Author Topic: Those people who are *too* polite...  (Read 3024 times)

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ThistleBird

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Those people who are *too* polite...
« on: July 30, 2013, 08:31:29 AM »
... how do you deal with them?

You know:

- the hostess who is clearly not taking needed rest because you are there... even though you don't want to be entertained by her all the time/just then and don't at all think it would be rude if she retired to her room for awhile.
- the guest who comes over for a planned visit and asks if she woke you up, or thanks you too much & worries she's an inconvenience, no matter how much you deny it.
- the hostess who is so anxious for you to have a good time that it fills the room with tension & you can't relax in her presence.
- the person who apologizes for something that wasn't a big deal and didn't bother you... and doesn't appear to believe you when you tell them it's OK, or acts like you are being incredibly more generous than they deserve.

Do you all know any of these people? I'm so bad at dealing with them  :( I get impatient & short with them. I just get so frustrated--the fact is they succeed in making me feel guilty, and then I get mad because I usually don't actually have anything to feel guilty about, and because with all their expressed concern for me to feel good they have managed to make me feel bad.

Case in point: an elderly lady who comes over for tea every week. She has a standing invitation, partly because I enjoy her company and partly to give her a break from from her husband whose growing memory loss is very hard to deal with. This is why she always comes to my house instead of my coming to hers--but she frets openly about this imbalance and supposed burden on me. One hour of tea and almost-always-enjoyable conversation is not that much of a burden, folks. I admit there have been a handful of times I forgot she was coming or what time it was, and had to scramble to get things ready while she sat at the table... so maybe what happened the other day was my fault. I had everything ready & nice, realized as her car pulled up that a couple things were still messy, and as she walked up to the door she saw me through the window re-folding the afghan and putting it on the couch. I opened the door with a big smile and a greeting... and she asked me in a worried tone whether she'd woken me up. (She knows I nap on that couch.) I'm afraid I stared blankly at her, then frowned (I didn't mean to but I suspect I did) and said "No! I was just straightening up!" She really was not PA, just genuinely worried she was taking away from the sleep I need in my "delicate condition"... but it made me feel like I wasn't a good hostess.

Maybe I'm just not.

And then there's my MIL. I know how lucky I am to have this problem, but I don't know how to handle it. She's always the hostess & I'm always the guest, b/c FIL can't travel far, and she is always so anxious for me to have a good time that I feel watched, self-conscious & tense. I feel like I have to gush to make her believe I'm happy, and I stink at gushing. I just can't act naturally & be myself around her--I feel too much pressure to make her think I'm enjoying her hospitality, and the truth most of the time is that, because of all the pressure, I'm not. (It's such a relief when there are other guests to take some of the pressure off.) I like her, she's a nice lady... all I want is to put her at ease. How do you put people at ease? I don't seem to have the knack.

Do I just need to accept that although these people express only a desire for me to be happy and unburdened, they are actually people who are asking me to do something for them, to soothe their anxieties, even if that's hard for me to do? Maybe it's focusing too much on the contradiction involved in that that makes me so impatient & bad with them. What do you all do with the anxiously-polite people in your lives?

Lynn2000

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 10:57:52 AM »
I don't know that I would call the people you describe rude, but I would definitely not say they are "too polite," either. From the descriptions it seems like they are the problem, not you. I think you have it correct in your last paragraph--they are burdening you with their anxieties under the guise of being polite and considerate.

I deal with some anxious people at work. My boss is very anxious. I don't like to let that bleed into me. I listen to her concerns and reassure her once, and if she just keeps repeating her concerns--not in a "real" way, like she wants more information, but literally just repeating something I've already addressed--I don't respond. I either ignore what she said and go on, or I just look at her. I imagine that she's just randomly started talking about the weather or something else irrelevant to the subject at hand. I've worked with my boss for over ten years and this is what seems to work with her.

So if you're the hostess, I would say that you can assure someone once that they haven't interrupted you/put you out, in a sincere and enthusiastic way, and after that, just ignore them when they fuss about that. Don't address their comments, just change the subject pleasantly.

If you're the guest, I know it's a lot of pressure, but I would just try to relax. If the hostess wants to run around, let her run around, maybe that's how she feels comfortable. If she tries to push things on you that you don't want, just smile and tell her no thanks, and try to go back to your conversation/change the subject. Don't feel the need to "live up" to being the high-maintenance guest she seems to be looking for, or to gush over things insincerely. If it's someone you're close to you could say, "I wish you would just sit down for a few minutes so we can have a conversation, that's what would make me happy."

I know it's not as easy as I make it sound, I just have a low tolerance for that sort of thing. But it's perfectly okay to not respond to it, and just ignore the comments or change the subject with a pleasant tone.
~Lynn2000

Cherry91

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2013, 11:19:04 AM »
One of my closest friends can be like this sometimes. It's been a lot better since we sat down and talked about it. I said to her "Friend, when I come to visit or invite you to go somewhere with me, I am there to see YOU and have fun with YOU. The circumstances are irrelevent. Please don't feel you always have to agree with my suggestions/constantly apologise for the state of the (spotless) house/other things. I want you to have a good time as well." (Obviously it's written a lot better now than it probably sounded when I said it).

A lot of the time, I find that things like this are a sign of an introvert, who might be nervous in such situations. If you're close to them, then there shouldn't be anything wrong with having a casual, friendly discussion about it.

siamesecat2965

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2013, 11:58:18 AM »
I don't know that I would call the people you describe rude, but I would definitely not say they are "too polite," either. From the descriptions it seems like they are the problem, not you. I think you have it correct in your last paragraph--they are burdening you with their anxieties under the guise of being polite and considerate.

 I know it's not as easy as I make it sound, I just have a low tolerance for that sort of thing. But it's perfectly okay to not respond to it, and just ignore the comments or change the subject with a pleasant tone.

I agree; not rudeness, but their anxiety or insecurity about things not being just. as. perfect. as. they. can. be. they are so focused on things being the way they think they should, sometimes they lose sight of the actual purpose of the visit, which is simply to enjoy their company, and catch up.

As a hostess, I'm all for letting them do their own thing. when i have family/friends stay with me, I give them what they need, bedding, towels, etc., let them know to help themselves to anything in the kitchen, make sure i have whatever they like to drink etc. on hand, and leave it at that.

I try not to hover, although sometimes it backfires.  My cousins stayed wiht me last month, and as I only have a 1BR apt, she slept on the couch. which she was fine with. She got up, and as she always does, put the news on, but its not a channel I like. As i do, I got my coffee, and went back to MY room to watch my news channel, but she then told me you can change it in here, i don't mean to make you feel like an outsider in your own home! I said no, this is what I do, don't even worry about it! I need to drink my coffee and wake up!  it w as just funny the way it turned out.


Mikayla

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 12:04:52 PM »
Is it possible that *you* might be part of the problem? 

I occasionally encounter people like this, but it sounds as if this is almost a norm for you!  And if that's the case, could you be over-reacting or misinterpreting them?  For example, with Tea Lady, to me her question about waking you up wasn't anything more than a simple question.  So when you said it "made you feel you weren't a good hostess", that seems a little extreme.  If I thought I had awakened someone, I'd ask too.  It's just a conversation starter.

Also, for some of these repeat occurrences, can you address them more directly?  With Tea Lady, you could just tell her the next time she comes over that you love these get-togethers because you don't get to entertain as much as you would like.  With MIL, I don't see why you couldn't tell her pretty much what you typed here - that she doesn't have to bend over backward for you to enjoy your time in her home, and if she relaxes, you will too!

Deetee

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2013, 12:34:25 PM »
I know some people like this. I find it helpful to be very, very direct and take over a little of the hosting.
eg
"I'd love to have some take-out tonight! Can I order us some Chinese?" (And don't let the dingdangity overhosters insist on making the rice because it's "so much cheaper" etc..)
or
"It's so nice to see you every week. I look forward to it and I don't want to hear you worry about it."

"I said, I don't want to hear you worry about it. I want to hear about your garden/new book/your opinion on my new curtains"

Also, just leave the house and go for a walk.

I totally agree that overhosting can make you anxious and the opposite of relaxed. I have a dear friend that I love! but when I visit there she insists on bringing me coffee and refills. Even when I am visiting for days. So she is bringing cups of coffee to me, my husband and her husband while we sit around. We are all capable of getting our own coffee.

My aunt is a great host (to my mind). She has a house full of people and people and she cooks and serves one fanstatic meal a day. The rest of the time we are on our own and can go to the pub or order fish and chips or eat from the well stocked fridge and pantry. All guests help with cleaning and it's very relaxing because the hostess is doing exactly what she wants.

Only me

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2013, 12:57:03 PM »
Hi

I have had a few people like those you described in my life.

Best line I have every used was "You're worth the effort". Unfortunately it also made one friend cry (happy cry) but that's a whole other story.

Onlyme.

JeanFromBNA

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2013, 07:53:53 PM »
You need big helpings of bean dip.  Whenever an over-anxious question is asked, just reply assuring them everything is all right and change the subject.

baglady

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2013, 08:35:00 PM »
Oh, so you've met my Aunt Betty!

If dithering were an Olympic sport, she'd have a shelf full of gold medals. *Always* rushing about when she had guests, putting snacks out, offering to refill people's drinks, never relaxing in case she left a guest in need of something. My mom (her SIL) would tell her, "Betty, take it easy. We came to enjoy your company, not eat all your food!" That worked for about 10 minutes, then she was off to Ditherville again.

She was my godmother and I loved her dearly, but darn, she could be annoying when she got into her Anxious Hostess mode.

That's what this comes down to -- anxiety. Hosts who are terrified of being bad hosts. Guests who are terrified of being a burden. If there is a way to tell them gently that their behavior is having the opposite effect of what they intend, which is to make their guests/hosts feel comfortable, then go with that. Some folks might need a blunter approach.
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TootsNYC

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2013, 09:29:57 PM »
Quote
I'm afraid I stared blankly at her, then frowned (I didn't mean to but I suspect I did) and said "No! I was just straightening up!"

Maybe follow that up with an "I'm so glad to see you--such a bright spot in my day."

My MIL used to urge me to take some more food. She'd suggest it several times. None of the in-the-moment bean dip or simple answers helped.

But it was really starting to get in the way and make me feel tense and anxious in her home.

i decided that I was certain of the underlying cause: she wanted me to feel completely welcome and at home in her house.

So I addressed it directly.

"MIL, I've noticed that you keep urging me to take more food. I know that you want me to feel welcome and loved. Please believe me that you have completely accomplished that. I feel SO loved in your home, and I feel completely welcome. You have made me feel relaxed and comfortable here. I'm so comfortable that if I want more food, I am confident that it's OK to simply take more, or to ask. You have achieved your goal. You've made me feel like a member of your family, not just your son's wife.
    "But when you urge me to eat more food, it works against that. It makes me feel like company, and it makes me a little annoyed and resentful. I've eaten till I'm full, and I feel frustrated to have you bring the topic up.
    "Can you try to stop? I'll happily remind you, with no hard feelings."

It worked!

Every time she'd bring up the food, I'd say, "MIL, you have made me feel welcome and loved in your home. You don't need to remind me--if I want more food, I'll take some."

Pretty soon she was saying my lines for me right after hers.
Then she was interrupting herself to say my lines for me.
Then she was just saying my lines but not hers.
And now she doesn't bring it up much at all.

Success!

But the key was to reassure her that her good intentions were both recognized AND achieved. And *then* tell her that the unwanted behavior was undermining to noble purpose. That it was driving me farther away, actually, and making me LESS comfortable in her home.

And I had to stop feeling testy about it, and answer her with the reassurance and love FIRST.

I don't know if that's helpful for you.

magician5

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2013, 12:12:45 AM »
Before I had enough of a social awareness, I can recall a few instances when I WAY overstayed my welcome with someone who wouldn't dare say "well I have to get on with my other duties now." Evidently they were taught that it was horribly impolite to gently bring things to a close, while they were thinking "would he please get the heck out of here or I'm going to scream." And when I finally sensed the truth, after numerous assurances that "no, I have nothing but time, please stay", I felt absolutely awful.
There is no 'way to peace.' Peace is the way.

Lynn2000

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2013, 10:44:47 AM »
Before I had enough of a social awareness, I can recall a few instances when I WAY overstayed my welcome with someone who wouldn't dare say "well I have to get on with my other duties now." Evidently they were taught that it was horribly impolite to gently bring things to a close, while they were thinking "would he please get the heck out of here or I'm going to scream." And when I finally sensed the truth, after numerous assurances that "no, I have nothing but time, please stay", I felt absolutely awful.

I do think it's a two-way street, though. There's a certain amount of polite fiction needed to keep things flowing smoothly, but if someone literally said to me, "No, I have nothing but time, please stay," I would think they meant it. They could have said, "Hey, it's great that you stopped by, I really enjoyed talking to you," and maybe THAT would be a lie, but at least it wouldn't encourage me to sit back down and put my feet up, you know? So in a situation where they don't do that, even though they want to, I think both people have to shoulder some blame, not just the visitor.
~Lynn2000

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2013, 01:20:52 PM »
My wonderful neighbor sometimes invites me to join their small family holiday meals. She is not normally a ditherer (thanks for the perfect word, baglady), but she turns into one big time at these occasions.  She wonít sit down and fusses and fusses Ė about things she may have forgotten to do (oh no! the pepper grinder isnít on the table) and about the quality of the food, which is always great, but gushing compliments donít stop her self-criticism.

I love her to pieces, but her anxiety turns these meals into tense events.  Iíd love to find the magic words that will get her to calm down and enjoy the meal she worked so hard to prepare. 
It takes two people to play tug of war. If you don't want to play, don't pick up the rope.

gellchom

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2013, 02:25:03 PM »
Toots has given us the magic words.  They aren't magic words you say to the ditherer; you say them to yourself:

Quote
the key [is] to reassure her that her good intentions were both recognized AND achieved.


That's much more important than saying anything about the dithering (perfect word, by the way) or apologizing and how counterproductive it is, which, as Toots says, much come AFTER the reassurance.  You may not even need to say it at all.  That's a type of criticism, which is just the opposite of what someone insecure, inexperienced, or anxious needs to hear.

"Would you stop fussing around/apologizing?  You're making me feel uncomfortable/guilty!" is never going to accomplish anything.

"Everything is great!  I'm having such a good time" does.  Always works for me.

ThistleBird

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Re: Those people who are *too* polite...
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2013, 08:39:40 PM »
Quote
I occasionally encounter people like this, but it sounds as if this is almost a norm for you!

Well, that list wasn't meant to be a summary of my week!  ;D No seriously, these incidents haven't all happened that close to each other, but they stick in my mind, so I put them all together here. Technically I maybe should have left out the lady who apologizes too much... that is a particular individual with a case history much too long to tell, who is in fact using her apologizing to try and get the emotional attention out of me that she used to, while I try not to engage the crazy that I now know is lurking under the surface. I threw that in because I think some people do it sincerely, even if she doesn't.

And I am talking about sincere people--I appreciate that all of you understood that.

(BTW Mikayla--asking "did I wake you up?" on the phone or after ringing the doorbell at a random time makes sense; the thing is that I said "Come at 2:30" and my practice is to have the tea things already on the table when she gets here, so if I was still asleep when she arrived, I certainly would have felt I wasn't doing a good job!)

Thank you all for the great input! My goodness. I was hoping to hear from some people experienced with the problem and I sure have.

Lynn2000, I almost put "Don't tell me to just relax" in my original post, but somehow you've disarmed me with your acknowledgment that relaxing is hard in that situation! Maybe I could combine it with the sort of pre-emptiveness TootsNYC is prescribing.

Quote
But the key was to reassure her that her good intentions were both recognized AND achieved. And *then* tell her that the unwanted behavior was undermining to noble purpose. That it was driving me farther away, actually, and making me LESS comfortable in her home.

And I had to stop feeling testy about it, and answer her with the reassurance and love FIRST.

This makes a great deal of sense and may be the ingredient I am missing (& the reason I can't imagine myself addressing the problem directly--my brain just kept going "they'll hear nothing but negativity and just get more anxious!") I think with a big dose of reassurance I might be able to gently say "Relax, you're kind of making me nervous."

Also, Onlyme, I LOVE "You're worth the effort!" That might be a good one for my tea friend. I think that may be all she needs to hear... maybe I'd best not get into "why won't you believe I like having you over?!"  ;)