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: 12-22-2007
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 9:13pm

>>I guess my point is, it doesn't matter. I've had people rudely make comments or huff and puff because my perfectly healthy, then 3 year old took too long going through a door. Or my 2 years nearly bumping into someone's 3 year ... I go give many examples. The point is I have no idea what was going on with the other person, but I do know, it is not helpful to be rude to anyone ... even if I perceive them as being rude.<<

I see the behaviour you describe (and my son's incident on the stairs) as bullying.   That is, a strong person picking on someone weaker/smaller for no good reason.   Absolutely unprovoked.   

Now, I was bullied for years at school and I spend many years not reacting to those bullies...just as you suggest.   Thing is though, I found that walking away and saying nothing just made me feel even worse.  It made me feel even smaller and impotent. 

These days, I have no such problem squaring up to a bully.   And let me tell you, I feel much stronger and better for it.   

If you want to walk away and say nothing, that's your perogative.   But that same approach makes me feel like the bullied teen I used to be.  Therefore, I stand up to bullies.    And just to be clear, I don't berate people who choose to ignore my "hello".   I save it strictly for those who verbally attack without provocation.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 7:27pm

While my son's autism may not be evident for the first 15-20 seconds or so, his physical disabilities are immediately obvious.

I guess my point is, it doesn't matter. I've had people rudely make comments or huff and puff because my perfectly healthy, then 3 year old took too long going through a door. Or my 2 years nearly bumping into someone's 3 year ... I go give many examples. The point is I have no idea what was going on with the other person, but I do know, it is not helpful to be rude to anyone ... even if I perceive them as being rude.

And your son has an obvious disability. Not everyone does. It's not right to be rude to anyone or even to judge why, maybe, they are responding to you in a way you perceive as being wrong.

 If someone politely replies to me and their manner indicates they don't want to chat, I won't think they are rude. It's the absense of basic civility which I think is rude.

Yes, for one thing, but you are picking up on what their manners indicate. Not everyone does.

And who decides what is basic civility? Saying hi to everyone you meet, come in eye contact with, the woman sitting across the park etc?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 5:59pm

>>Even if you want to consider, was it, an autistic child, (?) what if the guy behind you thought he was just another kid trying to cause trouble? <<

While my son's autism may not be evident for the first 15-20 seconds or so, his physical disabilities are immediately obvious.  

Edited to add: those who don't know him assume his physical issues are due to cerebal palsy.  Add to that the fact that I'm beside him on the stairs giving physical support,.    I just can't see how a 15yo boy requiring his mother's support on stairs and walking like someone who has cerebal palsy can be mistaken for anything other than a teen with significant disability.

>>I think the assumption any one wants to engage is chit chat with another person is rude<<

And I don't assume someone wants to chit-chat.   If someone politely replies to me and their manner indicates they don't want to chat, I won't think they are rude.   It's the absense of basic civility which I think is rude.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 1:04pm

No one is telling her that she has to respond to stalkers or to strange men following her

LOL ... I didn't say anyone told her anything.

That has been very clear from all the posts to her.

What has been very clear? Considering I didn't say anyone suggest she talk to stalkers, then this is a moot point.

How do you know who is a stalker and who isn't? All I said, I thought very clearly, was one never knows what is going on with someone else. If someone decides not to smile back or engage in conversation, this is no reason to be rude to them ... even if one feels, for whatever reason, not saying hi pr smiling is rude ... this does not mean one should reply in kind.

To be honest, when I read the OP and the initial replies, it reminds me, as I said previously, of people approaching me, say, at the playground, and they proceed to tell me their life story. I might be reading or talking to someone else or maybe, just not in the mood to talk to anyone. I've had people follow me around stores, continuing to talk to me about very personal matters. They are being intrusive and rude. I am not rude back to them.

I honestly do find a smile or hello is often times an invitation for people to continue to talk to me. And that is fine sometimes, sometimes it's not.

I a not commenting on age's mental health because I feel thatj ust furthers the belief that one never really knows what is going on with someone else. If someone doesn't want to be bothered, one shouldn't bother them.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 11:13am

She cited that as one example and only one example.

No one is telling her that she has to respond to stalkers or to strange men following her.  That has been very clear from all the posts to her.

 

 

 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 2:18am

I am trying to figure out how this thread has come so far from the OP?

 Maybe you want a stranger to understand you, I don't know. Your turning away from a simple gesture like hello is not the stranger's problem.

Does age actually say this? In the OP she describes a man following her for blocks because she didn't respond to him. And she was wearing headphones.

Sorry, I totally understand where she is coming from and for anyone who thinks it's ok to berate another because they refused to exchange social niceties with them, is being completely unreasonable.

I think you need to take her own advice. People shouldn't assume to know what others are going through, but that goes both ways. Seriously, if I say hello to someone and they don't respond .... I am not going to treat them poorly or be rude to them. I definitely wouldn't follow them for blocks yelling at them because they wouldn't respond to me.

btw, yes, as humans, we should try to understand others grief and what they are going through.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Sun, 08-26-2012 - 2:03am

The point is, no one knows anyone's situation.

Even if you want to consider, was it, an autistic child, (?) what if the guy behind you thought he was just another kid trying to cause trouble? Any assumption of what the other person is going through is rude. I think the assumption any one wants to engage is chit chat with another person is rude.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Fri, 08-24-2012 - 7:01pm
If someone smiles at me it's pretty much reflexive for me to smile back. Thank goodness for that at least. It's just second nature now because I have been making myself do it since I got my first job at 16.

Just like I have my script I use at work and I no longer have anxiety there either. It's very fake and rehearsed, but people either don't notice or don't care, and it seems to work. I work directly with people, so it became necessary to adapt. For some reason these skills aren't really directly transferrable to other situations though. Regular practice is key. Without it I don't ever get to the point where I'm comfortable. And by regular, I mean at least 20 hrs a week. That's why it's easy for me to talk to most of my coworkers and classmates, but hard to talk to my grandma.

I don't even personally have a problem with eye contact by itself, though many people who live here do. It's not until someone says something to me and I am not prepared for it that the "oh s---" response occurs.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Fri, 08-24-2012 - 6:36pm

If a man (especially in an unsafe environment) greeted me without a smile or light in his eyes, it would scare the crap out of me too!

When it comes to being on a bus (or other place when you don't want to be greeted), try playing music through earbuds.   Most people won't interrupt you if you're clearly listening to music.   Or reading a book...that works too.     If you're walking down the street wearing ear buds and someone speaks to you or smiles, it's perfectly OK to smile back and just keep walking.   You don't have to speak, but the smile will stop you from being percieved as rude.

Lastly, in response to a stranger saying "how are you?".   I said that last night to someone who was serving me.  He replied with "hey".    And this was OK too.   It's more about smile in response than the actual words said.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Fri, 08-24-2012 - 6:28pm

>>I know sometimes for me although never been tested or places. I do have Aspie tedencies. Sometimes reading other people can be very hard for me. Sometimes I rad things in to literally and take to much to heart. And just like a little kid some times I have been known to say just the darndest things and can be a litttle to blunt or forward in the things I say.That being said. I wonder where I would be at if someone had tested me over 40 years ago..lol <<

I hear you loud and clear.  Since having my autistic son, I've become very aware of my (and my father's) Aspie tendencies.  I was discussing this with another mother I know (who also has an Aspie kid) and she informed me that my eye contact is really off.  Glad I don't get offended easily LOL   I mentioned this to DH who said "yes, I can be talking with you and you're looking off to the side or out a window or something".   

I can't tell when people are joking and it took me many years to learn correct social behaviours.   I'm mortified when I think of how many people I offended with my bluntness in my late teens/early 20's.    I recently learned that back in the days before Aspergers was diagnosed, those kids were frequently referred to as "funny little kids".    And out of the blue, my mum says "you were a funny little kid".    She also tells me that since my son was diagnosed she she's learned about autism, she finally understands my dad.

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