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Situational Sociability

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A character with Situational Sociability is someone whose ability to socialize with others can vary depending on the circumstances.

A Shrinking Violet who can barely get two words out in a face to face conversation might display a whole other personality if put into a situation where they can communicate without having to actually face the other party, such as online or over the phone. In the right circumstances, the quiet violet can be as talkative and excitable as the next person.

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There are variations. A person might be more confident or social when posing as someone else or in a Secret Identity. Superhero characters may have this as part of their superhero persona, such as being a bigger ham as a hero when normally meek as a civilian. Some may simply be more confident compared to when going about their normal lives. Others may deliberately cultivate such an attitude in the process of Clark Kenting.

Another variation is someone who rarely engages in conversation may become incapable of shutting up if someone brings up just the right topic. Alternatively, a person may not be a Shrinking Violet at all but still present a fake persona to the outside world while displaying their true personality via another medium. Or said person may be a Shrinking Violet with strangers, but more talkative with True Companions. There's also the inverse of the Shrinking Violet, someone who is easily social in most circumstances may freeze up if taken out of their comfort zone.

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The core element of the trope is that the individual's attitude changes drastically in private compared to in public or when able to speak anonymously.

Can overlap with A Darker Me and G.I.F.T., when a character exhibits traits they would not normally show when they think they can get away with it or are otherwise made to lose their inhibitions. See also Beneath the Mask, which goes along with the "public persona" variation of this trope. This trope is applied when the hidden persona is actually expressed in some fashion. Cannot Talk to Women is a subtrope where the specific trigger that causes the change in social skills is the presence of the opposite sex.


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Examples

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  • One public service message about cyberbullying has three schoolgirls and one mother prepare for a party in the mother's kitchen. Talk among the girls seems normal until one girl starts speaking her online sentences, which are snarky and sniping. The others notice with increasing disquiet. Ultimately, the online sniper gets excluded from the party and becomes a pariah at school.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Meru Otonashi of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is incapable of getting a word out of her mouth in most social situations. Give her a phone, however, and she'll flood you with scathing text messages and emails.
  • Tiger & Bunny:
    • Ivan Karelin is insecure and timid about his role as a Hero. When in costume as Origami Cyclone, he becomes a Large Ham.
    • Doctor Saito is a variation. He isn't shy, but so quiet that his dialogue has to be subtitled. Over a PA system, he's as talkative, if not more so, as anyone in the cast. In the final episodes, he gets around this by wearing a hat with a speaker and mic attached.
  • Cromartie High School's Kiyoshi Fujimoto runs an online message board where he's polite and patient even as he's being trolled. In person, he is a violent delinquent with a Hair-Trigger Temper (which results in him unknowingly beating up that same troll just for accidentally running into him).
  • Himouto! Umaru-chan:
    • The main character, Umaru, presents herself as a cool School Idol in public but is very lazy, messy, and bossy when at home around her brother and his acquaintances. The difference is demonstrated by Umaru going from a normal-looking girl outside to a Super-Deformed childlike form as soon as she enters her home.
    • Kirie has a hard time socializing with others in her class or outside her family. The exception is children, with whom she is much more at ease. She can barely speak to Umaru at school, but when she meets the Super-Deformed Umaru at her home, Umaru convinces Kirie she is Umaru's little sister, Komaru, and Kirie can speak to her much more freely.
  • Midori Asakusa from Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is very outgoing and boisterous around people she's friends with, especially when expressing her passion for making anime, but she's not great at socializing otherwise and tends to be shy around strangers and bad with crowds, to the point where Kanamori has to constantly accompany her when in public. This is evident in multiple scenes:
    • The first time the two meet, Asakusa freezes up when Mizusaki introduces herself (not helped by Mizusaki literally getting up in her face and prattling her introduction off at cheetah-like speed), just barely managing to point out that she's invading her personal space; heck, Asakusa can barely manage to get inside the Anime Research Club's theater in the first place, initially hiding behind Kanamori (who expresses distaste at being used as a human shield). When Asakusa and Mizusaki next see each other again, Asakusa speaks and moves around in a very stiff, almost scripted manner (also not helped by her accidentally blowing her cover while trying to spy on Mizusaki and her handlers), and later resists the idea of sharing ideas with her out of unfamiliarity. Once the two get to know each other better, however, Asakusa speaks with and behaves around Mizusaki in a much looser manner better reminiscent of her conversations with Kanamori, with this becoming the standard from there on out.
    • During the Motion Picture Club's presentation at the Student Council's budget committee, Asakusa hardly speaks for most of it, and when she finally does she's so stressed out that she's practically at the point of crying. Of course, the environment of the committee wasn't exactly a spring meadow, but Asakusa's socialization issues are implied to have factored into her actions and emotions at the time.
    • During both the Motion Picture Club's dinner out and her meeting with the Art Club, Asakusa can be seen tightly clinging to a stuffed rabbit from her childhood for comfort, affects a rigid and closed-off posture, and in the latter event speaks very tersely and waveringly, apparently going off of a memorized script at first before being just barely able to back up her decisions in the face of the Art Club's members questioning the logic behind them (i.e. the choice to set the giant robot film early in the day to avoid having to draw crowds of people). When she meets up with the Art Club again to go over their finished work, she's downright sweating bullets when she realizes that not only did they make a number of mistakes that she didn't anticipate, but she also has to point them out to their faces. Her next meeting with them in Episode 9 seems to go over better as she's more familiar with them and their different lines of thought, overwhelming them instead with her downright doorstopper-sized concept art binders.
  • In New Game!, Hifumi is a Shrinking Violet when speaking directly with her co-workers, however, she is far more "vocal" and expressive when speaking in private messages. The anime's "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune includes this trait as Hifumi can't quite sing her part and instead runs to her keyboard to do it.
  • Ao in Asteroid in Love is usually uncomfortable speaking up to others, with two exceptions: she can speak normally with Mira, and she can go all Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness if astronomy is involved.
  • Rin in Laid-Back Camp is stiff, laconic, and comes across as somewhat grumpy in regular conversation, but her conversations by text message are a lot livelier and more openly friendly.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman is an inversion of the example in the trope description. Bruce Wayne presents himself as a personable playboy, but Batman is very difficult to talk to.

    Film 
  • Bertie in The King's Speech is not a Shrinking Violet, but suffers a stammer that makes it impossible for him to speak in public. The plot of the film is all about showing how George gets over this problem.
  • Yves in Yves Saint Laurent is so cripplingly shy, he can barely walk the runway after his fashion shows and sometimes must be pushed. He is self-deprecating in interviews, which doesn't play well in the fashion press so his partner Pierre takes over the promotion of their brand. Yet, with a person that he knows and trusts he's charming and affable. Later, he uses alcohol and cocaine as a social lubricant to overcome his shyness.

    Literature 
  • The character in Phule's Company code-named "Mother" was literally scared of the sound of her own voice as a child, causing a stutter and, while growing up, teasing that rendered her incapable of conversation. Her original codename was even "Violet". When wearing sound-blocking headphones, she discovered she could talk normally. Her job prior to joining the Legion was a radio DJ until they automated. Upon this discovery, Phule recommends her to permanent Comm Center duty, where she brings her radio DJ personality to the fore.
  • In the Discworld novel Maskerade, the true Opera Ghost proves to be this. Socially awkward at best on his own, when he wears the mask of the Opera Ghost he's a confident producer of opera. Agnes receives coaching from him without ever learning who he really is and, after some headology from Granny Weatherwax, he's able to act like the "Ghost" all the time.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Secret World Chronicle, Victoria Nagy has to constantly fight down panic attacks when she's outside her apartment or facing people. However, when running Overwatch, which she can do alone from inside her apartment, she becomes as confident and sassy as anyone.
  • Redwall's Broggle has a massive stuttering problem, so he doesn't talk much. Once it's noticed he doesn't stutter at all when singing, he gets over the block and manages to speak normally.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends: when Chandler and Monica get invited to dinner by his boss, Chandler warns Monica that he's going to be "Work Chandler" instead of regular Chandler while they're there, which includes laughing at his boss's stupid jokes.
  • On the early seasons of The Big Bang Theory, Rajesh suffers from selective mutism towards women. Around the guys, he can hold his own in a conversation, but once a girl comes in he becomes withdrawn and can only talk by whispering into someone's ear. He is able to talk to women when drunk, adopting a more charming persona after a few drinks, but if he gets too drunk he enters Casanova Wannabe territory.
  • In Noah and Saskia, Saskia is confident- even brash- in her daily life, but she's terrified of performing in front of crowds. This is an early sign of just how important music is to her.
  • Malcolm Reed from Star Trek: Enterprise is usually a Shrinking Violet; the one person on the ship that he's comfortable making small talk with is Trip.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Anthony Carver is only able to open up if there is no more than one other person present. Around multiple people, he becomes stiff and clinical.

    Western Animation 
  • Fluttershy starts My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic barely being able to introduce herself. She gets past the worst of this as part of natural character development, but the episode "Filli Vanilli" shows off that she is a talented singer who suffers Stage Fright. When a member of a quartet she's a fan of becomes ill, rather than replace the sick pony directly, Fluttershy sings behind a curtain while her counterpart lip-synchs. She is far more energetic and excited than normal when singing behind the curtain, which encourages her to start working on her stage fright properly. At the end of the episode, while she's gladly joined the quartet in question, she is still nowhere near ready enough to perform in front of a crowd, and simply says "Baby steps." While she knows she's a good singer and people enjoy her voice, that doesn't mean she's ready to sing in front of a crowd yet.
  • Adrien in Miraculous Ladybug isn't a Shrinking Violet, but he becomes a lot more playful and flirtatious when in his Chat Noir Secret Identity.

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