How To Be Polite Without Inviting Unwanted Attention

2 May

You know the scenario well. You are going about your business– maybe waiting at a bus stop, maybe working out at the gym, maybe buying a drink at a bar—and you see (or feel) him coming a mile away: the creeper. Maybe this is a random creeper. Maybe this is a creeper you deal with regularly. The point is, you have no desire to enter into conversation with this person but he is not reading the signs you are sending. The situation is uncomfortable and embarrassing at a minimum, intimidating and worrisome at worst. What do you do? You don’t want to be rude, so maybe you try to let him down gently. When that doesn’t work, maybe you make an excuse to leave, or say as little as possible and avoid eye contact hoping he’ll take the hint and just go away.

This is one of the most commonly raised issues in my women’s self defense classes. We as women have largely been raised to be polite, to put the needs of others before our own, and to avoid confrontation (or else be condemned forever to wear the scarlet B!). My mother (Mary Murphy Edwards: 7th degree black belt/co-founder of SAFE Class/totally wise and powerful woman!) always used to say about politeness:

“If you are a kind, polite person—that is a strength! You are a good person for being considerate of others. Because you are a good person, you deserve to feel safe and comfortable!”

Creepers recognize your body language. Listen to your gut: If it feels creepy, it IS creepy! Creeping is an aggressive act. This person is entering your physical and social space uninvited and ignoring your signs that they are not welcome.

The answer is shockingly simple: Ask for what you want! You can do it as politely as you please. “Excuse me, I came here to work out so, unless you have a specific question about the gym facilities, I’d thank you to let me get back to it.” Or… “Wow, as you can see, I’m with my child right now and I teach him/her not to talk to strangers. I’m sure you can understand why I need to set the example right now. Have a nice day!” Or… “Oh, gee, that was a pretty good line! Unfortunately I’m not at all interested in talking to you right now, so in the interest of saving us both some time and awkwardness, I’m going to smile and walk away. Oh, and please don’t follow me. Thanks!”

Ok I’m getting a little silly here, but seriously– if you can’t leave or don’t want to leave, you need to ask the creeper to leave you alone.  Here are some specific strategies:

1)      I think ___, I feel ___, I want ___.

Ex: “ I think you are standing way too close to me. I feel uncomfortable and I want you to leave me alone now.”

2)      Name the behavior.

Ex: “I see that you are trying to come on to me, but I’m not interested. Bye!”

3)      “No” as a complete sentence.

Ex: “No.” (If they persist: “I said no and my answer is not going to change, no matter what you say, so please leave me alone now.”)

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7 Responses to “How To Be Polite Without Inviting Unwanted Attention”

  1. May 2, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Haha. The gym facilities. What part of “I be up in the gym JUST WORKING ON MY FITNESS” don’t people understand?

    • trevinomurphy May 2, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      Hahaha so true, so true… :)


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