I want to start this article by saying that I’m a fan of good manners and kind gestures. I believe our society, in general, has taken a nose dive in the area of civility when it comes to interacting with one another. There are however those who like I still hold firm to those good values and believe in treating others as they want to be treated. If you fit into the uncivilized group, I encourage you to reread the opening sentences and evaluate why you generally suck at life. This article is for those others.
With my position being made manifest on etiquette and interaction with others. I need to discuss when it’s acceptable to break those rules and explain the title of this article. A couple of years ago I was giving a lecture on Comprehensive Situational Control as part of a larger conference. In the talk I had a young college-aged girl express a situation that she had recently encountered, and I was somewhat surprised at how the event unfolded. Essentially this young lady was approached by a male at a bar. They had some decent conversation, and somehow his vehicle came up during that dialogue. The conversation then turned to him inviting her outside to look at (something unique about) the car. She said she made multiple excuses as to why she couldn’t go and eventually did go out of fear of coming across rude. Fortunately, there was not a sad ending to this story; however, it’s quite easy to imagine how it could have ended badly for her.
After she relayed the story to me, we conducted some roleplay and presented her with a similar situation. Once again she had a tough time refusing to allow herself into a compromising position. Undoubtedly a large part of that was due to my charisma, but more than that, her fear of offending compromised her safety. Since that event, I have come to find that this is not uncommon in our society. While we’re constantly inundated by aggressive acts of rudeness on social media and our negative social encounters likely stand out in our mind a significant amount of society remains polite. Unfortunately, so much so they place themselves in compromising positions that could lead to grave consequences.
It’s important to recognize that you should never put the fear of offending someone ahead of your self-preservation. While the story I reference here is a female the same can go for men as well. Imagine a clean-cut stranger approaches you with a map asking for directions. He seems legitimately in need and gets well within your personal space so you can point out locations on the map. He may even work his way to your 5 o’clock position as you orient the map. Do you allow him? With many people, probably so. Should you? No. At no time should you let a stranger place you in a compromising position or situation? I’ve had the above case happen to me and was able to politely correct the individual on where I wanted him while I assisted. This was years ago, and I simply said, I’m sorry, but I don’t like people standing behind me. That could’ve been done better, and I’ve since fine-tuned the art of being polite yet firm all the while remaining vigilant.
I would encourage each of you to consider various situations you may encounter and brainstorm how you can overcome them without compromising your safety. With a little practice, you’ll find you don’t have to be a jerk to do so. Also, remember that when you politely refuse, and the other persists, you should be the one offended and no longer fear offending them. It is they who have encroached and disregarded your interest. So start brainstorming, and better yet role-play it with a friend. Experience is the best trainer.