Have you ever just wanted to be left alone but someone intruded on your space? When I was a DoorMat and someone talked my ear off when I wanted silence I’d just smile and let them go on and on. I’d get mad inside and feel frustrated at my inability to say what I was feeling—SHUT UP!
I’d go to get my haircut, looking forward to reading my book while under the dryer but the woman next to me would grab my ear and not let go. Or I’d go for a relaxing massage and the person giving it to me would chat about her problems as I tried to chill out, which ruined a lot of the pleasure. Yet in my DoorMat days, I never thought to let the person know I didn’t want to have a conversation. It seemed polite to listen. I never considered that I had the right to silence and it wasn’t just about the other person. Back then everyone else was more important than me.
While it’s not in the constitution we all have the right to silence.
There are a lot of yakkety yakkers out there, looking for someone to yak to. The worst can be when someone begins to talk your ears off when you’re stuck and can’t just walk away, like during a haircut or on an airplane. Depending on who it is, sometimes I’m fine with chatting when I’m in the chair. But there are times when I don’t want to listen to the person’s problems or opinions. Have you experienced this? You can nicely explain you need quiet by being straightforward:
• “I was looking forward to sitting in peace after a hectic week.”
• “ I know you’ll understand I just want to chill and rest my brain.”
My biggest issue is when I go to a café or to my little park in the summer with my laptop, and strangers come over to ask questions about my computer or are interested in what I’m writing. That used to drive me crazy as I’d be sucked into a conversation with someone who was bored and wanting someone to talk to when I’d come to write. After a few of those incidents, I now tell the person that I hope they understand that I came to have a quiet place to write and can’t talk. Usually they take it well.
You’re not obligated to listen to anyone who you didn’t purposely meet up with to socialize. On a plane, if someone babbles, I smile, open a magazine or my laptop or put on headphones. It’s not rude to not talk to a stranger. They’re rude to insist. Uncomfortable situations call for polite boundaries. Sometimes you can give someone a message by not paying attention to them putting your attention into what you’re reading or your electronic device. Sometimes it needs to be spelled out that you don’t want to talk.
I once went for lunch with my laptop to work on a project and wanted to be alone. My waiter was chatty. It was an off-hour so he might have been bored. I politely said I wasn’t in the mood to talk. He continued, asking why a pretty woman like me was sitting by myself. When I said I needed to get work done and that required silence, he just laughed and kept chatting. So I gently asked him to please do his job—take my order and nothing else. He got an attitude but shut up. Sometimes there’s no nice way to shut people up. It’s your choice to put up with it or let them know you’re not going to chat.
The latter feels great once you get over the discomfort of feeling you might not seem polite by not engaging in a conversation. I call it self-empowerment!
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