A while ago, I was in a workshop where the instructor told a story. She talked about a girl who spent the whole weekend waiting to be asked to dance. And, the entire weekend, no one asked her.

She didn’t know why, but it became clear when the instructor asked a few more questions. She was sitting several rows of chairs back, on her phone, wearing a sweater, and avoiding eye contact. She had all the signals that normally mean “I don’t want to dance” – even though she really did.

When Signals Don’t Match

Sadly, many of the people who end up feeling “left out” at the end of the weekend give off these signals, and more. Sometimes they don’t smile. Sometimes their body language is closed and isolated. In our zeal to educate people to read body language and be more savvy of possible rejections, we have unwittingly excluded the shy, withdrawn dancers that need our help to come out of their shell.

We should be aware of this – particularly as it relates to unfamiliar or new dancers. If it is someone you don’t recognize and you’re a regular, there’s a good chance they’re new or unfamiliar with the area. Those people sometimes are the most in need of a friend – even if they look like they want nothing to do with you.

So, if you have it in you, you may want to consider finding a person who doesn’t exactly look like they’re ready to jump on the floor – with two caveats.


If you do decide to ask people who look less interested, be aware that you do raise your likelihood of receiving a “no”. If you’re not OK with that, don’t ask. You need to be OK with the fact that you are taking a larger rejection risk than asking the person who is actively standing by the dance floor and making eye contact.

“Don’t Ask” Signals

While there are many signals that can be associated with shyness, there are still a few that really, truly yell “no” at the top of their lungs. For example, having an involved conversation with another person or standing outside the ballroom. In your zeal to help include the shy, do remember this. Even though this outreach work can be great, you still do need to use a judgment call and common sense when deciding whether or not to ask.

The Payoff

When you do find the person who covertly wants to dance, you have the opportunity to make their weekend – and even inspire them to dive deeper into dance. You also have the chance of finding someone who you absolutely love dancing with. To me, that is far more wonderful than avoiding a few ‘no’s.

The next time you’re at an event, keep an eye out for your shy fellow dancers. And, if you have the stamina to withstand a greater risk of rejection, you can help build their confidence and inclusion by being their gateway to the dance floor. Let’s continue creating a great, inclusive dance community that invites those on the fringe into our inner circle.