Sometimes if I’m in a group and someone else makes a statement or asks a question, the responder will direct their answer to me, as in looking right at my face and not at the initiator. It happens regularly. Maybe it’s because I am an attentive listener or appear interested – I’m not sure exactly. It can mess me up occasionally, if I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to the previous remarks. Now I’ve got to look lively.
Once I’m being directly addressed, it seems polite to maintain eye contact and listen (unless the speaker is talking nonsense and/or show no sign of letting up), in part because at that point I feel less like an individual and more like a representative of the group. It’s still weird though, because the best I can offer in return are “Mmmm” sounds or vague “I see’s”. I feel bad for the person who actually started the topic too, because now they’re being sort of ignored. I’m not going to pretend I initiated the discussion, though, and continue to engage the speaker once they wind down. And I can’t bring myself to bluntly say, “Why are you telling me? He’s the one who asked you.”
Years ago when I was in a park studying, a man I didn’t know walked by and we ended up having a conversation. He said he was divorced.
HIM (somewhat bitterly): “When you get married you think you’re going to have sex all the time. But it’s not like that at all.”
I was having a conversation with a man and I said how much I enjoyed Judge Judy.
HIM: “I don’t like her. She’s too judgemental.”
ME: “But she’s a judge!”