- Some people are anxious or even deterred about getting into triathlon because they have found the group of people already participating to be unwelcoming. I have felt this myself, maybe you too have experienced it.
- I think that sometimes I can come across as standoffish, unwelcoming, or possibly even rude, when it is actually my shyness impeding my kindness.
- I recently had an interesting interaction, reminding me that others’ standoffishness may also be shyness. We are staying at a campervan park that has us packed in like sardines. This is quite common in this region, though this is the first park we have stayed in that is actually full. This means that on one grassy edge, 5 vehicles are backed in with 4-5 feet in between them. Most are SUV or mini-van sized that people are sleeping in (and that are designed for that purpose). One is a car with tent campers, and ours is more the size of a 16-passenger van.
No neighbors were present when we parked. After going for a walk, we returned with a neighbor – a young couple enjoying a meal at a table and chairs behind their van. Being so close to them, I thought it would be polite to say hello and make light conversation. I am no expert in social interaction, but I looked their way attempting to say hello as we walked up to our van in a way that I thought would generally elicit the start of a simple, polite conversation. It didn’t. They didn’t look up then or otherwise as I moved around the van doing various things. One of the individuals, the male, had an American accent, which hasn’t been too common around here, and I was a little sad to feel that this fit into my stereotype of American travelers as less friendly than many from other parts of the world.
Much later in the evening, again walking back to the van after being away for something, and when they were back at their table and chairs, I stopped to more pointedly start a conversation, starting by asking where they were from. The polite banter about our stories and travels ensued. At one point in the conversation, the male, who was indeed American – a Californian like me in fact, made a remark indicating that he heard us speak, thought we were also American, and had wanted to start a conversation but didn’t. In other words, what I took to be standoffishness was more likely his shyness – or at least a belief (misguided but probably culturally steeped) that we didn’t want to be spoken to.
- Perhaps when we feel intimidated by a community that we want to be a part of, such as getting into triathlon, those on the inside are not intentionally being unwelcoming, but rather unsure how to welcome. Certainly, as part of that community, we can and should work to be more welcoming! But in the meantime, I think it is also a good reminder to me that when I feel a community is standoffish, perhaps it isn’t me but them and perhaps it is coming from shyness.
What may appear to be rude or standoffishness could be something else. Is it worth digging deeper?