If It’s Polite To Be Rude, Does That Mean Lying Is The Best Policy?
Okay, we’ve all been there —
Say you’re planning a nice shindig. Or a little get together with a few friends. Maybe you’re hosting something at your place or making a reservation at a restaurant but either way, a certain amount of preemptive coordination is required to avoid potentially embarrassing pitfalls like not having enough burgers or making your party wait in the parking lot for an hour while the restaurant finds you a table.
That sort of thing.
So you ask people if they’d like to come, and they say something like, “I think I maybe can see about coming if it doesn’t interfere with Pilates and if we make sure there’s something gluten-free on the menu and if we’re back before nine because the babysitter has school tomorrow.”
And you’re like, “Soooo… does that mean you want to come?”
And they say, “Yes! Definitely. As long as the dog is over his stomach thing, I’m totally there.”
And, okay. We’re all guilty of giving some version of that answer at one point or another. And we all know we’re giving lame excuses in the form of excess vaguery because we maybe don’t really feel like going, but we’re too polite to say “no.” And it isn’t limited to social gatherings. How about when someone asks us to do a favor for them that we really don’t want to do? When we don’t have time to watch their dogs while they’re on vacation or no, we don’t actually want to make a double batch of green bean casserole if they provide the ingredients, half of which will be their contribution to the party I’m already busy cooking for, and the other half of which they’ll take to a party I’m not even invited to? (Yes. Someone actually asked me to do that once.)
So because we didn’t flat-out say “no,” the evening of said shindig rolls around and the host, of course, is left wondering whether she actually has a dog sitter for next week or if she bought way too many hot dogs and in the end, it’s actually much more of an inconvenience for a host to not know whether you’re coming than for you to tell her that honestly, you’d rather stay at home in your pajamas to watch a marathon of Trueblood.
All of this, of course, begs the question: Since when did saying “no” become rude?
It was probably Oprah who started it. She probably hosted some show at some point or another that spawned the whole, “I’m going to say ‘YES’ to everything!” movement that got people all fired up about trying new things and never turning down a potential opportunity for excitement or career advancement or personal fulfillment. “No” became a trigger word for a self-induced guilt trip because suddenly declining an invitation meant declining life itself and no one wants to be a party poop.
But I’m pretty sure that if Oprah hosted a show about saying “Yes” to everything, she probably also hosted a show about how it’s okay to say, “No.”
Look. We’ve got lives. We’ve got relationships, we’ve got pets, we’ve got jobs to do and meals to plan and 5,872 summer Pinterest projects to complete before those autumn posts start popping up and we have to start mulling cider and carving the pumpkins we organically grew ourselves into intricate henna designs.
Yet for some reason, whenever someone invites us to something we don’t necessarily have time for, or — I’m just gonna say it — don’t necessarily want to do, we think it’s rude to say, “no.” We’re worried that person is never going to invite us to anything ever again because we’re ungrateful biznitches who sometimes think that staying home to surf the internet for the perfect cake stand (guilty) is more important than socializing with good company.
And frankly, that’s sad.
Isn’t it time we just got over ourselves? Wouldn’t it be liberating to say, “maybe” only when we actually really mean maybe? And wouldn’t it be refreshing to say, “No, thanks – I don’t feel like going out this weekend” when you don’t actually feel like going out this weekend and not worry that the person who invited you is going to be personally hurt? That way the would-be planner can make an educated decision about whether or not to carry on with the planning instead of feeling like she was stood up for a date to the prom.
When you really stop to think about it, when it comes to the question of being polite versus being honest, isn’t it actually more polite to just be honest?
I’m starting the movement. It’s an honesty movement. When I find my friends dancing around an answer to an invitation, I stop them. I stop them and say, “Hey. It’s okay if you don’t want to come. You’re my friend, and it’s okay to say, ‘no.’ I’ll invite you next time. As long as you don’t piss me off.”
It’s nice to see the relief in their eyes as you let them off the invisible hook on which they’ve become so deliberately entangled. And the joke helps them understand that I’m not angry. In fact, I’m relieved, too — relieved that I won’t have to call the restaurant at the last-minute and ask them to change our table because two people didn’t bother to show up.
It’s a win-win for everyone, this whole honesty thing.
You should try it sometime.
I think you hit the reason at the very end. For me, anyway. It’s not that I’m trying to be nice; it’s that I don’t want them to think I’m someone who never wants to do anything, so then I don’t get invited to anything.
That said, I don’t leave people hanging, even if I might lie. It goes like this: “Thank you so much for the invitation, but I have plans that night.” (Optional: “But let’s make a plan to meet up another time.”) That’s it. No details unless forced. (Most people don’t ask though.)
That’s a great way to handle it – that way people know you still want to hang out sometimes and don’t hate them. :)
P.S. Sorry I left you hanging for so long about Charleston. But that’s because I’m a procrastinator – not because I didn’t want to go. ;)
It was fine. I wasn’t meal planning or anything.
I just had one of those clap-and-sway TESTIFY! moments after reading this. We tiptoe around everything in life these days, to the point where nobody is telling the truth simply to avoid the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings. Makes us all look like bitter, vindictive pansies whose self esteem is so fragile that it can’t take someone not wanting to do something with us.
I’m with you on the movement, but don’t piss me off or movie night is a maybe. ;)
HA! I see your ‘maybe’ and raise you an “I might have to wash my hair…”
This post is exactly why I like you (and think we could be friends) :) It’s sometimes uncomfortable to be honest or say what you really need/want to say but do you really want to pretend? That is uncomfortable for so much longer!
We could totally be friends! One day we’re going to be in the same part of the world at the same time. :)
So pertinent to my life right now in so many ways. It’s to the point I’m rearranging my mental friends list with a lot of people being moved over into the “acquaintance” category because of stuff like this. Just TELL me if you don’t want to come. Don’t skirt the issue, don’t NOT REPLY AT ALL. OMG. OMG. OMG.
I second the commenter above. I really think we could be friends (WITH LOVE, SHELLY THE INTERNET STRANGER)
LOL. For real. We could totally be friends, too. :)
I absolutely love it. I’m like every other person in that sometimes, I just don’t want to do anything. I just want to relax and hang out at the house, or watch mindless TV, or put on a movie I’ve seen 97 times already. I think the honesty policy is a great idea. It’ll take some work, but I’m willing to give it a shot!
It will feel SO good, Dana! Let me know how it goes. :)
I am glad I am not the only one that finds lack of proper answers a pet peeve.
I actually did a whole series of posts on communication on my own blog i was a bit more…blunt than you were though your post has a lot more “sugar coating” compared to mine LOL
Haha – I don’t like to go full-on rant. It gives me wrinkles. ;)
lol I think your makin that up or i would be a prune by now lol…….. but as you know communication is a sensitive topic for me …especially when its starts with your a great guy ……. lol
Haha I do the same thing! I always tell my friends not to worry about coming or joining in (or whatever) if they don’t really want to… and it is definitely liberating to say no sometimes! After all, sometimes all I want is a glass of wine and a chance to sit on the couch with my cat.
I don’t think you ever sit at home with your cat – you’re always galavanting off to Hong Kong or someplace equally awesome. :)