When The Hand Stops Listening…

That 80’s and 90’s thing:  ” Talk to the hand… “. Was it clever or rude? Was it just a catch-phrase used by a comedienne to make herself sound clever? Was there a need for it and is there a need for it now?

Well, let’s dispose of the question of an act like this in regard to manners and etiquette straight away. It is rude. It’s unpleasant and not the sort of behaviour in which a lady or gentleman within society would participate. But then society makes up only a portion of the population – outside of the polite enclosure, behaviour has more room to move, so to speak.

How do you stop intrusion? How do you stop nagging? How do you stop impertinent enquiry? Assuming that you haven’t been wise enough to avoid putting yourself into a position to be subjected to these annoyances…and that is an entirely different essay…you still want some way of escaping. You’ll also want to be able to avoid even more unpleasant behaviour in the social setting, but may be at a loss as to how to go about it. Here are a few suggestions:

a. In the wider world, keep your ears open. You’ll frequently be able to hear low troublemakers on the street long before you see them – they cannot stop themselves from shouting and making animal noises. Steer yourself away from the sound.

b. In a closed venue, watch to see who is making a disturbance or taking up far more space than normal. They’re trouble and it is best to let the staff deal with them. You’ll be far better away than just hoping for the best.

c. If someone singles you out for unwanted attention and will not accept a polite rebuff, walk to the nearest authority, quite openly, and ask for protection. If caught away from any help, yell or scream continuously for assistance. If you need to do this in a drawing-room or a shop, do so. The nature of the event will excuse any disturbance.

d. If someone persists in unwanted behaviour on social media drop their acquaintance. On Facebook you can do so by ” snoozing ” them for 30 days, unfollowing them, or unfriending them. The Facebook organisation will accept your decision and support you in it. Beware that if you then meet in person, the other individual may ask why you have not contacted them…have an answer ready.

e. If someone rebuffs you or drops your acquaintance, accept it with good grace. You need not pursue further contact. The inevitable chance meeting later on the street, or at a relative or mutual friend’s house alluded to in (d.) will be all the more interesting. Be gracious.

f. If all you need is time to think, recover, or relax in the face of distress or importunity, request it. Good manners and good sense demand that it be rendered. If it is not, then you are perfectly free to drop the acquaintance and walk away from further contact.

No-one wants to be isolated, and no-one should try to isolate others. Equally, no-one need endure unpleasant conduct or be associated with foolish or criminal activity. When in any doubt err on the side of caution and kindness, but remember that you have a right to be left alone.

 

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Opportunity Knocks Just Once

But importunity keeps trying to claw its way past the security screens…

I have sometimes been very remiss in my social relations. I’ve failed to address requests and demands in a proper way – never more so than when I’ve not given people the correct response to importunate demand.

In my defence, these sorts of things don’t happen very often, and I’m generally not prepared for that first assault. The beggar in the car park of the local shopping centre, the telephone solicitor, the strange caller at the doorstep…they all take me unawares and I am on the back foot for some time. I may acquiesce out of surprise. But the same should not happen if it is a repeated thing – I should be able to knock it on the head by the second contact. But so often I’ve just let it go on.

Oh, I’ve tried all sorts of ways to slide past the beggars – cultural dodges like the Japanese ” That, urrr, may be difficult…” or the British ” Oh, My Dear Fellow, how tiresome…” or the Canadian ” Well, I’ll be darned, eh? ” All of these are intended to be genteel signals that wave off the approach but they only work if the pest knows the culture. And even then they may not work if money is involved. I’ve been at wit’s end to know how to deal with some plaintiffs.

But recently I read a biography of a film star and discovered the perfect social response.

The bio was of Paul Newman – sometime rear gunner on a Navy Avenger aircraft and spaghetti sauce salesman. And Cool Hand Luke. He was importuned by Hollywood paparazzi to provide poses and pics out on the street and he evolved a standard response: ” I don’t do that.”

Brilliant. It does not say that he refuses the particular applicant and it makes no judgement about the request. It is self-centred in the best way. And it sounds official enough and final enough to stop further nagging.

I shall apply it when I am solicited to give money for someone else’s charity, to supply free files from my studio records, or to provide free shoots and graphic designs for no reward. Hopefully I can do it in the urbane and measured way that Newman adopted, and hopefully it will not lead to unpleasantness.

At least it will mean the in the future we don’t have ” a failure to communicate “.