At some point, it turns into something else. Maybe it started out as being courteous, shy, introverted, submissive, quiet, tentative, a wallflower, or anything else you might choose to describe this way. You’re always allowed to decide what you do and what you don’t do. People all interact differently, and I’m by no means asking people to change their identity. This also is different than any people with genuine mental health disorders – those are medical conditions and things like anxiety are real, so this does not apply to people with those types of issues.
There does come a point though, when one things changes into another and in that moment, it often draws no attention. But I ask others to observe what has changed; at least treat it as what it is (has become). There is a segment of the population that claim the titles listed above when there’s more to it than mere shyness (to use one term among many).
If you’ve arrived at a social gathering, you have in fact chosen to be there (mostly – and those who are not there by choice are certainly exempt from anything written here). If you’re at a social gathering, and yet you are not participating, that’s fine too. Please, feel free to be in public without interacting with others – I’m sure your reasons are more than sufficient.
However, if you have managed to get all the way to a gathering, and you’re there on purpose, there’s a certain level of interaction expected of your acceptance of an invitation to gather. People did not invite you to ensure that you don’t interact. To that end, they could have just as easily not invited you to anything, thus achieving a lack of interaction without undue effort. But if you don’t want to interact, and you make it obvious, most people respect that. Opting out is not the subject of scrutiny here.
To choose to attend a gathering, and then make it clear through body language or other cues that you want or need others to not just encourage you to begin interaction, but that you need constant encouragement to provide the same level of interaction as the rest of people – that behavior is inappropriate. This is shown in a number of ways, like physical signs that basically amount to pouting. It’s shown through verbal cues like the person speaking as though they have been cut off when they weren’t, e.g. the kind of stammer that is not a permanent affectation, but instead only used in isolated instances.
I’m going to say it surpasses inappropriate. It’s manipulative, and actually a tactic to control power dynamics in social situations. It also does it in a way that shames us into giving you attention and credit because otherwise we’re the ones painted as overbearing and exclusionary, when the truth is you haven’t included yourself without demanding excessive levels of accommodation. It’s predatory. It plays on our heartstrings like the Devil Went Down to Georgia.
Like anything used to gain power, it insists we give you more time and space than other people in your presence at that time, which is the real issue. I don’t care that you want a turn, I care that you want more turns that are each longer than everyone else’s while acting like you never get a turn. You’re playing the victim when there isn’t one because we’re just carrying on a conversation. There isn’t much victimization in not getting to speak as often as you like.
If other people aren’t cutting you off, refusing to answer or acknowledge you, or any other overt signs that you are being completely excluded, that’s an issue, but it’s more rare than people feel it is. Your feeling of being excluded is typically your insecurity about worthiness of belonging with the group or in that situation. It’s not that you’ve actually been pushed out and need to push your way in – that’s a fear that you’ve made real for yourself.
The reality is, whether or not people admit to others or themselves, this behavior is not just about insecurity, it’s about selfishness. Yeah, I said it. Typically I see this behavior in people who aren’t shy at all, but rather that they don’t feel personally invested or interested in what other people are talking about, so they are just waiting for their turn to speak again. Even if others are speaking to this person’s given topic, it’s not them speaking, so they don’t care and don’t want to wait for the other person to finish.
I’ve long assumed these are people who didn’t get enough attention as a child, or don’t get enough out of their current relationships, or frequently interact with someone who won’t let them finish sentences, or they’re somehow worried that there won’t be enough time for them, or they don’t feel respected in their work or something. Consciously or not, making yourself the victim demands special treatment, and people want to feel special.
Regardless of the reason why, this manifestation of issues from elsewhere lands on the next party talking with you, and that is disrespecting the person you’re currently dealing with over issues with someone completely different. If you don’t feel respected, give others a chance to recognize that by bringing it up, otherwise you haven’t given them a chance to respect you. If you do all that, and still aren’t respected, and decide to leave the situation, leave that baggage right where it is, don’t bring it with you to the next party. If you’ve actually been disrespected, deal with it, but stop trying to head off imaginary slights at the pass. You’re standing alone on the top of a mountain and the wagon train approaching is just tired pilgrims, they’re no army – and you aren’t either.
If someone respected you enough to engage you at all, they’ve done their part and it is not up to them to coax, cajole, wheedle or massage your participation from you. We are not your parents or partners or whatever sweet mentor you had in the past, nor are we the gatekeepers to a magical land of emotional security. Include yourself in a respectful way and you’ll feel respected by others. Wait your turn and it will come back around to you in due time.