Re: Coworker who won't take no for an answer

Subject: Re: Coworker who won't take no for an answer
From: "Downing, David" <DavidDowning -at- Users -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 11:15:24 -0400

Reading all the discussion of this subject - and there's probably more I
haven't seen, since I'm on digest -- there's one point that particularly
strikes me. It's quite possible that the guy who's giving Patricia all
this grief really doesn't intent to harass her, but rather lacks a basic
understanding of how to deal, and how not to deal, with people. That
being the case, there are two points I definitely agree with, but I'd
like to add something.

He definitely does need a clear and unambiguous "No." I thought it was
an interesting point that he's probably used to the kind of clear and
unambiguous messages you get from computers and other machines, and thus
expects the same from people. Furthermore, I don't know how HE feels,
but I personally hate it when I feel like somebody is using avoidance
behavior on me.

I also agree with the folks who say DO NOT say he's a "sweetheart," or
some other such term of endearment. He WILL take that as a sign that you
like him and ignore the rest of the message. If you want to soften the
blow, you could say something like, "I understand that you're trying to
do something nice, but that's not how it's coming across." In other
words, acknowledge that his motivation is good.

Here's what I would add. Along with the clear and unambiguous "No," the
guy should have four general facts imparted to him:

(Perhaps some neutral third party should do the imparting, so it'll be
free of negative emotion.)

First, people have the right not to be interested in something you're
interested in, no matter how wonderful, cool, important, pressing, etc.,
you think it is.

Second -- and maybe this is really a variation on #1 above -- it doesn't
matter how strongly you feel that you and another person belong
together. If the other person doesn't also feel that you belong
together, you can't make it work.

Third, people tend to have a problem with directly saying they aren't
interested in something you're interest in, or in you as a person, so
you have to learn to interpret various signs, such as repeated refusals
of your invitations, regardless of the reason.

Fourth, any attempt to change a person's feelings, or to tell them they
SHOULD be interested in something will result only in alienating them.

The thing is, if you just haven't had a lot of experience dealing with
people, you may genuinely not understand these things. And once you
understand these basic facts, your social skill may improve remarkably.

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