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ruthless compassion
24 September 2010 @ 11:58 am
A bunch of folks have commented in yesterday's thread about hurdles to approaching someone that a big concern is that they don't want to make the other person uncomfortable. I totally get that, from both sides, and because there are things that can help your pass not be a friendship-ender or hugely awkward interaction, I'm going to share my totally anecdotal observations and experiences.

When I'm making a pass, it's much less scary to make a soft pass. It involves way less putting myself out there, and it allows the other person to let it go by without actually rejecting me. That makes it appealing! However, imo, that makes it way more likely to backfire. Did he ignore the pass because he wasn't interested or because he didn't even realize that it was a pass? This creates the temptation to keep making soft passes again and again, because there's such a lack of clarity. To me, this is the definition of puppydogging, and as the target of someone's soft passes, it is one of the most uncomfortable ongoing social interactions I've experienced.

The soft pass, from the recipient's perspective, is incredibly hard to turn down in a clear way. Because each approach is indirect, I have to actually go out of my way to say, "Thanks, but, no, thanks." This makes me feel like a jerk, and it makes me feel cornered, and I hate it.

The other problem with the soft pass is that it plays into the notion (both internal and social) that having someone decline my offer of a date (or whatever) is a terrible thing, a rejection. Someone turning me down doesn't mean they think I'm a lousy person; it just means they aren't interested in that kind of interaction with me. If that's all I'm interested in with them, then, well, that's a bummer, but I'm not actually interested in pursuing activities with uninterested partners, so I'd much rather have it all be clear. It can be disappointing, but it doesn't really say anything about me, even though it feels like it does.

All of this means that I vastly prefer the scarier and more on-the-line direct approach, both as approacher and recipient. I like the clarity of it when I'm approaching someone, and I feel that it's a way of valuing myself. When someone's approaching me, a clear approach allows me to respond also with clarity and, I hope, with empathy. It's more satisfying to say yes to a direct pass, and less confusing to say no. And it opens the door for a lot of clear communication, too. For example, maybe you want to say yes to my pass, but you have some points of hesitation, which we can now talk about, because we're both looking in the same direction. Or you want to say no, but you can explain that you're not interested in a date, but you'd really like to keep hanging out. Whatever. There's just so much more information being exchanged in direct communication.

Another benefit of it is that when someone turns me down in a clear way, I can stop wondering! And I can decide either to pursue some other kind of interaction with that person, or not, as we are mutually inclined. My experience has certainly been that directness allows a rejection to be far less substantial and traumatic than a soft pass does. I have never lost a friendship or friendly acquaintanceship to direct communications in this realm, but I have lost or come close to losing several when the lines are fuzzy and there's confusion or lingering hope on one person's part or the other's. In my opinion (and ymmv, etc), that's the situation where people are most likely to feel uncomfortable about someone's unreciprocated interest.

What's your take on this?
 
 
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