There is nothing quite like the sting of social exclusion. It reeks of school children, and is commonly thought that is where it ends. Which is true…. To a point, assuming you surround yourself with good people. That said, we all understand and accept that nobody is included in anything all of the time, right? Knowing and understanding this universal truth doesn’t always stop the sting or the emotional backlash though, especially when we take it personally.
I have posted before about feeling excluded, and I have posted about unintentionally making a friend feel excluded. My experiences with either are not limited, and neither have my emotional reactions been limited. This depends largely on my expectations and to an extent, my mood I suppose, but I think we can all agree sometimes it is hard not to take it personally. Other times it is easier. Sometimes it’s a wave of different emotions or a process!
I remember once, years ago now, a colleague had a party at his house, to which all the staff were invited, except me. I had no real relationship with this colleague and no real interest in his party. I had heard people discussing it, and really gave it no thought….. UNTIL, he came to me specifically to apologise for the lack of invitation and pointed out himself that I was the ONLY person not invited! Lol What an odd experience that was!
To give you a little background information, the workplace was largely male dominated. There were only 4 women working in the office, and 3 of them were dating a male member of staff. I wasn’t. So, as he put it to me, that was the reason I wasn’t invited, that the other ladies were only invited because they were partners of his male friends. Fair enough. Whatever. I didn’t want to go to his party anyway. But why come and talk to me about it? If you felt that bad about my exclusion, I wondered, wouldn’t it have been easier just to invite me? You didn’t want me there so badly that an awkward conversation about my exclusion was the best option? Then, it suddenly did seem personal. Even though I genuinely had zero interest in his party before, now I was hurt. Of course, if he had of invited me, (had I chosen to attend, which I would not have anyway) I am sure I would have still felt excluded and known I wasn’t really wanted there.
On the Monday after the party only one person approached me to ask why I wasn’t there, said they missed me and I should have gone. I said I hadn’t been invited, explained the situation about the other ladies dating the men etc… and this person was outraged that this had been said to me, and articulated my own point – why not just invite me? I wont get into this story any further except to say that after that an unlikely friendship developed between me and the person who cared enough to ask after me.
As a different example of feeling excluded, a friend of mine recently travelled overseas for her friends 40th birthday. A group of people were invited, many went. My friend opted to go, however due to work commitments, family commitments and personal circumstance she opted to travel separately from the group and stayed at a different location. On the night she arrived was the party. Despite her best efforts, my friend could not locate the venue. She had her driver for the evening drive around for 2 hours before giving up and going back to the accommodation. She only had WIFI there to communicate with her friends.
She messaged them to let them know she had tried to find the party, however couldn’t spot them, so had gone home and given up. She was disappointed that her friends hadn’t seemed to notice her absence, however they said they were sorry she couldn’t find them, and that they had been close by, but that they understood if she chose not to try again. This is a perfectly reasonable response. However it is not unreasonable for my friend to hope, as in my story above, somebody would miss her and ask after her. A part of her had hoped that they would insist she went to find them, because it wouldn’t be the same without her there. Instead they accepted she wasn’t going without much fuss at all, and she spent the night watching the updates on social media about what a fabulous time everyone was having without her.
In her absence they have planned another group holiday and the messages and memories about the fabulous time that was had, the in jokes and the photos are still being exchanged and each one feels like a slap in the face. She travelled all the way to another country for them and they couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to include her? Now, my friend is the first to admit, she may have been left feeling this way, even if she were included.
The party was full of drunk women in bikinis, men eating chips and drinking beer, dancing and generally being loud and having fun. Nothing out of the ordinary, except my friend does not have a bikini body, does not drink, currently has a particularly restricted diet due to personal health issues and did not know all the attendees. She does not dance, and would likely have ended up sitting in a corner sipping water and being quietly judged as the uninteresting party pooper. This would not have felt better, or having to be “babysat” by her friend.
Basically the whole experience left my friend feeling like her existence is a burden to their friendship, and that no matter how much effort she puts in, she will be disappointed with the lack of appreciation or effort in return. This is what exclusion does. It leaves us questioning our worth, and feeling like we have no value. Sadly nobody seems to have reached out to my friend to say they were disappointed she wasn’t there in the end, and are seemingly unaware that including her in conversations about it is adding salt to the wound.
To be fair, this exclusion was not personal. They had a party, they had a great time. This was the whole purpose of the trip. My friends experience was not their responsibility. They went to have a good time, and they had one. But I can still understand the sting my friend is experiencing. She knows it isn’t about her, but that’s what stings. She wanted it to be about her. Just a little bit.
So many times social exclusion happens in minuscule doses like this, and our friends just go along with it and expect us not to say anything. To take it on the chin. Don’t be a drama queen. Don’t make it about you when it wasn’t. Which is much easier to do, if someone tells you afterwards that they noticed you weren’t there and they cared. Simple really.
Friendship is all about showing people that you care; about them, about their experiences, about their effort, and about your relationship with them. So even if everybody really can’t be included all the time, let the excluded party know that you cared enough to notice and reassure them they were at least valuable enough (to you) to be missed.
Your Best Friend ForNever