There appears to be an epidemic out there among certain types of people. You know who they are. They have welcoming smiles. They are well mannered. They merge correctly. For the most part, they err on the side of humility, always the first to offer an apology, especially when fearful that they may have offended someone. They are ‘the nice’ people; the people who, when chatted about by others, inspire the phrases: “Oh, she’s lovely”, “He’s such a sweetheart”, “I LOVE her!”
Don’t we all wish we could be talked about in this way? Personally, I have always had this internal desire to make sure, once all is said and done, that I be considered a ‘nice’ person; hoping, desperately, that people will like me; fearful that they might think ill of me.Today, I want to flip my own dearly held beliefs and perceptions about being ‘nice’, on their head! I want to pose the question:What if the choice to be polite, was ultimately being rude?
What if being a ‘yes’ man or woman, is actually hurting yourself and those around you?
Let me share a story that I was told recently which is inspired by an actual event.
Once upon a time there was a lovely young woman who had some time on her hands as she waited for her son’s music lesson to finish. She discovered a furniture store close to her sons lessons, and decided to take a look inside. She knew when she arrived that she couldn’t afford to purchase anything, however, looking at all of the pretty things was appealing and helped pass the time. As she began to look around she was very quickly greeted by a salesperson who was working on commission and eager to make a sale, “May I help you?”. My friend quickly replied, ‘Just looking, thanks.’, and attempted to move on. However, her response didn’t seem to satiate the hungry salesperson, “What is it that you’re looking for?”.
What would YOUR response be? Would you politely reiterate that you were just looking? Would you push back with the same fervor as the salesperson and tell them that you really want to be left alone? Or would you pretend to want help with something so that the salesperson person doesn’t feel rejected and you don’t feel guilty for being in a story when you aren’t actually buying anything? BINGO
“Well…I’m not sure, actually.” the young woman replied with a hint of sheepishness. “The one you’re sitting on is a very nice sofa – we just got it in.” the salesperson smiled as she engaged her customer. “Yes. It’s lovely… It’s not really my color though…” the young lady answered politely hoping to put an end to the conversation. “What sort of colors do you like?” the salesperson inquired with a warm and friendly tone. “Oh…I…ah…I really like neutrals.” the young lady decided to respond honestly. “I don’t like too much color ” Appearing inspired the salesperson replied, “Oh, then you have to see this one over here.”
The salesperson turned and began to walk away, expecting the young woman to follow. After negotiate through many different furniture pieces, they arrive at a beautiful taupe colored sofa and chaise lounge. “Aren’t these spectacular?” the salesperson asked as she brushed her hand in a sweeping motion over the soft luxurious suede. “Oh yes. Absolutely beautiful!” the young lady answered. “Why don’t you try it out?” the salesperson offered. “Here, you must try the chaise lounge, it is so comfortable.” The salesperson guided the young woman onto the chaise. “Wow, it IS comfortable!” the young woman replied once she had slipped off her shoes making sure not to get the chaise dirty. “I could fall asleep right now, it’s so comfortable!” she added with a smile, trying to set the salesperson at ease.
“And this one comes in MANY different colors – lots of neutrals… brown, taupe, cream, sage green…” the salesperson trailed off hoping that the list of colors might secure a sale.“Hmmm…” the woman said, as she appeared to be seriously contemplating the purchase. “It is quite beautiful…and very comfortable…and I love the color”.
She was trapped. She had no idea how she was going to get out of the situation. When suddenly she looked at her phone, tightly gripped in her left hand. “Oh dear!” she exclaimed, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize what time it is. I have to pick up my son in the next few minutes. Thanks so much for your help!” she quipped, hoping this would now be the end of the conversation. However, the salesperson, with one last ditch effort quickly asked, “Can I take your name down and put this on hold for you?” Feeling daft for being caught in this awkward situation to begin with, the young lady falsely answered, “My name is Susan. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
When reading the above story, do you cringe in empathy having found yourself in many similar situations? Do you worry far too much about the needs of others, and quickly sacrifice your own comfort or even truthfulness in order to ‘please’? Many of us do. I know I often do. However, I am beginning to see the craziness of it all. If I take myself out of the position of the customer in the above story and move myself into the shoes of the salesperson. I am suddenly struck with compassion for the salesperson and suddenly feel upset with the customer’s behavior. Can you see the absurdity of the situation? The LAST thing I would want is for someone to come into my store, pretend that they are interested in purchasing something just to be polite, and then watch them dash out with nothing in hand. Not only is it a colossal waste of the salesperson’s time, but it is also them up to experience some major disappointment when the customer doesn’t follow through with their purchase.
This same principle can be applied when deciding to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something. Saying ‘yes’ isn’t always the polite or the right answer. Those who are hard core people pleasers with an altruistically inclined nature have trouble with this one. However, once again, try turning the tables – put yourself in the shoes of the person making the request. Would you want someone to say ‘yes’ to you if you knew that they didn’t actually want to be involved? Of course not! If you STILL find it difficult to say ‘no’ even after examining the situation, then speak to the nurturing part of your personality by taking a look at the ripple effect. If I don’t say ‘no’, what are the consequences, not only to myself, but particularly to those whom I love? If I can’t say ‘no’, will those I love around me have to pay the price?
I am slowly learning that being able say ‘NO’ is ACTUALLY kind, considerate, compassionate, and necessary for survival!
Becoming Ordinary: Day 60