Niceties that aren’t Nice; Excuses as Declinations

Today I stumbled across an Etiquette blog in my Tumblr recommendations. The user goes by the name of “Proper Girl” and posts Etiquette tips and Q&A’s. I usually get very excited when I see blogs like this on Tumblr because very rarely is anything so overtly feminine found on that site without a 10 page dissertation on why it is “Anti Feminist” attached to it… 3 posts into their blog, however, I was already disappointed with their content.

My main problem is with a Q&A she posted wherein she answers a question about whether or not an inquirer should continue making excuses as to why she cannot hang out or otherwise interact with a person outside of the group settings they often encounter one another in… Or if they should tell them outright that they simply do not want to for whatever reason.

The answer? Of course you should continue lying! And not only should you continue lying… It is, in fact, polite to lie!

“I believe what you’re doing is the kinder alternative to bluntly expressing your disdain for her. Continue to make polite excuses. Eventually she’ll take the hint and give it up.”

To be honest, I find the answer the author of the blog gave to be rather abhorrent. I have genuinely never been able to understand advice that encourages you not to be open and honest with people- and I have especially not been able to understand it when it comes to spending (or not spending) time with someone. I have no idea why we as a society believe that blatantly turning someone down is the less polite option when it comes to getting out of unwanted social interaction.

I understand not telling people off directly at least to a certain extent, of course: You may be afraid of the social or other consequences that you could potentially incur by putting your foot down. I struggle with this a lot myself, especially when it comes to telling my own Mother no… But at some point you have to buck up and realize that lying to people is not and will never actually be polite or nice behavior- and lying is exactly what you are doing when you make up fictitious excuses as to why you cannot accept someone’s invitation to hang out with them rather than simply telling them that you aren’t interested.

The absolute irony of their answer, however, is that this portion is prefaced with a statement that “You shouldn’t be forced to endure a person’s company when you have no interest in doing so”… But by making excuses instead of making your lack of interest explicitly known, that is exactly what you are doing: You are forcing yourself to continue enduring their repeated invitations- and the consequences of continuing to lie can cause more problems for you in the long run.

Let’s face it: Not everyone is going to eventually “get the hint” and leave you alone. Some people may be extending these offers or making their requests out of a genuine interest in you and want for your companionship. Others are just disconnected or completely oblivious to complex social, verbal, and other cues such as this for one reason or another.

By making excuses instead of telling them outright, you are misleading them into believing that if they just catch you at the right moment you may be able to finally spare some time for them; that if you weren’t so busy then you could, maybe, legitimately be interested in spending time with them. It isn’t fair to do that to the person asking. In fact, it’s actually rather rude to do that.

And those that don’t pick up on it will continue extending their offers or requests until you eventually snap at them… And make no mistake: Eventually you will snap at them, or you will stop going to places and events that you otherwise enjoy, or so on… And you will do this of your own volition, out of your own annoyance- brought about, no doubt, by constantly being bothered about it when you very easily could have solved the problem ages ago by being honest.

More irony, however, comes from an earlier post in their blog where, in a post about friendship, they say that “To [them], etiquette is about showing the people that we care about how much we value them”. It is ironic because, to me, it shows a complete lack of respect for a person if you cannot, outright and honestly, express your disinterest in a clear and straightforward manner; it says “I would rather continue lying to you than show you I respect you as a person by telling you the truth”.

If you are not interested in someone’s company, then continuously making excuses and side skirting the issue is not and never will be the appropriate way to handle declining their requests or invitations. Instead, telling them plainly that you are not interested is and will always be the better option for a thousand reasons. Turning someone down doesn’t necessarily have to be done rudely, either. There are plenty of ways to tastefully, respectfully, and politely tell someone that you are not interested or do not enjoy their company; you don’t have to be a raging bitch when doing it, and you don’t even have to give a reason as to why… All you have to do, really, is be honest and straightforward with the person your are declining.

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