Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught to be polite. I learnt all about manners. I learnt to be quiet when others were speaking, to always say please and thank you, to address all adults by Mr/Ms Surname and to wait my turn. It’s served me well for most of my life. Growing up I learnt to work out when it was necessary and when it wasn’t. Unfortunately what I also learnt was that whilst it usually served me well, it could cause a great deal of anxiety.
Well, because being polite can translate to ‘being stuck doing what you don’t want to do.’ I’ve learnt to speak my mind with people close to me. When my fiance speaks to me about video games and I’m in no mood to entertain him, I simply tell him that I’m not listening or that I’m not interested. With friends, I can say the same if I really want to. If we have friends over and I’m tired, I go to bed. Sometimes without even excusing myself or saying goodnight. It works well. We can be honest with each other. With people who aren’t as close to you it’s more difficult.
I’ve found myself more often than not stuck in a conversation or a situation I don’t want to be in. I can’t tell you how often I’ve listened to my mother prattle on about my nephew, detailing every single minute of the last 8 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love my nephew but he’s 1. His life is really not that interesting to me. I’ve spent countless hours listening to people go on and on about one of the things I really despise, travelling. It’s not that I hate travelling, I just don’t want to hear about it. I even wrote a post about it! But it’s so hard to get out of these types of situations. And it makes me really anxious thinking about how long it’ll take or how I’m going to get myself out of it. Most of the time I’ve found that the other person doesn’t really give me an option before diving into something I’m not interested in so here is my question… why am I socially expected to stand there and waste my time on a conversation I couldn’t care less about instead of saying something? I understand that its not polite but is it not also impolite to trap someone in a situation they don’t want to be in?
I wish it were more socially acceptable to say no to these sorts of things.
So that’s what I’ve started doing.
My fiance’s mother recently ordered a photo book of every single photo on her Facebook account. Not only has she just uploaded everything without editing down her photos, but I’ve also already seen them when she initially posted them on FB. Of course she asked me if I wanted to see the book. She was halfway across the room to get it before she had even finished her sentence. I said no. Everyone in the room was a bit shocked because obviously social norms dictate that I should have said yes. But I just had no interest in seeing them.
So I’m going to continue that. I’m not going to be rude about it. I’m just going to say no if the offer does not interest me. People need to learn to accept it and learn that just because you want to share something, it doesn’t mean others want to be involved.
I want to stop having pointless conversations. I want to have deeper connections and whilst it seems counter-productive to have less conversations, I don’t want to resent those around me just because I feel trapped in a situation.
It’s a skill that I’m hoping to refine and extend. Refine by not allowing myself to be in situations that make me uncomfortable and to extend by extracting myself from those situations should I find myself stuck in one.