It stings when you discover you weren’t invited to that couples dinner, industry event or weekend trip with your college pals. Your mind starts swirling, and you conclude that you are a social outcast destined for a life of loneliness. Or maybe you’re convinced that the friend who planned this intentionally excluded you because they’re a terrible person.
Friendship expert Danielle Bayard Jackson has recently come across “a surge of videos” on social media focusing on the latter.
“Oftentimes the tone of the video is very accusatory, and people tend to dismiss the inviters as being bad friends, fake friends, not really caring and as somehow being duplicitous and being exposed in their duplicity,” Bayard Jackson — a friendship coach and host of the “Friend Forward” podcast —told HuffPost. “And I saw less dialogue around other reasons why you may not be invited.”
So she posted her own TikTok in response, listing a dozen other possible reasons for people to consider when they aren’t invited to something. She created the video, she said, to open people’s eyes to different perspectives and “depersonalize” the experience. It has racked up more than 1.5 million views since she uploaded it in March.
“It was something that people needed to hear, but a lot of people don’t want to say,” Bayard Jackson said. “But my job as a coach is to offer you various perspectives to inform the choices you make about your friendships.”
Some of the potential explanations Bayard Jackson offers in the video include:
- “You never go to other things they invite you to, so they stopped trying.”
- “They’ve made assumptions on your behalf about your financial abilities, your interest or your availability. And they think they’re doing you a favor by not inviting you because of those things.”
- “They got together out of convenience, meaning the two of them were together, they saw the coffee shop down the street, and they decided to go to the coffee shop. The decision was less about you and more about proximity.”
- “They prefer to keep their circles separate. So they’re going together with church friends, maybe they don’t invite you. If they’re going with mom friends, maybe they don’t invite you. Because they want to maintain a certain sameness or rhythm in a particular group.”
Her hope was for people to see that “sometimes it’s logistical, sometimes it’s an oversight, sometimes they’re doing it for what they believe to be noble reasons,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s logistical, sometimes it’s an oversight, sometimes they’re doing it for what they believe to be noble reasons.”
– Danielle Bayard Jackson, friendship coach
Adopting this perspective won’t get rid of the pain of rejection — but it might help soften it.
Anna Goldfarb is a journalist who covers friendship and the author of the forthcoming book “Modern Friendship.” She’s also noticed that people tend to take not getting invited “very personally” while acknowledging how hurtful the experience can be.
“Studies show that rejection triggers the same pathways as physical pain, so it does hurt to be excluded,” she told HuffPost.
Goldfarb said even she struggles with this from time to time. For example, when she finds out a friend went to dinner in her neighborhood but didn’t call her, she sometimes gets a “ping of hurt.”
“Then I’ll think, ‘Well, she was going out for dinner with her husband. Why would she invite me?’” she said. “Then I remind myself I’ve had dinner in her neighborhood and haven’t called her, and it wasn’t that I don’t love her. I still love her. So that helps, just to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”
But sometimes, the reasons for not being included do feel a bit more personal. Pulling from Bayard Jackson’s list, things like:
- “Whenever you’re there, you dominate the conversation, so it’s not a good time.”
- “You make them feel judged or criticized when you’re around, which makes people measure their words. And if they don’t want to do that, they just don’t invite you.”
- “You have some kind of conversational tendency that makes the experience unpleasurable for other people. So if you tend to be a one-upper or a negative Nancy, then people probably won’t elect to have you in the room.”
These reasons require you to look inward: Is there, perhaps, something you’re doing that’s putting people off? And though these might be hard to consider, doing some introspection is a good thing. In fact, having self-awareness is an important first step toward having better friendships, said Bayard Jackson.
“A lot of times on social media, I see people conflating feedback with attacking you or criticism,” she said. “But that’s how we get better. That’s how we’re made aware of how our friends experience us. I should want to know how my efforts and intentions are being received by others, by the people that I love. I want to know that.”
“Anytime you feel rejected, it can feel empowering to use that sadness, use that energy, to connect with someone else.”
– Anna Goldfarb, friendship journalist
Consider these possible reasons and if they might apply to you. If they’re not relevant, let them go. But if they might be, then explore them further.
“Reflect on the past couple experiences you had in a social gathering. If you looked at a pie chart, how much of the talking was you? How much was them? And how frequently does that happen?” Bayard Jackson said.
“Sure, there might be times where maybe the spotlight’s on you tonight because you kind of need more of the attention. But how often are you speaking most of the time? Do you tend to notice the same reaction from people? Do they tend to pull away or switch subjects when you bring up certain subjects? Does the energy in the room shift after you say certain things?”
And take note if you’re hearing the same comments about your attitude or conversational habits from different people in your life.
“If your mother and your boyfriend and your friend and your coworkers are giving you the same feedback, it might be worth looking at,” Bayard Jackson said.
“We can’t be so sensitive to feedback that we don’t get any. Because if we do, what continues to happen is we’re going around life not realizing that we’re turning people off, offending people, and just simply not engaging them well.”
How To Deal With Not Being Invited
Again, it’s totally normal and OK to feel hurt, disappointed or even embarrassed by not being included in someone’s plans. But resist the urge to dwell on those feelings, Goldfarb said.
“If there’s a long history of closeness, if you’re in a good place with your friend, give your friend the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “Assume they have good intentions.”
Think back to when you’ve planned something and haven’t invited certain people for practical or arbitrary reasons. Then keep that in mind the next time you feel left out.
“I don’t invite my best friends to some things I do, not because I don’t want to connect with my friend, but because I have another friend going through a sensitive time, and I want to carve out time to focus on that other person,” Goldfarb said. “That’s OK. It’s OK to not include everyone in everything.”
You can also communicate your desire to be included in future social get-togethers or events. Just approach the conversation in a casual, tactful way.
“You don’t have to accuse anyone of leaving you out,” Goldfarb said. “Maybe they didn’t realize you’d be interested, just like Danielle said. Just throw it out there. Be like, ‘Oh, I’d love to come. If anyone can’t make it, let me know, or next time you throw an event, keep me in mind because that sounds really fun.’”
Taking some positive action can also help you feel better. For instance, you could use this as an opportunity to reach out to friends you’ve “let float into the outer orbits,” said Goldfarb.
“Anytime you feel rejected, it can feel empowering to use that sadness, use that energy, to connect with someone else,” she said. “You feel a little hurt, go connect with someone else. Because I’m sure, there’s a friend out there who would love to hear from you.”