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.

Pages

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 10:31pm
I think it's a little of column A and a little of column B. My typical response to people trying to make conversation is not at all unusual for this part of the country. Apparently some people here are quite bitter about that, and take our reservedness and introversion for intentional rudeness. There is a part of me that works very hard to overcome the trauma I've been through, especially to maintain relationships both personally and professionally, but it's taxing and I can't be "on" all the time. It takes a huge amount of effort. I like how things are here because it's not so overwhelming for me. In this thread I am honestly thinking through many things for the first time.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-27-2001
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 9:49pm

It seems as if you posted the question to get validation that it is reasonable to not respond to people.  You have stated that in the area where you live, it borders on rude to strike up a conversation with a stranger.  Yet, even in your original post, you referred to a terrible trauma that you lived through.  You've talked about your panic reaction in situations where someone else might feel no discomfort.

At the risk of misdiagnosing you, it sounds like this all has to do more with post traumatic stress disorder than with social norms in Seattle.   That doesn't make you a bad person, but I do hope you get the support you need to overcome this debilitating fear.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 9:41pm
I don't expect anyone else to read my mind, or understand. Just give me the benefit of the doubt. And if you can't do that and you just think I'm a horrible, rude and unfriendly person, keep it to yourself. Two wrongs do not make a right.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 9:35pm
True.blue. that situation probably wouldn't scare the crap out of me in quite the same way. How I would react depends a lot more on tone and body language than the actual words that are said, but I will always try to give some sort of response to sincere friendliness, even if I stammer through it, look at my feet the whole time, and don't say anything else.

That said, the idea of being trapped with a stranger in a gondola for a few minutes does bother me quite a lot. Elevators really suck for me, as does someone sitting next to me on the bus. I just stare at the floor or out the window, hoping they won't try to make me have a conversation, because I can't just leave. Even when someone is genuinely nice I will do my best to be nice back, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't excruciatingly hard for me. I can feel my heart pounding out of my chest every time. Sometimes I wish I could just tell someone "hey, I.like your shoes" but I can't make myself do it. Sometimes I wish I could ask my instructors at school a question without feeling like I'm going to have a heart attack and the words all coming out wrong.

Here is what really does scare the crap out of me: when someone, usually male, says "how are you?" or something like that, but there is no hint of a smile, no softness in their eyes, no sincerity or friendliness in their tone. It's just barked out and then they stare at me with this harsh look until I respond. Even worse if it's early in the morning or late at night and no one else is nearby. The words coming out of their mouth do not match, in any way, the rest of their communication style. It's confusing, and scary. I'm never shocked anymore if they call me names after they pass by, even if I have managed to respond in some way.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 9:08pm
Yeah. It's all in my head. Right.

"Seattle is a city of narcissistic, superficial people who are only in love with one person: themselves. So, there's no room for anyone else in that relationship. Came here from Michigan four years ago and I cannot WAIT to move back to where people actually acknowledge the existence of others."

"I often see a defensive reaction from the proud Seattlites to generalizations and a misplaced entitlement from the Transplants. What Transplants often regard as friendly can be regarded as obtrusive and insincere which is also quite harsh to say."

"Born and raised in Seattle, but we've been traveling full time the past several years, mostly in the South. I know I'm more 'reserved' than many of the folks I meet there. I have been wondering if I'd suddenly become shy, but that isn't it. I just don't feel comfortable intruding on people or having them intrude on me and my space."

"So you're proud that your cultural attributes are anti-social, passive aggressive, unfriendly, cliquey, unwelcoming and rude?"

"I never take my computer with me and always leave my phone in my purse. And when I say, "Hi, how are you doing?" people look at me as if I just offered them a cup of cyanide. When I first moved here, I was baffled by this. I finally asked a co-worker if I had offended her and she said, "No, but you remind me of my neighbors. They moved here from California, too, and they're always trying to get me to come over for dinner." Gasp! The horror. I can't wait to get out of here and move somewhere warmer -- like Alaska."

" I never had a problem making friends back home... and I made even more after I became more outgoing and less shy. Here, when I try to be outgoing and friendly, people stare at me as if I have some sort of problem - even when I'm asking someone I know "Hi, how are you?" I always get "Fine" as an answer, and that's it! I have found the people here quite self-centered and pretentious."

"We moved here three years ago from the south and the subject of the Seattle Freeze has been a constant source of stress and amusement. What I've concluded is that Seattle has the best customer service in the world. If you're shopping, calling someone for help, getting a cup of coffee or going to dinner...all the people that you deal with are super kind and happy to assist you. This is not friendliness! This is good PR. The problem is when you are walking in the park or on a trail and someone will do everything in their power to avoid eye contact. When they will actually ignore a smile and a "hello" or "good morning". Stare at their dog rather than acknowledge your existence. In my opinion, Seattle's character is best judged by the candid actions of it's residents and not how well employees represent their places of employment."

"For those that are new to Seattle all I can say is keep your optimism but don't get your hopes up too high. You will set yourself up for a big fall and become exceedingly bitter."




iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 9:07pm

>>Maybe if you are willing to berate a total stranger whom you have had less than ten seconds of interaction with then you are not as nice of a person as you think you are. <<

I've never berated someone for refusing to say "hello".   But I have berated strangers for being rude to my obviously disabled son.  For example, the man who was openly rude to my son for walking too slowly down the stairs.    And the man who blasts his horn because we're taking too long to cross the road.   Equally, if I see other similar social injustice I will get involved there too.   Being "nice" does not have to equate to tolerating abhorrent behaviour.

Out of curiosity, if you were skiing alone on beautiful morning and a woman on the chair lift smiled and said "Isn't this a perfect morning for skiing!" would it scare the crap out of you?    Because I seriously doubt this scenario would scare the crap out of any reasonable person. 

And if this level of interaction does scare the crap out of someone who has had trauma or has a disability, then they probably require a companion on snow.   And there's nothing wrong with having a companion - it would negate any need for the person to have any unnecessary interaction with others.

And let me be clear, I would not think a woman rude for not engaging with a burly stranger in a dark alley.  I'm talking about safe situations.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2006
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 8:17pm
I'm sure that the people who call me names never consider that I'm anything besides a rude bitch either. I'm sure it never occurs to them that I might be working through trauma and that their body language and tone has just scared the crap out of me. Maybe if you are willing to berate a total stranger whom you have had less than ten seconds of interaction with then you are not as nice of a person as you think you are.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 5:49pm

You're comparing apples to oranges with the sweater analogy.   No, I wouldn't say anything to my Grandmother about the sweater because she was being nice to me.    While her gift may be unwanted, it was given with love.

But I have been known to tear strips off people who were being rude.   Even nice people have limits as to what rudeness they will tolerate.   

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 5:43pm

If she had impared hearing she would have likely signed to indicate that her hearing wasn't good.  Someone with a hearing impairment can indicate they can't hear to a hearing person with a touch on the ears and a shake of the head...and yes, I've spent time learning about the deaf community.

And *young* travellers have enough English to roughly express "no English".   Heck, even my old parents can do this when in France, or Spain or whatever.

Nah, she was just a rude bitch.   

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Thu, 08-23-2012 - 12:35pm

Maybe the woman on the ski lift *was* being rude. Or maybe she didn't speak or understand English. Or maybe she was deaf. You can't really know based only on the amount of interaction you had.

ITA

Pages