I am generally a patient and polite person. There are a few situations, however, that can get me fired up in a hurry. One of them is when people don’t take “no” for an answer. If you call me at home and are trying to sell me something, I will say “No, thank you.” If you keep talking, I will say, “Please put me on your do not call list” and hang up.

If you are the outreach director for a private tutoring and one-on-one school, who calls me repeatedly to set up a meeting even though I have told you I cannot do so,  due to cancer treatment, I will be irritated with you and tell you that your calls aren’t welcome and to please stop. Guess what happened today? The same woman showed up to my office, uninvited. Do you know how many uninvited visitors I get in my little office with it’s discrete location? About one per year. I told her, “No, I am not able to meet with you. I know about your school. I asked you not to contact me.” She replied, “But I thought that you just didn’t want me to CALL you.”

“Coming to my office uninvited is even more intrusive than calling. Please don’t contact me again.” She apologized and left.

Keep in mind that I ordinarily accept meetings with people from private schools and tutoring businesses. But this woman happened to call when I was going through intensive cancer treatment. I told her that, also told her that I would contact her in the future if I wanted to meet. But she kept calling and today, she showed up on my doorstep. I have actually referred families to this school and I will likely continue to do so because the person who does marketing is not the same as the people who provide the educational services.

Honestly, I feel mean when I set limits like this. But I also feel justified in being firm and direct. These hard sell tactics rely on people’s inclination toward politeness and needing to be seen as “nice”. The strategy is one that takes advantage of most people’s positive nature. I know the people who are not taking my “no” for an answer are probably not thinking of it that way. But the strategy itself is extremely disrespectful.

Hmm, is it really “extremely disrespectful”? It is disrespectful for sure. But the fact that my heart rate is still slightly elevated and I still feel residual anger about this intrusion tells me that it is time for me to explore why this situation set me off so.

I am by nature, a generous and helpful person. My parents are also generous people. But I also remember growing up, thinking that they had trouble saying “no” when asked for a favor. (It doesn’t seem this way so much now, so I wonder if I remember correctly.) It was like it was bad to even ask because my parents would say “yes” unless it was a telemarketer. (When vacuum cleaner salesmen called, my mom would always say, “I have dirt floors.” Ha!)

When I am asked for something, my initial inclination is to give it. But I have learned over the years that this is not always a good idea and in some situations, it is downright unhealthy. I can take time and energy away from my family, friends, patients, and from myself. I have also learned that there are people in life who will ask over and over again, giving nothing in return. And then there are the people who don’t even ask, they just take.

When I say “no”, I have already gotten myself to do something that I am not typically inclined to do. When the “no” goes unheeded, I feel unheard. Oh dear, there’s a trigger. I hate it when I don’t think people are listening to me. When I am unheard, I start repeating myself, I get stern, I may interrupt. I don’t feel generous. I feel in need of protection. The word that keeps popping into my head but I haven’t yet written it down because it feels too strong is “violated”. I feel violated. Do I feel helpless? No, I don’t but I feel very very wronged and that I may lose something of myself, the years to building up assertiveness and confidence, if I back down.

I often used my writing on this blog as a way to figure out a puzzle. I think I have gained insight in writing this but really, I am only scratching the surface and there is much to be uncovered. I think that this triggering experience comes from some kind of combination of my personality, my experiences as an individual, and my experiences as a woman. I’m not really sure and I will never really know. I do know that my tendency toward strong reaction negatively impacts my relationship with my daughter and with my husband. With my professional life, I am able to regain external composure even if feel internal strain.

I will keep working on this.

Note: I actually wrote this post several days ago and didn’t publish it because it felt unsettled. I am currently exploring the situations that are most triggering for me, “buttons” that when pushed, elicit an irrational response. I am trying to shrink these buttons. As I say, I will keep working on this, as unfinished and unpolished as it is. But it is as it is.