17

I don't really understand why no one actually initiates conversations with me, they always just seem to talk to someone else near me but not actually me. All of my friends start discussions with my other friends and if I try and say something to them they give me a one-word response and then ignore me.

It's, I just, I don't really understand why and I really want someone to talk to me more. Am I just really uninteresting? But I doubt that, because people who I don't hang out with have long and interesting discussions with me. Strange, really.

Why don't my friends talk to me?

Am I just uninteresting? Is that why they prefer other people?

Why do they only give me short responses?

And I'm not stupid, I saw a woman in the past who told me communication techniques like asking them what they're interested in and teaching me about their body language, because I have a condition which makes social situations difficult for me.

  • All males

  • No clashes

  • Often hang out with them

  • Example, they just say 'yes yes' to what I say and then turn back to the person they were talking to, so it is futile to try and join an ongoing conversation because I'm not listened to, and conversations I start only last as long as there's no one else there. Does this just mean I'm not as important as other people?

  • This is a general thing and it has gone on for sooo long but I've just been getting upset about it lately so I decided to ask.

  • I live in England.

  • Actually, I changed my mind. Sometimes there are females but I don't know these females very well, I haven't talked to them a lot. They don't say anything to me at all. However, there are other girls who I know who talk to me all the time, it's just those ones that don't.

  • Funnily enough, I'm not actually unpopular or an outcast. In fact, the friend group that I hang out with are, what I can quote from another person, the 'outcasts' of our school year. I know almost everyone and am generally liked.

  • My friends occasionally say I'm girly because I have hair as long as a girl, they also look down upon me and speak in a patronising way to me occasionally (a lot of people speak that way to me but I get compliments for my hair every day even from strangers, it's just my friends that say I'm a girl for it).

closed as primarily opinion-based by Witan ap Danu, NVZ, Abhigyan Chattopadhyay, Fodder, anonymous2 Aug 21 '17 at 2:25

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Welcome to IPS! Is it a recent matter, or is it in general? What country/region are you in? Was there clash/disputes between you and friends? What kind of questions do you ask them to get such responses? Open-ended? Do you hangout with them often? – NVZ Aug 5 '17 at 19:43
  • <comment removed> @maxpleaner If you have an answer, please post it below; otherwise, comments do not have the features needed to properly vet what we say here, so just answering in comments starts to defeat the purpose of having this as a Stack Exchange site in the first place. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Aug 7 '17 at 16:19
  • Since the "long hair" topic comes up quite a bit in the answers and comments, could you add some details on your hairstyle? Maybe a style change would be helpful. You might even spin it off to a new question on how hairstyles affect interpersonal behavior. – user3169 Aug 7 '17 at 22:38
  • I just do a ponytail most days but I sometimes do that girlish one where you have a little plait amongst the rest of your hair @user3169 – Daniel Cann Aug 8 '17 at 12:40
  • This question is very hard to answer, as none of us know your friends, and we'd only be able to guess why they don't speak to you. Perhaps you should ask a different question aimed at finding techniques for getting other people to talk to you / having conversations in general. – Fodder Aug 20 '17 at 22:19

10 Answers 10

23

I hate to say it, but it doesn't sound like these people are really your "friends"

I was in the "outcast group" in school as well. The thing about the outcast group is that they are usually comprised of the kids that were rejected by other groups. The individual outcast members may not have an awful lot in common, other than the experience of being ostracized by the other groups, which may lead them to welcome other outcasts to avoid being like the kids that ostracized them.

While it's nice not be openly rejected, it still sucks to be on the fringe of the group and it sounds like that's where you find yourself.

I was in a similar position when I first joined my little tribe of misfits. I was the odd kid with the mohawk, who wore the same dirty old camo jacket everyday. People initially responded to me in much the same way that they're responding to you. They made fun of my hair and generally disregarded what I had to say.

Eventually I clicked with a few individual members of the group, mostly by sharing music and inappropriate jokes, but I think I was mostly just tolerated by the majority of the group.

Looking back on it, it was nice to have a group, but I haven't seen any of them in years. I know it seems really important to be a part of the group now, but in a few years you'll be in a totally different place in life with totally different people. Yes I know it sucks now, but eventually you'll be off to bigger and better things and all of this will be behind you. Hang in there, it gets better.

  • 3
    @Daniel people change as they grow up, particularly in their teen years... The pressure to be "cool" can cause people to be kinda crappy. Try not to let them get to you. You'll find your people sooner than you think. – apaul Aug 6 '17 at 7:19
  • 1
    @Daniel You mentioned "a condition which makes social situations difficult" would I be wrong in guessing autism spectrum? Forgive me if I've guessed wrong. I'm on the spectrum, so I tend to guess that's the case when people mention that sort of thing. – apaul Aug 6 '17 at 7:37
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    @Daniel Not sure if it helps at all, but I'm an old aspie. The social stuff gets easier. You're lucky to know at your age, I wasn't diagnosed till I was 29, people weren't as aware of it when I was a kid. – apaul Aug 6 '17 at 7:46
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    @Ooker ... I'm going to treat that as ignorance and not an attempt to be openly insulting... Autism, or autism spectrum disorder is a life long condition that effects one's ability to process information. We definitely process information, often we're quite good at it, we just do it differently than the general "neurotypical" population. This can lead to struggles when socializing, with neurotypical people. – apaul Aug 7 '17 at 4:58
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    @Ooker what you said initially could be seen as offensive because in reduces a condition to a character flaw. – apaul Aug 7 '17 at 6:08
11

In my experience, the larger the group the less contact you actually have.

Also when the group has been together for a longer period of time you get 'roles' assigned. One role is lead, they get listened to. Only so many leads in any one group, sometimes only one. Others get 'listener'. Listeners are ignored. Why? People expect listeners to be silent.

How does this come about? If you did not grab the initiative at the start, people very fast no longer expect any remark from you. You are outside the flow, and unless someone lets you in explicitly you are out.

How to break through this (common) pattern? Very hard to do when the group is larger than, say, three. So almost any group.

I myself rather gave up on patterns like this and started to hang with people equally silent on a one to one basis. Currently I prefer this type of contact mainly because the level of conversation usually is very much more varied, involved, has more depth. One to one contact has more balance, can acquire a rhythm of back and forth and turned out a far better fit for me.

So my advice?

  • If you want more room to speak, seek smaller groups.
  • If you want a fresh start without already assigned roles, seek new groups to hang with.
  • An alternative way would be to 'fight' the current 'leads' for speaking time, which you already found to be an uphill struggle.

Possible strategies to initiate new contacts:

  • Visit events.
    Go to meet-ups for your favourite pastimes and invite agreeable (close-by living) participants to your home to hang. Internet is the obvious resource to find happenings, and shared enthusiasm should help breaking the initial ice. It also helps if the pastime avoids mainstream. In my experience mainstream attracts the louder, less actually social people that at least I do not mesh well with anyway. Examples: Pokemon, fossil finding, historical re-enactment, (possibly un-age-appropriate) gardening. For me it was horse-riding but even more the arrangements to get there and back.
  • Volunteer.
    Any worthy cause that you see fit. This is a great opportunity to meet nice people and have a great time as well. Even politics will do in a pinch.
  • Join a (school based) club.
    I joined the school library committee and had a great time. Little came from it in the long run as to friendships but it filled the spare school time with a vengeance. And it got this bookworm into the library where librarians fill their library, yum!
  • Job.
    Anything like being behind a bar or shop counter will put you into contact with many people. It will also make you a person with a function to cultivate, even something as small as letting know when a new item is in. At the very least any new (seasonal/temp/part-time) job will open the door to a new social eco-system of colleagues.
  • Coach.
    Seek an experienced person that knows you and your surroundings, especially your school. Ask and be prepared to listen.

All of the above gained me something in terms of human contacts. You will have to find your own way, and see what fits YOU. All I can say is, keep trying, throw out what does not work, and live a little. Good luck.

  • How can I find people to one and one contact with when everyone is in friendship groups? – Daniel Cann Aug 6 '17 at 6:56
  • @Daniel Cann, Let me think a bit. – Bookeater Aug 6 '17 at 12:25
  • @Daniel Cann, I've edited in some possible strategies. Take your pick :-) – Bookeater Aug 6 '17 at 12:58
7

because people who I don't hang out with have long and interesting discussions with me

Have you considered that perhaps these are the people you should be hanging out with?

At the school I'm at now, I've really clicked with a few people who are a lot like me. We have great discussions, we hang out whenever we can.

There are some other people I know, and I think are nice, but we just don't talk much. Perhaps our personalities are not quite compatible, or we just aren't quite as interested in hanging out, or whatever - but the point is that I have much more fun in my smaller circle of really good friends.

It might be the same situation for you. Right now, you might be in the broader circle, hanging out with your acquaintances - the people you say hello to in the hall and happy birthday to when you notice it's their birthday.

You want to get in the small circle.


All this being said, another thing is possible. It could be your current circle of friends doesn't realize how you feel, in which case you could just tell them the problem and ask what you're doing, or if you could talk more. Or strike up a conversation with one of the people in your circle as best you can - like, "hey, you want to talk about that game last night?" (overly stereotypical, perhaps - you could also do "hey, how's that book I loaned you?" or "have any tips for the art project?" - there, less stereotyping).


That also might not work, of course. Perhaps you have a really good reputation for listening and people just like talking to you, not talking with you. Or they could just not tell what they're doing, or they might not be the people you want to hang out with. It's hard to tell exactly what's going on without being there, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

  • I have considered that and other people say they are 'holding me back' because I'm really popular but am hanging out with outcasts, but because I've been with them for over 10 years I don't know what will happen if I leave – Daniel Cann Aug 6 '17 at 6:58
  • @DanielCann you can still hang out with them - just start hanging out with others too. – heather Aug 6 '17 at 12:26
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    @DanielCann Maybe they noticed you are indeed getting popular, even though you should be an "outcast". Jealousy can be a very strong drive to behave badly towards others and especially friends. This could also explain why they are trying to "humble you down" by criticizing your hair (or anything else you could and should be proud of instead). – gaborous Aug 7 '17 at 1:01
  • Perhaps this is a point but I don't know if they're the kind of people to do that. @gaborous – Daniel Cann Aug 7 '17 at 10:55
1

From the sound of it, you are hanging out with the wrong group. It doesn't seem that you are unpopular, only so with the group that you hang out with and want to be friends with.

The first thing is that you have long hair that some people consider "girly." That's not a bad thing, but it means that you won't fit particularly well with "men's men," guys with crew cuts, are super "macho," (and in the U.S. would ride motorcycles and maybe carry guns), and are headed for the "military" when they leave school. This view is supported by the fact that there are few women in the group, and only "peripherally."

You seem to do better in "mixed" groups, with a better balance of men and women, and with individual men who may be more "balanced," or in the American term, "metasexual."

The fact that your group will say, "yes, yes" to you, then ignore you, suggests that you are not saying the right things (for the group). Unless you have a way of breaking their "code," I suggest hanging out with other people that will react positively to what you say.

  • Hmm, I suppose it does and maybe I'll try thinking about whether I have a similar sense of humor. My friend told me that men like me with long hair were seen as weak so that's why I mentioned it – Daniel Cann Aug 6 '17 at 6:52
1

Two things I wanted to add, in addition to the other great responses:

  1. I doubt it's your hair. It's easy to blame your appearance, but frankly, small things like hair length don't affect the way people interact with you socially.

    Would you treat someone differently if they had long hair? What about if they were actually very feminine (more than you perceive yourself to be)?

    I know lots of people who have very different looks from the norm and do well socially.

  2. This is something I post a lot on here. Responding literally is often boring Say something unexpected, whatever it may be. If they give you a one-word response say "Wow, you're quite talkative today!". "I guess you're clearly a big fan of *subject X*"
  • Oblique answers are great especially if you riff off of something else that has been said earlier. It shows you are actually listening. – Phillip Siebold Aug 8 '17 at 2:48
  • Haha yes I think 'you're quite talkative' will trick them into saying more! – Daniel Cann Aug 8 '17 at 12:38
0

People like talking about things they know and are interested in. Somebody will say "Smith is an awesome hockey player". This person is welcoming discussion on a general topic; he is facilitating conversation. Do not reply using words such as 'Maybe', 'but' etc. Instead say "He is, Jones is having a good season too". You are now also facilitating the conversation. If you don't know or are not interested in the same things as this group, find another group. Groups are based on shared interests.

  • Please consider signing up with a username and password to avoid having to create new accounts to post each answer. – NVZ Aug 6 '17 at 6:14
  • I said in the answer that I had already tried this @Patrick – Daniel Cann Aug 6 '17 at 6:48
0

Before I get into all of this, I want to make one thing very clear: at the end of the day, if you don't like the things your friends talk about, sitting back and listening isn't a bad thing. It's normal. Being quiet is not something to be ashamed of.

Group situations are very different from one-on-one situations. The dynamic you have with each individual doesn't show up in group situations.

To help create a visualize this, let's make a model. Group conversations will (generally) have different roles within them; a ring-leader, a supporter, a guide, and the audience. Not everyone will have the same role every time, and sometimes one person can have multiple roles. Personally, I find that good group conversations will have a rotation of roles among each in the group.

The ring-leader is the primary speaker. They tell stories, provide information, and deliver punch lines.

The supporter reinforces the ring-leader. They are often the first to react to the ring-leader, reinforce a point, or interact with the story being told.

The guide steers the conversation. They will lead the ring-leader (or choose the next) into another subject*.

The audience is just that: the audience. Not everyone will be a participant in the converstaion; 5-7 people can't simultaneously speak and not create a chaotic environment.

It seems like you're the audience a majority of the time. Try and be a supporter: build up the person who is speaking. Prod them for more information, be the first to laugh at a joke, and add details to stories the ring-leader may have left out.

Too Long, Didn't Read

Being quiet is ok, but if you want to interact more try building up whoever is talking and practice engaging in conversations you may not be interested in.

  • As I said in the question, I try and 'be a supporter' but I just get ignored – Daniel Cann Aug 7 '17 at 18:00
  • Supporters chime in and then the conversation moves right along. Without a solid example, it's hard to determine if your comments are on key with the rest of the conversation or not; it may be how your friends interact with supporters, or you could be saying things that are out of key with the rest of the group. – Kris Molinari Aug 8 '17 at 19:23
  • They just say 'No Daniel' to me and tell me not to say anything @KrisMolinari – Daniel Cann Aug 8 '17 at 19:46
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    That is extremely rude and a sign that they don't socially respect you. I would nope out of there. – Kris Molinari Aug 9 '17 at 14:46
-2

It might be the hair. Check out John Walters's story: http://www.radiolab.org/story/122613-mirror-mirror/ (starting a bit after 9:22). At about your age, with similar circumstances, simply changing the side his hair was parted on made a huge difference in his social life and the way people treated him.

I know some people (male and female) who have strong gender stereotypes and experience negative visceral reactions when they see men who are dressed or acting in an effeminate or "weak" way which violates the stereotype. I've even heard this from some people who are very highly educated and very actively working to reduce or remove barriers between people, promoting openness and tolerance, etc.

Sure, it sounds shallow and closed-minded, but maybe the people you're hanging out with are shallow and closed-minded. Who you are is more important than how you look. Some people know that already. Others haven't figured it out, and if they can't get past how you look to even be able to learn more about who you are, they're not likely to learn soon.

Keeping your long hair may or may not be important to you: how much of your self-identity do you want it to be? You could keep it and find new people to hang out with - which may or may not be feasible depending on your circumstances - or you could think seriously about how emotionally attached you really are to the long hair and think about whether you might want to try changing your style with a haircut. I'm not saying you necessarily should do that, but if keeping the current style is just a default and you think that keeping it that way might be holding you back in other areas of social development that you care more about at present, you could try a change in appearance that might help you out.

  • Downvoters, please consider listening to John Walters's story first. You might change your mind. – WBT Aug 7 '17 at 1:05
  • It was an interesting story, but I also think it's just them. I get compliments from strangers and people I know every day for how I look. @WBT – Daniel Cann Aug 7 '17 at 10:54
  • @DanielCann Maybe those are the people you should hang out with more often then. – WBT Aug 7 '17 at 14:33
  • But I've been with these friends for over 10 years – Daniel Cann Aug 7 '17 at 17:59
  • 1
    Rather than asking readers to listen to a story on a website (at a link that may change someday), you should add the relevant content to your question. – user3169 Aug 7 '17 at 22:29
-3

In my opinion and experience, the reason why you are in this situation is that you are not treating yourself as you should, i.e. be "convinced" about yourself. That means that you are not "strict enough" with people who patronise you - you have to show a reaction and let them feel that you are upset or you consider them likewise as "assh..". Then they will stop this behaviour. Look for some professional who can give you better advice. However, I would not know whom to ask.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange! Feel free to take the tour and check out the help center. Answers shouldn't just give suggestions, but should explain why the suggestion would be beneficial to the reader - in other words, discuss where you got the idea for the answer (ex perience, perhaps). If I use your suggestions, how can I be sure that they will make my situation better? I'd recommend explaining why you feel that your thoughts and experiences are applicable here. Thanks :) – Zizouz212 Aug 6 '17 at 22:08
-3

People are very egocentric, they love to talk about their stuff. However, everybody is interesting enough to talk to the first time. That would explain why you seem to have long interesting conversations with new people.

I'd be willing to bet, not knowing you, that maybe you have a tendency to turn a conversation into your thing, or have a tendency to cut into a conversation 'uninvited'?

Don't worry about it man. You'll have your turn too, or just make your turn. Doesn't sound like they're really 'shunning' you, per se, so just hang in there. People are stupid sometimes. We all are.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange! Feel free to take the tour and check out the help center. Answers shouldn't just give suggestions, but should explain why the suggestion would be beneficial to the reader - in other words, discuss where you got the idea for the answer (ex perience, perhaps). If I use your suggestions, how can I be sure that they will make my situation better? I'd recommend explaining why you feel that your thoughts and experiences are applicable here. Thanks :) – Zizouz212 Aug 6 '17 at 22:03

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