I could read her expression even though she had no idea I was doing it.
A lovely individual I was chatting with, as we were engaging in all the usual getting to know you banter. I really like her. Smart yet humble, physically beautiful without a trace of ego about it, and she has a sincere, positive energy that I admire.
I knew she had a college connection to someone I know. Not very well truthfully, but I know her well enough.
I debated whether or not to mention it. This connection is someone with whom I made a real effort to strike up a friendship, but that turned out to be mighty difficult. I got the hint early on and backed off, remaining cordial when we ran into each other. Thankfully we ended up drifting out of each other’s super outer circle friend groups organically and with ease, so it wasn’t an issue.
But I get the sense this connection alienates a lot of people who try to befriend her. I knew it would be risky to make the college connection in this casual getting to know you chat.
I took it anyway, almost in hopes that there would a happy response. Surely at some point she had had friends and treated people nicely, right?
Instead, I detected an almost imperceptible shift in tone and facial expression.
“Oh yeah,” she said politely. If I hadn’t had my own experience with this person, I might’ve mistaken her two word reply for affection for said individual.
In that moment, I knew our conversation had practically flatlined. So I moved onto the “What do you do for a living?” angle.
At that, we discovered lots of commonalities, and even a wonderful friend connection who is someone we both really adore.
I’m so thankful that we took the time to learn a little more about each other. At some point soon, we’re going to grab lunch together, and I look forward to spending more time with her.
I also really respect how she navigated that part of our conversation that could have been rather awkward. And that’s my two-part message to you today, lovely daughter.
The first part is this. Please do everything you can, in word and in deed, not to be the person who alienates others.
Granted, I don’t think you could do this if you tried, but there is a critical self-awareness component to all this (you’ve got it in spades, and this is your mama pointing out to you that that is a soft skill worth keeping and cultivating).
It boggles my mind to this day that so many people – so many fully functioning ADULT PEOPLE aren’t aware of how they come across (I like to believe they just don’t know, because it’s more hopeful than the alternative that they just don’t care).
Have you ever been in a situation when you felt like a social pariah, picking up on the unmistakable “I’m not going to speak to her or acknowledge her” freeze out vibes emanating from another woman? Oh but honey in good time you will (unfortunately).
Have you ever left a conversation completely exhausted and drained because you were the only one initiating dialogue, when at every attempt you made, they would avoid eye contact, maintain all manner of aloof-ness, only utter out the shortest possible answers to your conversational leads, and then comment from across the room to weigh in on what somebody else was talking about? It’s oddly specific. It’s also shockingly common.
There are – sadly – plenty of women out there who could teach a masterclass on how to make another woman feel insignificant and unwelcome in any given social setting.
When you see this behavior, don’t stand for it.
Instead, do more of what you do now, seeking out the ones on the fringe of the friend group. Make them feel welcome, and not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they are fearfully and wonderfully made just like you, and they deserve to feel a sense of belonging as much as anyone else.
The second part, and this one is so hard, especially when you have people in your life who repeatedly use the most subtle of ways to make you feel like an unwanted outsider, is to mind your mouth and the inner monologue rambling around in your head.
Even if your feelings are justified, it’s impossible to control the accuracy of what you actually said once you say it to somebody else. And take it from your mother, a World Class Ruminator and Overthinker Extraordinaire, what a waste of perfectly good mental mojo.
I said there were two parts, but here comes a third. Try to strike the balance between being wise – the old “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” logic – with forgiveness and the love of Jesus (easy to talk about, darn near impossible to do, especially with those folks where you have to dig real deep just to tolerate).
All of that to say, if someone seems to, by all accounts, have earnestly learned from their hurtful habits and you want the friendship they have to offer, by all means, go for it.
Lastly, remember this, wise words from your grandmother on my side, whose Georgia-bred mama brought her up with a humbling and spot-on philosophy to keep in mind when dealing with all sorts of folks:
“You are no better than anybody. You are just as good as everybody.”
I love you!