Stop being nice! 3 ways
to avoid giving the impression youre interested when
by Janet Jacobsen
Sept/Oct 2003 issue
Just last week I was in a conversation with a woman who was on a tem-porary
work assignment that put her in the situation of interacting socially
with a man who clearly was interested in her. She had a boyfriend
back home, and while she found the local man pleasant to be around, she
had no desire to get any kind of romance going. But she also didnt
want to offend him, which might, in addition, have made the work situation
So she was being nice! She went to lunch with him, spent time
talking with him at social events, let him loan her a bicycle during her
stay, etc. etc. I disagreed that she was being nice, since her behaviors
could quite reasonably be interpreted as encouraging him more than she
wanted to. She was letting him - even encouraging him - to invest his
social time and energy in her, when she knew there was no chance of a
But what should she do in such situations, she wanted to know. Be a little
less nice - which does not at all mean being rude.
1. DONT GET INTO ONE-to-ONE SITUATIONS. Invite a third party, or
more, along to lunch. Hang out in the park in group situations - a volleyball
team, a potluck picnic. Decline (tactfully, and without detailed explanation)
offers that are just-you-two.
2. At meetings or social events, make it a point to TALK TO MANY PEOPLE,
not just this one.
3. AVOID SOCIAL OBLIGATIONS that cant easily - and publicly - be
reciprocated. Borrowing the bike means you have to arrange to return the
bike. A small gift of thanks is good. Going to their house in the evening
and then needing a ride home is not.
Actually, the problem isnt with any one behavior. They are all innocent
enough in the right circumstances. But in combinations that wrongly give
the other person a false impression of your interest, such behavior is
not being nice.