As soon as I got in the gym spa I knew he wanted to say something to me. I sat quietly and closed my eyes, radiating as best I could, “I would like to be left alone.”
When the only other person in the spa left the feeling intensified. He was going to engage in conversation and I was going to feel obligated to politely respond.
As soon as he spoke it was worse than I had anticipated. His question chaffed against me. It was the last thing I wanted to talk about.
“I just want to know,” he began, “how do you feel about Donald Trump?”
I opened my eyes and looked at him. I immediately felt cornered and like there was no right answer. Whether or not we agreed on our views, I was going to be trapped discussing something I desperately wanted a break from.
For the entire time prior, while running on the treadmill, all I saw were newsfeeds discussing the latest Donald Trump scandal. Each side was analyzing it in its own way, and as usually happens these days, without any middle ground.
I couldn’t wait until I got in the outdoor spa where I could soak my muscles and, for a short period of time, forget all the troubles of the world.
“I ask this of everyone,” he said, without waiting for me to respond. “So what do you think of him?”
While wishing I had the guts to say “I don’t feel like having this conversation” I gave a few short sentiments on my views.
He took this in and then began a long winded, tangent-filled response on his own opposing views. All the while, I struggled with the knowing that I was rejecting my own desires in order to make him feel comfortable.
As he ranted onwards I tried several times to get my perspective in. If I was going to politely set aside my own comfort then I at least wanted to have a decent conversation. He had a different idea, however, and he continually cut me off and spoke over me. I bristled at his condescending tone while asking myself how I could end this.
I didn’t want to continue my past need to make someone else comfortable out of fear that I might come across as rude. I also didn’t want to repeat my old habit of simply leaving with a polite, “Okay, thanks, I have to go now.”
Why should I leave? I was in the spa for a reason. It was my right to enjoy it without being bothered.
Eventually I grew impatient and thanked him for opening a dialogue. However, I continued, he was talking at me, not with me. I didn’t appreciate being preached at.
For a split second we both sat in disbelief. He apparently wasn’t expecting that, and I have never spoken up to a stranger in this way. Particularly a stranger I’m sharing a small space with, which usually intensifies my need to be polite.
The moment passed and he dove back in, telling me how he was more educated and knowledgeable than me when it came to this stuff. Still unwilling to ask him to leave me alone, I asked, “How could you possibly know that? I’ve barely said anything!”
He was again momentarily caught off guard. This clearly wasn’t going how he wanted. We were either meant to get into an argument or I was meant to sit silently while he “educated” me.
Shrugging off my cues that I was done with this he said, “Okay, go ahead. Tell me what you think.”
I then did something that shocked me. I said no. I refused to engage further. I did what felt comfortable for ME.
My exact words were, “No. I’m good.” I was surprised with the ease with which it came out. “I just want to sit here quietly,” I continued. I looked him right in the eye, and in a strong yet kind voice said, “We can enjoy this space together. But quietly.”
I then closed my eyes, leaned back and breathed deep. The silence was euphoric. I knew it was making him uncomfortable, but what could I do? He’d made the choice to put me in that position, and as an autonomous being full of self-love, I had every right to respond in whichever way I chose.
He soon after left.
After he was gone I reflected on what had happened. I thanked him for showing up and showing me I can be polite while also honoring my own needs. I thanked him for reminding me I’m stronger than I realize and I can stand up for myself.
My honesty may have given him a moment to reflect on his behavior also. Or he may have just decided that I’m rude and felt nothing more.
This fear of being perceived as rude is what always stopped me from doing this before. But the irony is, when you shut up and smile politely you are being rude – to yourself. And you’re allowing someone to be rude to you, to take over your time and space without considering you.
We are not required to be martyrs to other people’s social disgraces. We do not have to diminish, hide nor silence ourselves in order to make someone else feel comfortable. We do not have to smile at offensive jokes. We do not have to sacrifice our personal space in order to make someone else feel good.
We also aren't expected to argue with people, defend ourselves or prove anything. We do not have to engage and be baited into what is ultimately someone's need for attention and validation.
You have every right to say thank you but I'd like to be left alone.
The only thing expected of us is to be aware of the feelings that we radiate, which are powerful forces in this world. I’m now choosing not to engage in things that ultimately end in me radiating frustration, resentment and disempowerment.
Instead, I'm choosing love, which may require a bit more honesty and less people pleasing, but ultimately sets us all free.