothing personal, there is no reason for them to take it bad.

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    Thanks for your answer! This exactly sums up my suspicions. Since I am an intern I am forced to work in a cramped office with 3 of my fellow interns, so I have no alone time other than lunch. If it comes up again I'll tell them what you advised. :) Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 11:44
  • I disagree with this answer. Your lunch time is your own time, so you are under no obligation to tell anyone what you're going to do and why. Nonetheless, it can ease social interactions to reply something like "No thanks, I'm going to do something on my own during lunchtime today" when you're invited. As long as you do go with them every once in a while, they probably won't stop inviting you.
    – Cronax
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 12:48
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    Telling people "I'm an introvert so I don't want to do lunch" only comes across well to people who can identify. Other people hear "I don't want to spend time with you" which isn't really the best approach.
    – enderland
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 14:48
  • @enderland Not if you can explain exactly what it is, people won't get but hurt if you refuse to go do sport with them because you have asthma, and if they don't know what this is they won't get offended after you explained to them
    – sh5164
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:46

It shouldn't be a big deal to decline a lunch invitation. The easiest way is to say, "Thanks, but not today." If pressed for an excuse, say something like "I brought my lunch," or "I have some things to do." That's usually enough to end the conversation. You don't need to tell anyone you are an introvert. You do want to establish a pattern that sometimes you go to lunch with people, but usually you don't. You don't want people not to ask, but you do want them to be pleasantly surprised when you say yes.

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