That’s the only part that needs to be said. The rest of this contains no qualifications, misdirections, or explanations of “what I was really thinking” about other matters. It contains only an explanation of how it got to this point, and my apology for that.
Reading the spirited discussion of the past week, it is clear to me that of the many points raised and felt, some people genuinely believe that myself and others think that some people are obligated to interact with people deemed to have low social skills, for the sake of fairness. (That’s phrased harshly on purpose.) I can see why that would be frightening. Reflecting on my writings, I can see how people came to that conclusion about me. I’ve written, after all, a lot of things.
But it’s not true. I don’t believe you are obligated to interact with anyone you don’t want to.
Sexual harassment, creepiness, and social justice are important issues to me. I want to foster an environment of trust where everyone feels safe, emotionally and physically. HRSFA is one of the safest spaces I’ve heard of from many of the people involved, but it’s also true that we can make more progress on this. I want to know what I and others can do, to make this even better.
And if my words have made people feel *less* safe, than I am so sorry for that. If people have felt that I or others pressured them to interact with people they did not want to, I am very sorry. I believe that pressure must have been hurtful, as either unwanted interaction *or* social opprobrium sucks. If my poor explanations, my zeal to get a point across, and my failure in listening to people’s concerns led to this impasse, then I take the blame for it. I could have said so many things with more circumspection, and I regret that I did not.
I do not want your obligated friendship. I want your authentic friendship. A kind word, a thoughtful discussion, or a gesture of affection mean infinitely more when coming from someone who genuinely means them, and did not give them because they were being “fair”. By only interacting when you authentically feel it, then you do me the service of letting me know you always mean it. I hope and believe that these sentiments are shared by most everyone I know, whatever they feel their social skills might be.
I don’t believe you are obligated to interact with anyone you don’t want to.
Now, this gets harder when we come to group interactions, or to people who already have an intertangled history. I must leave that to better minds than mine. What a group does when two people in it do not want to interact, or when one person is not respecting another’s wishes, is a decision that is not up to me. But I don’t believe this issue has anything to do with social skills and the advantages earned from them.
My actions may appear all over the map on this, to people. Many times I have counseled people that they don’t need to interact with people they don’t want to. Other times I have counseled people on the virtues of confrontation and “fixing” their issues. Other times I have outright faulted people for how they behaved in a group setting. I know how many people reading this might think I sound inconsistent and hypocritical. I can only say that I had other motivations and explanations behind those actions, while I felt I was still following that core truth. I don’t believe you are obligated to interact with anyone you don’t want to.
It’s also possible I have been inconsistent. It’s possible that this post does not sound credible to some. If I have failed deeply enough to communicate my thoughts, then I have earned that consequence. But please do not fault others, who agree with some of my ideas, for the inconsistency and hypocrisy you see in me. And if you feel comfortable doing so, I ask you to come talk to me about those times that my behavior has troubled you, and I will listen and try to improve my record regarding this.
But you are not obligated to.
I have many, many other thoughts on the past week, obviously. Maybe sometime in the future we can discuss them in depth, privately or publicly. But those thoughts are not what need to be said right now.
Only: I don’t believe you are obligated to interact with anyone you don’t want to.