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: 04-16-2009
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 8:43am
I know only too well, dear Age, it is a long haul to overcome the trauma of rape. But believe me, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take care and all the best in your recovery. I am routing for you.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 9:44am

We all occasionally encounter the situation when a strange will mutter under his/her breathe (get out of my way lady) or will shoot nasty looks at you.

But, when this happens to me, I shrug my shoulders and ignore it or, depending on my mood, return their rudeness with politeness. I know that they are not attacking me personally because they have no idea who I am. And just because they are being rude does not mean I should be rude also.

And, by the way, politeness does not mean being overly friendly; it just means being polite. One is under no obligation to tell anyone personal information. In fact, it is best that you do not. But idle chat about the drought or the high price of milk or answering that you are having a great day is not being personal.

Those types of encounters, I suspect, are more common than encounters with nasty strangers, even in Seattle. (I have lived on the West Coast, within driving distance of Seattle, a city  I visited frequently when I was there. )

From this young woman's posts ( to me anyone under 50 is young), she sounded like she had issues stemming from the rape and assault. It will take time and a great deal of healing, if my suspicions are correct, for this young woman to be feel comfortable again encountering strangers. I wish her the best of luck.

By the way, in general, sometimes we are not even aware of our "negative"body language and how it impacts others. We live in our own little bubbles. For example, a few years ago, my DD pointed out to me that I was being "rude" to the store front servers at our local coffee shop. (She had worked for the summer at a similar shop.) 

Since then, I have gone out of my way to be more patient and "easy going" with store clerks. I have no control over them; I can only control myself. 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 11:05am
I'm not going to say it's impossible that I'm putting out something in my body language I'm unaware of. But I also think it's more than possible that if you believe that everyone in Seattle is rude and unfriendly it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you might become overly sensitive to it.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 11:08am
For the record, I think for a stranger who has no reason at all to talk to you to ask you how you are doing IS a personal question. They don't really want to hear the truth anyway, so why ask?
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2009
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 9:40pm
Do most people in Swattle get this kind of reaction you describe often?
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 1:53am
Well, here's the thing. I'd say it happens to some degree or another at least once a month. But I literally cross paths with thousands of people a week, most of whom don't even look at me, let alone talk to me.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 3:31am

Age of aquarius, I'm saying this in the nicest possible way Are you sure you're not a bit Aspergers?  Because you seem to have misunderstood the unwritten rules about the "how are you doing?" question.   You're looking at the phrase with a very literal (and inaccurate) point of view.

"How are you" when used with a stranger or casual aquaintence is a greeting and not a question.  Sure, it may be phrased as a question but it truly has no more meaning than saying "Hi".   Yes, you are right that nobody wants the answer anyway - but this is because it's a greeting and not a question.     I have no idea why such a meaningless greeting has lasted through the years, but it has lasted and has a place in modern etiquette.

In Western etiquette, the only acceptable answer to "how are you?" is "fine thanks" or "great" or some other equally meaningless answer.   While it's your perogative to reject social etiquette - you must do so with the knowledge that people will think you are rude.....and some will voice their opinions.    Are they being rude in voicing their opinions?  Yes, they are.  But you are also being rude by refusing to follow social etiquette.

If you want people to be nice and polite to you, you've got to go along with social norms.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 9:11am
True, I started to write a post along the same lines as you but you phrased it much better. I agree.. "How are you" is just a casual form of the "How do you do" we would normal say when introduced to someone. We would shake hands, make eye contact, and the person being introduced would say "How do you do".
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 12:44pm
Years ago I saw a psychologist once a week and she remarked one day thatevery time I walked in she would ask me how I was doing and I always said "fine" even though it was clear I was not fine. I said "that's because that is what you're supposed to say!" Yes, I play along and say what I'm supposed to say, but I resent being forced to lie or else be seen as rude, and I think it's an innapropriate greeting for a total stranger with whom you will have no more interaction. I do ask people how they are doing but I am prepared for and fine with an honest answer. I only ask people I know that question. Words have meaning, even if we pretend they don't.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-27-2001
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 1:06pm
Seems like there are different things you're asking. One, is Is it reasOnable for strangers to make small talk with you. In my opinion, yes. Part of living in society is exchanging pleasantries. Two: is it okay to ignore people? Not really. It's rude to completely not respond with a basic greeting. Three: do you have to engage in conversation? Absolutely not. After greeting someone, if they continue to talk, a smile and a shrug and moving away from them or discontinuing eye contact should say that you are not available for chatter. Finally, is it okay for people to berate you and call you names? Definitely not. They don't have to like your response but they have no right to be insulting.

It may help you to have a few responses ready to be cordial but give the definite message that you are not open to conversation. I think it may help you to realize that the vast majority of people who greet you are just being friendly and not trying to make you feel uncomfortable. I hope your journey continues to be healing from your traumatic experience.

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