I once had a job working for a seminar company. My job was to call people who had taken an introductory seminar and convince them to take the main seminar we were selling. I was given a stack of cards participants had filled out at the introductory seminar and I was told how to handle the calls: “If they give you a definite ‘no,’ throw the card away. Otherwise put it here and we’ll call them again later.”
And we would keep calling these people, harassing them for years because those people were too nice to simply say, “I am not interested.” People would say, “I don’t know, let me think about it.” They would say all kinds of things other than “no.” I could hear in their voices that most of them really wanted to say no, but they wouldn’t. I felt sorry for these people, and yet I couldn’t help but think they were stupid. Why not be firm? Why not be honest? It would save them a lot of stress. If only they knew my instructions, they would have said no firmly right up front.
But the thing is, most of us are used to dealing with people who will not exploit our “niceness.” We deal with fair, considerate people almost all the time, and our ways of dealing with fair people work very well. I’m assuming you are a fair person. What do you do? If someone gave you a “socially acceptable” excuse like “I’ll think about it,” you would let them bow out, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t ignore their signals and keep pushing.
But here’s what we all have to learn sooner or later: For people who ignore your signals and keep pushing, you had better develop a different approach — an approach with more firmness and strength, an approach that protects yourself and defends your interests.
It was the very nice people of Minnesota who elected the United State’s very first Muslim congressman: Keith Ellison