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Author Topic: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"  (Read 11364 times)

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gellchom

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Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« on: September 06, 2017, 01:41:26 PM »
Carolyn Hax's column this morning addresses (quite well, I think) an issue that frequently comes up on ehell.  It's a part of the askers/hinters problem, I guess: when someone feels that, because they have trouble saying "no" to people, it's rude or anyway pushy for people to ask for things (in the letter writer's case, even something very minor). 
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/lifestyle/style/carolyn-hax-discourse-from-offers-to-share-a-restaurant-course/2017/09/05/626d94a0-8f55-11e7-91d5-ab4e4bb76a3a_story.html
For those who can't follow the link, the following excerpts encapsulate her advice.  (The LW's issue was that her friends often ask her to split a restaurant item she doesn't want.  She wrote that she "would rather die than offend" and asked how to "politely handle these bullying requests without hurting the friendship.")  Hax wrote, in part:
Quote
Wait a minute. You don’t like saying no, therefore their requests are “bullying”?

That’s a nifty sleight of hand, shifting the blame onto them for positions you chose to take. Not to mention really unfair.

***
you’re plainly — admirably — worried about being polite....  And arguably the least polite thing you can do is wield an “I’d rather die than offend” excuse for not saying what you really mean, especially to people you call your friends. True courtesy is to let them know where you stand.

If you’re skeptical, look at where this path has brought you: You don’t like saying no, so you feel pressured when asked, so you blame your friends for asking, so you start seeing them as bullies instead of friends. How is that polite — or kind or generous — to them?

We've discussed this often.  Hax articulates it well: the LW refuses to take ownership of her own preferences and desires and ends up blaming others.  But isn't learning to say no or otherwise express our preferences -- nicely! -- what we talk about when we talk about "developing a shiny spine"?  In my opinion, that's what it should mean, not an excuse to be selfish or uncompromising.

I really do get it (and I've come to understand it even more thanks to ehellions) that many people were raised not to ask for things unless it's something urgent, and therefore they see any request from anyone else as being a must-say-yes situation.  The LW put it like this:  "(S)ince I suspect my friends all know I’d rather die than offend, I’m often feeling pressured to agree." 

But shouldn't she gather from the fact that several of her friends ask if she'd like to share an item -- I assume she isn't the only one they ever ask -- that it is considered a common and acceptable thing to do in their circle?  If I were her friend, I'd be scared to death to go out with her, certainly to suggest a single thing -- not just "Hey, are you interested in sharing the hummus?" either.  I'd be wondering if she'd also felt I was bullying or pressuring her when I suggested this restaurant or asked if we should have a cocktail in the bar while we waited for the table or asked if a booth was okay instead of a table and on and on.  It would be so exhausting -- like walking a tightrope all night.

I can't figure out how anyone is supposed to express any preference or make a reasonable request in the LW's eyes.  Ehellions who are "hinters" have tried to explain that they hint rather than ask when they want something (I guess like, "The hummus looks good, but I'm not sure I can eat all that ...."  Did I get it right? :)), and when asked to do something they don't want to do (and maybe even something they don't mind doing), they say yes but resent the request as overreaching.  The explanation is always that hinting rather than asking directly makes it easier for the hint-ee to decline.  And that's what I just don't understand at all about the "hint" system: if everyone understands that a hint is actually a request, how is it any easier for the hint-ee to ignore it, just because they didn't have to use the word "no" -- and therefore any less pushy of the hinter?  Speaking for myself, I'm the opposite: I don't resent being asked for just about anything, but I absolutely hate being manipulated, even for something really small (so much so that I sometimes stubbornly refuse to take the hint and do something I would have been very happy to do -- I know, childish; I'm working on it).  But to me, that's what hinting is: trying to get me to do the thing just as much as asking directly, but refusing to take ownership of the request and respect me as a friend who will not resent the request and will say yes or no as appropriate.

Well, obviously I agree with Hax's take on the subject and her advice to the LW.  I'm wondering what other ehellions thought of this column.

Zizi-K

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2017, 02:06:16 PM »
I agreed with Hax, and I had the same reaction as you. If you can't say no to something as simple as that, well there's a problem!

But then I remembered a recent incident in which I did feel quite pushed (I wouldn't say bullied) into sharing something I really didn't want. I really just should have said "no, I'm not interested" really clearly, but it was a fun evening out and my friend was really pushing. I ended up agreeing and (just as I suspected) did not like the item. There was a third friend who was there, but she has a gluten allergy so she generally doesn't share as a rule. She agreed later that I made it clear that I wasn't interested, but was still pushed into it. I knew then that I could have held firm but just didn't for some reason. My friend was being overly pushy, yes, but I didn't have to give in.

shabby

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2017, 02:13:54 PM »
I really like what she wrote:

Quote
An ability to stand up for yourself is the skill you’ll want most when your life hits a serious snag, as all lives tend to do. So put in the work to develop it now, while the living is relatively easy and nacho etiquette is the thorniest issue you’ve got. Do this work as a profound kindness to yourself.


who me

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2017, 06:35:55 PM »
I had a friend that wanted to treat about 3-4 of us for lunch for her birthday, it was a less then $10 place, she made it clear that she wanted to pay, it was a order at the counter place.

Anyway, she paid and one of the friends INSTiTED!!! that we all pay for our own lunch.

I WAS bullied into putting money on the table so to speak.  I tried to hold firm because my friend wanted to treat us.  >:(

So what my friend and I did with the money is we used it the next time that we went out.

Who 

Stricken_Halo

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 07:24:11 PM »
I read the column and the comments, and I thought Hax addressed a slightly different issue than the one the LW wrote about. The LW apparently did say no when the friend wanted to share a plate of nachos, and the friend got sulky about it. So the problem wasn't as much "How do I say no to something I don't want to do?" as "How do I say no and still make everybody happy?"

I agree that she needed to take the responsibility for her own decision not to share and not blame others: her friend for being a "bully," restaurants for serving huge portions, etc.

I wonder if this is a female issue, part of the "women should always eat as little as possible, especially around other women" mindset. One of the Hax commenters linked to this blog post: http://humbugbistro.blogspot.com/2009/11/3-women-enter-restaurant.html?m=0. It has the occasional naughty word but is very much worth a read.

Zizi-K

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2017, 07:51:58 PM »
I read the column and the comments, and I thought Hax addressed a slightly different issue than the one the LW wrote about. The LW apparently did say no when the friend wanted to share a plate of nachos, and the friend got sulky about it. So the problem wasn't as much "How do I say no to something I don't want to do?" as "How do I say no and still make everybody happy?"

I agree that she needed to take the responsibility for her own decision not to share and not blame others: her friend for being a "bully," restaurants for serving huge portions, etc.

I wonder if this is a female issue, part of the "women should always eat as little as possible, especially around other women" mindset. One of the Hax commenters linked to this blog post: http://humbugbistro.blogspot.com/2009/11/3-women-enter-restaurant.html?m=0. It has the occasional naughty word but is very much worth a read.

I have to say that was a very entertaining blogpost! But it might has well described an alien culture for how little I could see myself or any of my friends, family or acquaintances in it. My usual experience is to go to a place with friends or family, and everyone wants to share, but they want to order lots of plates to share because they want to try many dishes. At its most parsimonious, dinners with some friends will just involve each person getting their own plate (no sharing, no appetizers or dessert)--but at absolutely no point will anyone want to eat less than a reasonable meal!

gramma dishes

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2017, 08:01:59 PM »
I read the column and the comments, and I thought Hax addressed a slightly different issue than the one the LW wrote about. The LW apparently did say no when the friend wanted to share a plate of nachos, and the friend got sulky about it. So the problem wasn't as much "How do I say no to something I don't want to do?" as "How do I say no and still make everybody happy?"

I agree that she needed to take the responsibility for her own decision not to share and not blame others: her friend for being a "bully," restaurants for serving huge portions, etc.

I wonder if this is a female issue, part of the "women should always eat as little as possible, especially around other women" mindset. One of the Hax commenters linked to this blog post: http://humbugbistro.blogspot.com/2009/11/3-women-enter-restaurant.html?m=0. It has the occasional naughty word but is very much worth a read.

I have to say that was a very entertaining blogpost! But it might has well described an alien culture for how little I could see myself or any of my friends, family or acquaintances in it. My usual experience is to go to a place with friends or family, and everyone wants to share, but they want to order lots of plates to share because they want to try many dishes. At its most parsimonious, dinners with some friends will just involve each person getting their own plate (no sharing, no appetizers or dessert)--but at absolutely no point will anyone want to eat less than a reasonable meal!

I wonder where this particular 'bistro' is located.  The way the author describes these women I am left unsure if it's a put down of all women who arrive in small groups or if it's a putdown of primarily wealthy "chic" women.  I frequently eat out with other women and we've never ever split lunches other than occasionally maybe a dessert.  Most of us actually look forward to taking home leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

Zizi-K

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2017, 08:24:31 PM »
I read the column and the comments, and I thought Hax addressed a slightly different issue than the one the LW wrote about. The LW apparently did say no when the friend wanted to share a plate of nachos, and the friend got sulky about it. So the problem wasn't as much "How do I say no to something I don't want to do?" as "How do I say no and still make everybody happy?"

I agree that she needed to take the responsibility for her own decision not to share and not blame others: her friend for being a "bully," restaurants for serving huge portions, etc.

I wonder if this is a female issue, part of the "women should always eat as little as possible, especially around other women" mindset. One of the Hax commenters linked to this blog post: http://humbugbistro.blogspot.com/2009/11/3-women-enter-restaurant.html?m=0. It has the occasional naughty word but is very much worth a read.

I have to say that was a very entertaining blogpost! But it might has well described an alien culture for how little I could see myself or any of my friends, family or acquaintances in it. My usual experience is to go to a place with friends or family, and everyone wants to share, but they want to order lots of plates to share because they want to try many dishes. At its most parsimonious, dinners with some friends will just involve each person getting their own plate (no sharing, no appetizers or dessert)--but at absolutely no point will anyone want to eat less than a reasonable meal!

I wonder where this particular 'bistro' is located.  The way the author describes these women I am left unsure if it's a put down of all women who arrive in small groups or if it's a putdown of primarily wealthy "chic" women.  I frequently eat out with other women and we've never ever split lunches other than occasionally maybe a dessert.  Most of us actually look forward to taking home leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

It is worth reading through some of the blog--its really hilarious but a total caricature of some small town she calls "Humbug". Listen to how she describes them:

"Over the course of the following months I inquired repeatedly about the clandestine nature of Humbug’s downtown district, only to receive my first lesson in how Humbuggers think outside the brain. I occasionally received an answer that involved a silly little chuckle followed by, “Well everybody knows where downtown is!” I was certain that everyone in Humbug was fully acquainted with the location of their downtown but had immense difficulty understanding how that applied to the rest of the civilized world. The most common response I got was a non-verbal gesture that I came to call the ‘Humbug Huh’.

The Humbug Huh is a perfect pantomime of a dog tilting its head in utter confusion, and Humbuggers always Humbug Huh to the right. Some Humbuggers actually make a small sound in their throat as they do this, a sound I can only describe as, “ah-roo?” There seems to be no way to continue with the same line of conversation once a Humbugger gives you a Humbug Huh, for once their head tilts to the right they assume the personality of an android with dead batteries. They can be rebooted, however, with a quick change in subject or meaningless comment on the weather."

Stricken_Halo

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2017, 10:22:03 PM »
The location of Humbug is given as 60 miles west of "Cuspidor" in Alberta, Canada. A google search revealed no place named Cuspidor. Maybe one of our Canadian ehellions could tell the rest of us what locale in Alberta could be the basis for the fictional city?

pattycake

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2017, 09:08:36 AM »
The location of Humbug is given as 60 miles west of "Cuspidor" in Alberta, Canada. A google search revealed no place named Cuspidor. Maybe one of our Canadian ehellions could tell the rest of us what locale in Alberta could be the basis for the fictional city?

I think it's just a fictitious parody of small prairie towns in Alberta. Case in point, a small town might have two big banking institutes, but none of them (that I have ever been to) have one each of the four major banks on four corners, though the main bank in town might be on the main corner. Often there's a main bank, a Treasury Branch (provincial government bank), and a credit union. The difficulty in finding "downtown" can be real, because most towns don't really have something called "Main Street" as they often do in the States. They usually have 50th St - seriously! I think in the past the towns had visions of grandeur and hoped to grow. Some did grow, some are now just weird that way, so if you can't find low numbers, look for a 50th. Most Post Offices aren't as grand as she writes either, usually if there is even a stand alone one, it's pretty utilitarian. A lot of Post Offices are in stores. Not too many have water towers either any more. Having said all that, interestingly, one small town I am in a lot has both Main Street and a Water Tower, but they also have signs pointing to their Business District.

bah12

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2017, 03:00:10 PM »
Many conflicts and hard feelings would be avoided if people simply talked to each other...directly and openly.  The inability to own feelings and clearly articulate desires, all the while building resentment towards others for not properly reading minds causes a lot of unnecessary conflict.   It's a social skill, but one that many people are lacking and even worse, refuse to see as their problem to overcome.

PastryGoddess

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2017, 03:42:33 PM »
Many conflicts and hard feelings would be avoided if people simply talked to each other...directly and openly.  The inability to own feelings and clearly articulate desires, all the while building resentment towards others for not properly reading minds causes a lot of unnecessary conflict.   It's a social skill, but one that many people are lacking and even worse, refuse to see as their problem to overcome.

word!

gellchom

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2017, 03:43:54 PM »
Many conflicts and hard feelings would be avoided if people simply talked to each other...directly and openly.  The inability to own feelings and clearly articulate desires, all the while building resentment towards others for not properly reading minds causes a lot of unnecessary conflict.   It's a social skill, but one that many people are lacking and even worse, refuse to see as their problem to overcome.


And it's not like it's a zero-sum choice between "clear and direct" and "polite and kind," either.  It's quite possible to be all those things at once.

What disturbs me most is when people, and it sounds like the LW is one of them, almost make a virtue of their reluctance to say no.  I guess they think it makes them super-polite.  But I don't think so -- certainly not when, as Hax points out, it leads to projecting rudeness or "bullying" onto others who simply asked them nicely for something and are perfectly happy to take no for an answer (as all but one of the LW's friends seemed to be, and she didn't limit her question to that one person).

I do try to understand and accommodate indirect people, but I struggle with it, often because I totally miss the hint -- if rather than say no they raise some obstacle, to me it sounds like they are asking me to help solve it, for example.  And once I totally missed inviting someone visiting on a pass through my city to stay with us, because he said that they had hotel reservations down the road, and I took that to mean that they were going to try to drive a few more hours after dinner -- it wasn't until after dinner that I realized that the hotel was literally right down the road from my house.  What a waste of both their money and what could have been a longer visit with a dear old friend -- all because he thought it would be rude just to ask if they could stay with us -- we both ended up disappointed.

When I offer to help with something or host or whatever, I say, "And I promise to say no if it's not convenient, so don't be afraid to ask."  That seems to help people who are afraid that asking seems pushy.  In the other direction, with Friend who I know is a hinter, and who knows I am not, sometimes I'll say something like, "Is that Friendish for 'no'?" or "Wait, translate that to Gellchomese for me!" and the like, which puts her at ease to speak plainly.  But we are very close friends, and that only works between the two of us because we know the code.

nutraxfornerves

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2017, 10:21:42 PM »
Quote
And it's not like it's a zero-sum choice between "clear and direct" and "polite and kind," either.  It's quite possible to be all those things at once.

As Jane Austen put it "to unite truth and civility in a few short sentences."

Nutrax
The plural of anecdote is not data

Raintree

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2017, 11:58:43 PM »
Ridiculous. The LW can't even say no to a suggestion to share a restaurant item? There are so many ways to do this:

"Hmm, no, I don't really feel like nachos."
"I think I'll get my own."
"You go ahead; I don't feel like nachos so I'm going to order a hamburger."
"No thanks; I'm looking at the chef's salad for myself."

Bizarre.