What is the difference between being considerate and caring too much? I ask this question as not too long ago when we were on the flight back to New Zealand, I was sitting with my seat-back upright, acutely aware of the passenger behind me and worrying desperately that if I were to recline back at all it would be disruptive, but not just disruptive, it would be rude. This lasted almost the entire duration of the flight, despite the fact the person in front of me had their seat reclined back in my face from almost the second we took off.
So where do we draw the line... walking the tightrope of being a pushover and being polite.
The other day I went out for lunch and ordered the Soup du Jour - Carrot and Orange, thinking it was going to be the healthiest thing on the menu and that there'd be no possible way they would add any cream into a soup that had orange in it... much to my horror, they did. Positioned in front of me, I was filled with that awful feeling of menu regret, and thankfully I had ordered (as I always do) a side salad too. Nonetheless, despite not wanting to eat the soup at all, I ended up eating a good half to two thirds! Why? Not because I was hungry, but simply because I felt like it would be 'rude' to not eat any of it, like I would be offending the chef. Ridiculous... isn't it?
I ran into another prime example a couple of days ago. I was ordering my lunch and wanted a take-away item - a red bean bun, to be cold so I could heat it up later. Now just to give some context, it was an Asian takeaway place so language was definitely a barrier, however...! I ordered my bun cold, and specified (no exagerration required) about 6-7 times that it was to be cold, and sure enough, they handed me over a hot one. GRRR! The inner tiger was roaring, but the pussy cat was barely managing a meow. I hesitated a moment, contemplating just taking the hot one anyway, until I found my voice and asked them (again...) for a cold one. But the interesting thing is, I felt as if I was in the wrong in doing so! Like somehow, I was almost being 'rude', which is definitely ridiculous as they were the ones that got things wrong to begin with.
I could cite example after example, and not all food-related either! But the point I'm trying to make is it seems the line between pushover and polite is as blurred as Robin Thicke's. I know I need to be more assertive, not care so much about what people think, but I'm also someone who tries very hard to be polite, to be nice even, and sometimes, when I am actively trying to be nice I am instead giving in, going against my screaming subconscious. One could even say I'm "pulling a Rachel".
In contrast to this, I think most of you would share my view of 'unnecessarily border-line rude', when someone complains at a restaurant about the smallest detail, that really has no bearing on their overall experience. People who exert their opinion in an expression of power rather than in order to convey their own thoughts. People who plead the unknown, but are really just plain ignorant. These are the people who steal your car park when you've already lined it up first, they join the queue at the wrong place but say they're "sorry", and they always, ALWAYS take up the entire arm rest, often with their elbow extending right over and jabbing you in the arm.
Okay, so that presents a fairly clear distinction. The tightrope is more like a six lane wide bridge. But what about those murky areas? What's the line then! To be honest, I still haven't come to any solid conclusion - this is probably due to my flakey, pushover personality type... But what I do know, is that you pick your battles. And god dammit, I asked for my red bean bun cold!