How to deal with feeling excluded by family and friends
Feeling excluded lately? Don’t worry. It’s normal. In fact, it’s actually genetic.
As humans, our need for social involvement runs just as deep, if not deeper, than our need for shelter, warmth, food and water. It’s a need that developed millennia ago when it made the most sense to live, work and survive by joining up with a tribe or clan rather than work alone. These days, our genes have become hard-wired to seek out connection wherever we can find it — because where there’s connection, there’s safety.
And yet, the need to connect can sometimes come back to bite us. While long ago the desire for companionship was important to our longevity, thousands of years later, we’re feeling the aftereffects of that need. When we’re excluded from family gatherings, it hurts. When we don’t speak the same language as someone else, it’s painful. And when we’re not recognized as valuable members of our companies, it’s hard.
Feeling excluded, being left out and feeling shunned can take a toll on anyone. In our latest episode of Am I The Bleep?!, we look at a few situations where people were being excluded from the group, and whether or not they were “correctly” or “incorrectly” shunned.
Take a listen to that episode now — or, keep reading to learn the signs of being excluded and how to deal with it.
Signs you’re being excluded
In order to deal with feeling excluded, you first need to know if you ARE being excluded. Here’s some signs you might be excluded, broken down into five categories.
Exclusion based on lifestyle choices
- Judgmental comments or disapproval from family members regarding your lifestyle decisions.
- Sudden changes in the dynamics of your relationships with family members.
- Being left out of important family decisions or gatherings due to conflicting values or choices.
- Feeling like an outsider due to your different beliefs, political views, or religious practices.
- Lack of invitations or intentional exclusion from family events or celebrations. (For instance, in our episode of Am I The Bleep?!, a father was shunned by his conservative in-laws after sitting beside his gay son at his wife’s funeral.)
Exclusion based on language barriers
- Conversations predominantly happening in a language you don't understand.
- Family members speaking to each other while excluding you from the conversation.
- Feeling isolated or left out during group discussions or important family updates.
- Being assigned fewer responsibilities or tasks during family events.
- Relatives assuming you won't understand or appreciate their cultural traditions and not including you in their celebrations.
- Conversations happening in another language when the parties involved also speak your first language.
Exclusion based on lack of communication
- Decreased frequency of communication, such as fewer phone calls, text messages, or interactions on social media.
- Not being included in important conversations, plans, or updates.
- Ignored or unanswered messages, with no clear explanation for the sudden change in communication patterns.
- Being blocked or restricted from contacting someone for no apparent reason.
Exclusion based on lack of invitation to social events
- Being consistently left out of group gatherings, parties, or outings without any valid reason.
- Discovering that friends or mutual acquaintances attended an event or outing without extending an invitation to you.
- Feeling like an afterthought or the last person to be included in plans, if at all.
- Events being scheduled when you’re busy so that you’re unable to attend.
Exclusion based on disinterest in your life
- Lack of interest or engagement in your personal life, achievements, or challenges.
- Friends or partners not asking about your well-being or neglecting to listen when you express your thoughts or feelings.
- Unwillingness to provide emotional support or offer help when you need it.
- Lack of support, encouragement or recognition when a major life milestone or achievement occurs.
How to deal with feeling excluded
Despite the fact that being excluded can happen without warning, there’s ways to combat it. Not all of the tactics below will work for every situation, but in some cases, they might help you build bridges with someone who’s excluding you — or, failing that, they’ll help you determine the relationship isn’t worth maintaining.
Start by redefining what you want the relationship to look like
Before you bring up feeling excluded to those who’re shunning you, it’s important to define exactly what you want your relationship with these people to look like going forward. Do you want a great relationship with them? Or are you indifferent about whether or not you’re part of the group again?
With family members and romantic partners, the answer is usually yes — people want to be reunited. But with bosses, acquaintances or other tertiary relationships, often times, it can be helpful to define a narrower set of relationship goals.
For instance, your goal may simply be “to have a working relationship with my boss,” or “to be able to attend the same social gatherings as someone I had a falling out with.” Or maybe your goal is to put the necessary steps in place to leave a workplace that feels exclusionary.
Whatever the case, defining your goals will help you be more specific about what steps you need to take next.
State your desires clearly and openly
If you haven’t already done this, it helps to communicate clearly and openly the kind of relationship you want with those who’re excluding you. Initiate an open and honest conversation with your family members, friends or partner about your feelings. Explain how their actions have made you feel excluded and express your desire to be more involved. By addressing the issue directly, you give them an opportunity to understand your perspective and bridge the gap.
On top of making your desires known, you might also be surprised to learn that the group that’s been excluding you didn’t even know you were being excluded. Sometimes, we’re excluded by accident, and what we perceive as a malicious form of shunning might simply be a byproduct of ignorance. If this is the case, the excluding party will likely try to make amends, improving your relationship considerably.
Build bridges based on your goals
In order to create a new relationship with those you’re feeling excluded by, you’re going to need to build bridges and make inroads. If a language barrier exists, the onus is on you to learn that language. If you’re being excluded because of a lifestyle choice that your family doesn’t understand, it’s up to you to attempt to educate family members on why you’ve chosen your specific path.
Why is it on you, you ask? Simple: because in order for things to change, someone in the relationship has to change first — and it’s not going to be the excluding party.
It can be frustrating to do this kind of work, especially because you may feel as though none of this is your fault. You might feel that you deserve to be included in things without having to build bridges, and you’re probably right about that — but remember, the goal isn’t to be RIGHT about being excluded, but rather to be HAPPY about changing the nature of your relationship with the excluding parties.
Get the support you need from your people
While you’re doing the messy work of building bridges, it helps to have support from others. This is where YOUR group comes into play — it’s time to lean into the people who aren’t excluding you.
Getting support from your own community will help you stay focused and energized when it comes to navigating the harder aspects of being excluded from a group.
Take care of yourself
Dealing with exclusion can be emotionally draining. It’s probably draining just READING about it! In order to deal with the process of being excluded, remember to put yourself front and center.
Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies that bring you joy. Engaging in activities that boost your self-esteem and well-being will help you cope with the negative emotions associated with being excluded.
Stop feeling excluded today
Sometimes, it’s impossible to prevent someone from excluding you. And other times, you’ll never have the kind of relationship you want from a group that shuns you. But that doesn’t mean working toward a better relationship with others isn’t worth a try.
By acknowledging signs of exclusion and implementing strategies to address the issue, you can build stronger connections and foster a sense of belonging with the people that matter most — your friends, your family and other loved ones. Relationship dynamics are (and will always be) complex, and change may take time, but by focusing on open communication and clearly defining the kind of relationship dynamic you’re seeking, it’s possible to move from being shunned to ex-shunned.
Want more info on how to deal with feeling excluded? You’re in luck. The Jonathans tackle feelings of exclusion and much more in the latest podcast episode of Am I The Bleep!?!, out now.
AITA for Not Wanting to be around His Family?
In this extra special episode of Am I the Bleep!?! The Jonathans are actually in the same room at the same time in the same city. It's kind of like a less Oscar-worthy version of Everything, Everywhere All at Once....but it's still pretty good. In this episode, we talk about exclusion and how to manage yourself in its ugly face. Also, and on a different note...Thank you all for over 1000 downloads! We are eternally grateful <3 And so grateful in fact that we wrote a Haiku.
Jonathans are we;
Listeners are listening
to Am I the Bleep
The meaning is as deep as our love for you, the listeners. Thank you so much <3