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Stop being “nice”! 3 ways to avoid giving the impression you’re “interested” when you’re not
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 didn’t want to offend him, which might, in addition, have made the work situation less comfortable.
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 relationship developing.
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. DON’T 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 can’t 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 isn’t 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.”