Am I unreasonable?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Am I unreasonable?
140
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 3:51am
So this kind of scenario happens often where I live. I will be out somewhere in public and some random stranger, nearly always male, will say hello or otherwise attempt to engage me in conversation. I will respond minimally, if at all, and nine times out of ten the person who spoke to me berates me for being rude.

I think they are the one who was being rude by trying to engage me in conversation when it was completely uninvited and unprovoked. I think it's rude to do so with the expectation of full reciprocation. I think if you are going to randomly try to chat up strangers you should be able to accept that they may not always WANT to talk to you, and may not appreciate feeling forced to. I am not an outgoing person. I especially do not feel comfortable around men having been a victim of rape and sexual assault several times. It takes a lot for me to trust people, and being addressed by a stranger feels like an invasion of my personal space and is frankly kind of scary. I once had a guy follow me off a bus and for several blocks, yelling at me for not responding to him. (I had headphones on, but I didn't want to talk to him anyway.)

One might say, well how hard is it to just say hi back? Well, sometimes when you do they take it as an invitation to engage you further, and I have no desire to encourage that. To turn it around, how hard is it to leave someone alone if they obviously don't want to talk to you? It really makes me not want to ever leave the house.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 3:02pm
You don't think that might just encourage people to just talk to me louder?

My theory is that there is this perception that people here are aloof, unfriendly, and impersonal. I am not originally from here, and neither is my huband, but we are both introverted and fit right in. Some people, mostly transplants from more socially outgoing regions, hate it and wind up with a huge chip on their shoulder over it. They go around trying to force people out of their comfort zone and then get butt-hurt when it's not taken well. I think that when someone initially says hi to me or tries to start a conversation there is often this hint of aggression behind it, which I immediately pick up on, and it scares the crap out of me. I can't get a word out and frankly I don't really want to. Even if I can, it comes out quiet and I can't make eye contact, and that is never good enough for these pushy a-holes who feel I owe them the time of day just because I left my house. If someone says hi to me and there is warmth and a genuine feeling behind it I will still have trouble responding, but it doesn't scare me the same way. This is fairly rare though.

I found this article and I find it to be true. The comments after it show how strongly many people here feel about it, on both sides.
http://www.kpluwonders.org/content/why-seattle-freeze-so-hard-melt
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2009
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 2:00pm
Perhaps you could develop some socially acceptable discouraging tactic such as "I am sorry, I have trouble hearing," or whatever.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 11:27am
I am married, and I do wear a ring. I don't think it's because they are attracted to me, though I could be wrong. If someone asks me for directions I don't ignore them, and I will help if I can. If someone has a reason for talking to me, I am ok with that, even though that's not easy for me either. I don't usually wear headphones when out, though I was that day. My husband wears them most of the time he is out specifically to discourage people from talking to him.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 11:18am
I live in Seattle, and I'd have to say it's very much not the norm here. Is it normal where you live to berate or verbally abuse someone for not responding enthusiastically enough for you?

I get that my level of social anxiety is very high and abnormal. I find it really difficult to even have a conversation with my brother and sister, or my grandma, or my friends I have known for over a decade. I put a huge amount of effort into my interactions with coworkers, clients, friends, family, classmates, etc. every single day. When I go to the store and there is no self checkout option I have to psych myself up to smile and seem genuine with my pleasantries. It takes a lot out of me. Sometimes when a stranger talks to me for no reason, eye contact and a slight nod are all I can manage to get out and I don't think it's right for them to berate me over it.

I feel like if you are willing to be abusive toward someone you don't even know then you are not a nice person and my decision to not talk to you was the correct one.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 11:01am

I suggest you look into getting some help. It's hard, I know, to develop trust and to feel comfortable after you have been a victim of assault. But your fear may be stopping you from living your life to the full. And sweetie, you deserve better than that. Not every man who approaches you will not have ill intentions. He might just being friendly. (One trick that I used when I was young and did not wanted to be approached was to wear a ring that looked like a marriage band. A small deception but it worked for me.).

The "help" could help you develop techniques on how to handle unwanted intrusions. I don't know where you live but here it is very common for strangers to strike up conversations on the bus or waiting for the métro or at the gas station or grocery store etc.. I know that there have been several times in my life, I have been very thankful for those conversations. One was with an woman who actually alerted me to a very dangerous situation.

However, I am concerned about your comment that 9 out of 10 people berated you for being rude. You are under no obligation to engage any strange in a conversation, if you do not want to talk to them. However, this depends on why the person has talked to you. If he or she has asked for directions, for example, not responding could be consider rude. A simple "sorry, I am not familiar with that area" is all that is required. If the person has complimented you on what you are wearing, say "thank you" and that's it.  If the person has made a comment about the long wait, a simple "yea, it is long". There are ways to let them down.

Stalking is, of course, a different situation. A reputable self-defense course could help you with strategies to make you feel safer. One strategy, by the way, is not to walk around with headphones on. That reduces your awareness of the world around you. Another is engaging "non threatening" people (not always by talking) can be a very useful safety measure in public places. You are saying "I am here; I am aware and others are aware of me". It helped me,once or twice, when I was young being bothered by unwanted attention.

 

Good luck

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2009
Sat, 08-18-2012 - 8:48am
I guess it depends on what part of the country you are in and stuff, but it's pretty normal to exchanged pleasantries with strangers here when, for instance, you ate standing in line together. There is a difference between exchanging pleasantries and being stalked.

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