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Becoming Kiera Knightley

Something interesting happened on Facebook last week.  I posted about a man who does odd jobs around the house and how my inclination is to bend over backwards to get him to like me even though he gives me very clear signals that he either doesn’t like me or simply has a gruffness that comes out when communicating with women in general.  He is fine talking to Josh.

I mentioned that I had stopped myself from making him muffins (with the sole purpose to win him over) because it was very Kiera Knightley in Love Actually of me.  I think she’s one of the worst stories in the movie.  She spends the movie trying to coyly charm her husband’s best friend despite the fact that he clearly does not want to interact with her.  Either she has had the shortest engagement in history and therefore has only known this friend for a few weeks and is still trying to win him over OR she has been dealing with this awkwardness of months/years and is STILL pretending like she can just act cute and everyone will come around and love her.  Either way, things aren’t looking good for Kiera’s character.  Either she’s getting married to someone she just started dating or she is unwilling to understand that some people just won’t like her in this world.

So my post was merely about my own foible — my desire to make someone like me who clearly doesn’t like me and doesn’t need to like me.  That being a pleaser is part of my personality, but it is also a statement on women in general since this trait — making sure you’re doing everything to make the people around you happy even if it means making yourself unhappy — is one of our weaknesses.

Offer the man coffee.  Offer the man food I am already planning to make.  But also understand that it’s okay if he doesn’t like me.  I am not everyone’s cup of tea.

But it also raised a different thought for me — I didn’t hire him for his personality.  I hired him because he’s really good at fixing things.  He comes quickly.  He stays until the job is done.  He tries to save me money when he can.  All signs of a good worker.  Yes, he rolls his eyes when I ask a question, but I didn’t hire him to have kind facial expressions.  I hired him solely for his knowledge and trustworthiness and artistry.

I guess this struck me because I worked with so many kids over the years with differences that affected their personalities.  And I hate the idea of them having difficulty keeping a job just because they lack social skills despite having all capabilities to do a job in place.  You could make an argument that personality is a part of certain jobs, such as salesperson, teacher, or lawyer.  But when personality is not part of the job itself and the person isn’t cruel, should they be penalized or replaced just because they roll their eyes and sigh?  I don’t know.

I guess some people feel that if they’re paying someone to do a job, they shouldn’t have to deal with rudeness, but I guess I’m someone who is willing to put up with some rudeness for a job well done.  What I’m not willing to put up with is myself bending over backwards to make people like me.  Life is too short to worry about what this guy thinks of me.

And one thing you don’t know about this guy — he talks out song lyrics to himself while he works.  Talks.  Not sings.  Like I just got to hear a spoken word “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison this week, and it made me smile.  Even if he did sigh moments later when I went to ask him a question.


1 Beth { 02.19.17 at 1:46 pm }

I’m dealing with a similar though also different dilemma. First, I agree you didn’t hire him for his personality but I do feel like when one is interacting with others there is a level of politeness required. I do get what you are saying about different personality traits however and would also tend to agree that the quality of the work is what matters.

My situation was more related to getting people to like me. There is a child in my daughter’s class who has been picking on her. She is vicious and mean and unrelenting. The facts of this are not in dispute. The teacher is involved and the other parents called in for a meeting. Yesterday we were at a party and this child and her mother arrived. I have interacted pleasantly with this mother in the past, prior to her daughter’s attacks on mine. She pointedly ignored me and even inched herself into the group of parents I was standing with, chatting and moving so that eventually I was the one excluded (which is crap by the way – shouldn’t I be the one doing that to her, if anything? Except that we’re adults and the whole scenario is ridiculous). I was so annoyed and went out of my way then to be nice to her, more than just polite. As I was doing it, I realized that I needed to stop. Aside from the general discomfort of suddenly being the odd mom out, why do I want her to like me? She’s rude, her child is mean, and I don’t like her. This could be uncomfortable for the rest of the school year and I think I’m just going to have to accept it.

2 Working mom of 2 { 02.19.17 at 2:14 pm }

This is interesting. I feel like women in particular have to face this expectation in a professional workplace. In other words, it’s not good enough that we’re smart good productive workers. We’re expected to be buddy buddy huggy feely with everyone in the office even if that’s not our nature or we don’t particularly care for certain people in the office. Whereas I feel men are cut a little more slack. They can act similar to your handyman and that’s OK. Not that I want to walk around grunting at work or anything, but you get the idea.

3 Jill A. { 02.19.17 at 3:19 pm }

I think we get uneasy about people pleasing when we use it in conjunction with conflict. In Mel’s case, avoiding conflict. In Beth’s, as a response to conflict. We don’t like to make waves or cause bad feelings. Most of us, anyway. Beth’s other mother seems to be real piece of work. So we go the opposite route and try to make good feelings. I don’t think that is a bad thing as long as it is not carried to extremes. Mel, you avoiding irritating your repair man makes sense; a good handyman is hard to find! Beth, you confronting people to protect your child is a good thing and a wise use of conflict.

Both are good relationship tools to have in your mental tool box. It is how you use them that matters. Right there beside anger and fear and peace making and manipulation and teasing and sympathy and negotiation, and, and, and.

People pleasing is not bad in and of itself. It is how you use it and what you are using it for.

4 Cristy { 02.19.17 at 4:44 pm }

One of my advisors is known to struggle with people who are actively trying to get him to like them. He just never did well with the extra attention. Where we did our best was when I stopped all of that and communicated with him when I needed something.

Given how many unqualified but friendly repair guys there are out there, it’s nice to hear about one who is the total opposite.

5 Mali { 02.19.17 at 6:20 pm }

I see it now. He sighed because you interrupted Van Morrison! (I love that he speaks the lyrics.)

I also agree that we are raised to be people pleasers. I was actually having this conversation yesterday with my husband, trying to decide if the differences between us were that I had deferential parents, and he had a forceful, professional father, or if it was just a man/woman thing. We decided it was a man/woman thing.

The thing I have loved loved LOVED about getting older was that the urge to people please started to go away, and the urge to stand up for myself or simply not care grew.

6 Nicoleandmaggie { 02.19.17 at 6:38 pm }

Sounds like a sexist douche. If his work is good enough to put up with eye rolling then let your husband deal with him. You shouldn’t have to.

7 em { 02.19.17 at 8:12 pm }

I have very little patience for that and I don’t trust it. There is someone I have to deal with occasionally who is always condescending and I have zero patience with her & have been clear that I don’t. (And I have chosen not to renew a contract because of it.)

That said, there’s a line between that and gruffness, which I don’t mind at all.

As to being liked, I don’t care at all. I am definitely an acquired taste.

8 em { 02.19.17 at 8:13 pm }

(Also it’s a tiny service sort of contract, not a work contract, jic that sounded self-important, trust me it’s the opposite.)

9 Obsessivemom { 02.19.17 at 9:06 pm }

Well in theory this sounds fine. He is not paid to be nice. However, there is a difference between being rude and being indifferent. I’m okay with someone not being nice to me but I would like to know why someone is rude to me or rolls his eyes at me when I have only been nice. I probably wouldn’t rehire someone like that. But then he talks song lyrics – that counts for something :-).

10 Justine { 02.19.17 at 11:28 pm }

Spot on about the people-pleasing. But you’re right; who cares if he likes you or not?

But this is interesting in the context of a political climate that overtly silences women. Would making muffins even help, or would it reinforce the women-kitchen-outofmyway mentality? Can we change people who are sexist in their everyday interactions, in small microaggressive ways, even if they don’t “mean” it?

11 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 02.20.17 at 2:02 am }

Yeah, I’m the same way. In fact, my therapy homework after one session was to work on not stressing over whether people I interact with briefly (cashiers, other drivers, etc.) like me. As in, be polite but don’t walk away in knots wondering if I irritated the person by being too slow/abrupt/quiet/chatty or forgetting to mention my coupon until the last minute etc. I get it.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.20.17 at 4:29 pm }

I like the way you brought this around to kids who have different abilities and sensibilities.

And I also want to say that you’re my cup of tea 🙂

13 Beth { 02.21.17 at 6:31 am }

Thanks, Jill A. I appreciate the insight.

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