5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

April 2, 2015
5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

Politeness problem: The inability to be rude no matter how uncomfortable someone is making you feel.

I only had one goal when I went away last summer, and that was to get over my politeness problem (as I liked to call it)! I’ve heard that it’s a common British trait, and considering I was brought up to respect my elders, think before I speak, and always set a good example, it’s no surprise that I struggle to tell people to back off when necessary!

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

Lesson 1: Try to stay positive.

No matter how nervous/annoyed/aggravated I got in the face of a problem, I’ve always tried to put a positive spin on it once it was over. Of course, none of my experiences were particularly scarring or dangerous, so it was pretty easy to convert them into funny stories. Funny stories that I then told to future Couchsurfing hosts as a way of a) breaking the ice and b) warning them they’d become a funny story if they took advantage of my politeness! This was the only prevention technique that I came up with and I actually think it worked!

The most humorous of my stories has to be my Skype interview with a man named Dragan. I’d found him on helpx.net (where you can find places across the world that accept a few hours of work a day in return for free accommodation/food). He owned a hostel and agreed to host me for 2 weeks in return for 8 hours hostel work per day. During my interview he asked me my height, relationship status, and whether I’d go for a swim in his pool when I got there. Next he requested that I stand up, turn around and repeat the words “Dragan is boss.”

I decided to turn down his job feeling that his motives were not innocent. “Dragan is boss” became a running joke with my friends! I successfully made him a laughing matter instead of a story to forget.

Lesson two: Be firm.

This one is absolute common sense, but that doesn’t actually help me in the face of a persistent person. It takes a lot of pushing before I snap, get fed up and become firmer! It’d be a lot faster and easier if I just skipped the polite preface. Lesson two needs more practice.

On the last day of my travels, I was sitting by a fountain in Barcelona trying to draw when an elderly scruffy man tapped me on the shoulder and began to speak to me in Catalan. I tried to explain (politely) that I was English and didn’t understand, and returned to my sketchbook. A couple of minutes later, he began quietly mumbling again and offered me a cigarette, which I refused. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and wished that I could leave–except that I didn’t want to scrap my drawing.

Minutes later, he was talking to me again. Again I tried to explain that I didn’t understand and then I noticed he was grabbing his crotch whilst leaning into talk. That was my snapping point, and I guess my firmer tone must’ve worked because he didn’t bug me again. God knows what he was even saying to me.

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

Lesson three: Become fluent in your fake phone number.

Again, common sense. But I never thought quickly enough to do it. Then I realised that it’s very easy and believable to change the last number, and you’re sorted if you’re asked to repeat it.

I was out shopping in Sliema, Malta when I got approached by an Israeli man giving out samples. I stopped to talk to him and before I knew it I was sitting in his shop, his crotch pushed against my leg whilst he massaged some miracle product into my face.

He asked me for my number, where I lived, and if I’d move to Hawaii with him. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick to think of a fake number at this point, and instead told him that my phone didn’t work properly. He insisted that I give him my number and that he would call me then and there to check if it went through. Brilliant. Not only did I give him my number but I practically told him where I lived. Thinking before I speak doesn’t normally apply when I’m nervous.

I saved his number on my phone (where it still remains today) under ‘creepy guy Israel,’ to remind myself not to pick up if he calls. I received a couple of texts pursuing the drink I agreed to have with him but nothing more! Now he’s just another funny story to tell.

Lesson four: Tell the person you’re not interested and that you’d like to be left alone.

The worst experience I had was with a Moroccan man. He wasn’t particularly scary, but it was early on in my trip and I was on my way to my first inland Couchsurfing experience in a completely unfamiliar place.

I hadn’t heard from my host in a couple of days, and wasn’t sure he knew what time I was arriving. Naively thinking it couldn’t end too badly, I sent out some last minute couch requests and jotted down some hostel numbers just in case.

I had a five-hour bus ride to Dubrovnik from Split (twice as long as I thought it’d be), the bus arrived after 10pm and given it was a Sunday, not much was open.

During this 5-hour bus journey, I picked up a Moroccan admirer. He was friendly in the beginning, but pushed the boundaries when he decided to move to the seat next to me, and crossed the line when he told me to get a hotel with him when we got there!

Thankfully my host messaged me about 10 minutes before I got to Dubrovnik, stating which bus to catch and that there would be someone waiting there to meet me!

I ran off the bus, grabbed my things and bought a bus ticket. The Moroccan man shouted after me but I jumped on a bus before he could catch up with me!

I’ll let you know if I ever muster the courage to follow the lesson I learned from this experience.

Lesson five: Smile less.

Ridiculous as it sounds, smiling makes you far more approachable. Much as that’s normally a godsend in hostels and an easy way to make friends, in solo travel, being open, smiley and friendly attracts attention and maybe trouble. So try to save the smiles for when you are confident in where you are and what you’re up to.  Otherwise, be prepared with your fake number, firm tone and positive attitude in case you need them!

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Politeness Problem photo credits by Tanya Fryer.

About Tanya Fryer

Tanya FryerMy name is Tanya, I’m currently a Textile Design student, I love to travel and disappear off abroad whenever I have the chance. I spent the summer of 2013 living and working in Malta, and the summer of 2014 travelling around Eastern Europe! So far I’ve managed to survive abroad happily for 6 months, collecting stories and life lessons that I’ll write about on here incase they’ll help or inspire anyone else to do the same!

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