What to do when you’re left out of a group conversation

I just read this.

Something like 30% of Americans feels lonely or left out at least once a week.

I still remember back in school when the guys in my class went to a party and I found out after the weekend. That felt like a stab in my gut.

Now, I can still feel left out if people talk and have fun and I’m in the fringe.

(This happens to everyone all the time, but we tend to only notice when it happens to US.)

You can divide people into two groups depending on how they tackle being left out of a group.

The first one is the Pusher

When the pusher feels left out, he or she tries to push their way back in by cracking jokes, talking more, or do anything that attracts attention.

The second one is the Withdrawer

He or she does the opposite and withdraws when they feel left out. They get quiet or walk away.

Both these strategies move us further away from everyone else.

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We don’t want to push harder, and we don’t want to withdraw.

When I felt left out, my thoughts started spinning… Why was I left out? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they like me?

Do you see what’s happening here?

When I feel left out, I start focusing on ME.

I’m the Pusher, so my instinct is to break in with jokes or take up more space. But because I was in my own head, I forgot to pay attention to the mood of the group.

One time, people had a thoughtful conversation about children and marriage, and I, feeling left out, pulled a joke that got a few chuckles, but then they continued without me.

I just wanted to be funny. But it backfired.

Do you see what I did wrong here?

I didn’t pay attention to realize that this was a thoughtful conversation, because I was in my own head and just wanted to get attention.

Instead, I should have focused on what they were saying and what the mood was, and add something thoughtful that matched this mood.

Bam! That’s how you become a part of a group of friends.

Lesson learned:

We don’t need to withdraw, nor push. We want to match the mood, energy, and topic of the group we’re in.

When we don’t, people just get annoyed, because it’s frustrating when someone tries to change the course of whatever we’re into.

(I go more into detail about how to join a conversation in my article “How do you join a group conversation if you’re not supposed to interrupt?”)

What happened the last time you felt left out? Are you a Pusher or a Withdrawer? I’d love to hear in the comments!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (4)

4 thoughts on “What to do when you’re left out of a group conversation”

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  1. I, female, used to be more the withdrawer than the pusher. But I have learned that I just have to join a group standing or sitting together, and listen to them. Then sooner or later someone is turning toward me to ask me something. Or after I was with them some minutes I felt encouraged to say something myself. But really, it depends on the group… if they don’t like you, if they are an unfair bunch of people or if one of them had incited everyone against you before, it is not easy or impossible to join the group. But normal and friendly people will always let you in.

  2. I guess I am more like a pusher, always trying to say something funny and then being left out and then turn to be the withdrawer.

    • That’s great self-insight. It sounds like if you just try to stay more engaged in the conversation without trying to be funny you will have a lot more success. Remember that you don’t have to do anything extraordinary to be accepted in the conversation, just listening attentively and reacting appropriately is all that’s needed for people to like you.

  3. I’ve done both, withdrawn and pushed, when I feel left out. Push when I feel comfortable with the group, Withdraw when unsure.

    I too am up in my own head most of the time, and I don’t pay attention to the group mood. Great advice. I need more empathy and patience and self-worth so I can stay in the moment and just BE, connected with others.


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