Why trying to be “nice” is making you unhappy
I was walking through an outdoor mall when I spotted him: the tan shirt, the clipboard, the birkenstocks … a Greenpeace guy, who just wanted to “talk to me about the environment” or ask me, “Don’t you care about the world we live in?” Guilt-inducing manipulative conversation tactics aside, I simply tried to avoid making eye contact with the man.
“Hi, I’m Dale,” he said, sticking out his hand in my path, where I would have had to swerve abruptly or hit it or, as he wanted, slow down and shake. I did, smiled, and said nothing, continuing to walk so that I was turning around to complete the handshake. He said, “Can we have a conversation?”
“No, I’m going to go shopping. Thank you,” I said politely and continued walking.
He pleadingly called after me “Can’t we just have a conversation?”
I didn’t turn around. But the incident stuck in my brain, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. If he was just a guy hitting on me, I wouldn’t have thought twice about a polite brush-off. No, I don’t want to have a conversation with you. So why, because he wore a branded tee and I knew he wanted to have a conversation about the environment—which I DO care about although I probably don’t agree with his notions of what it means to care—did it bother me so much to brush him off?
Because I am a nice person.
Here’s why this article is entitled “Just Say No Thank You”: that is nice. “No, thank you,” is polite, respectful, even sweet—sweeter than ignoring someone.
It’s nice to respect your own personal wishes. It’s nice to respect how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with. And it’s nice to be respectful to another person as you make the call on what’s best for you.
And if Dale the Greenpeace guy doesn’t recognize that, he’s the one being not nice.