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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Unwanted attention

A guide for avoiding unwanted attention
The other day, a couple of my female friends were complaining about unwanted attention they had received from strangers, whether it be on the bus/subway, or just generally. They seemed to have a particularly difficult time with this problem, so I decided to give it some thought.

Now, before we go too far, I will point out that this article begins and is expressed from the perspective of a man, me, about the problem of women garnering unwanted attention (typically from men) and how to deal with it.

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that every situation is different and that there are varying levels of unwanted attention. I will try to break these situations down as best I can and provide tips/strategies as to how to avoid/dissuade the attention.

Person asking questions
Sometimes, you just want to be left alone, to your thoughts, to your Temple Run/Angry Bird(s), or to Wilson Pickett's Hold On playing on your iPod, when somebody asks you a question. "Is that seat taken?" "Does this bus go to...[insert street name here]?" You don't want to be rude, but you also don't want to talk to this person, or maybe to anyone. So, what do you do?

Well, social etiquette demands/politely asks that you respond to the person. There is too much rudeness and distance in today's society, and in this case, the person just needs some information. In this case, if you can, I think you should just answer the question to the best of your ability and then go back to whatever you were doing. In this case, the person just wants to know something simple and upon hearing the answer they needed or that you don't know, they'll move on and leave you alone. To ignore the person is itself rude, and while we might not always want to talk to someone, how terrible would it be if you needed some information and no one was willing to give it?

However, sometimes, people aren't just looking for information...

Striking up a conversation
Whether it be that ultra-friendly person who likes to talk, or that creep on the bus asking you your name, sometimes, people are talking to you because they want to, not because they want a simple question answered.

So, what do you do to avoid talking to them? Or to get them to stop? Well, the first thing you have to realize is that people are unobservant and sometimes don't recognize social cues. The second thing you have to realize is that you must adjust your behaviour according to the situation.

Here are my strategies, in order of escalating action:
  • ignore them/put on earphones - This is the least effective method as it only gets a person to stop talking if they sense and share your disinterest. If they're aware enough to see that you are disinterested, maybe they'll stop, thinking, "Oh, this person doesn't want to talk to me, I'll stop wasting my time." Unfortunately, really friendly people, lonely people, and/or the stubborn, do not pick up on this. 
  • Make/pretend to make/take a phone call - this is a rather effective strategy. Usually, people are unwilling to be rude enough to interrupt a phone call and will see that you're busy and will leave you alone. This strategy also helps to make you less of a target and might make your walk home safer. Additionally, if you are on the phone with someone while you walk home at night, it dissuades anyone from bothering you because there is a semi-witness present. I sometimes pretend to take a phone call if I'm nervous, as it keeps people away and my phone is handy should I need to dial 911.
  • Say you're sorry, and that you're not interested - this has the added advantage of drawing your point into the open. For those unable to read your disinterest, your declaration of such makes it obvious and might make them stop. Again, it doesn't always work because sometimes those friendly/lonely/creepy people are so used to rejection that they've developed a shield of denial. They think when you say you're not interested, that they can regain your interest by talking about something else. 
  • Move to another seat - might be hard to do, might be considered really rude, and might not work, but it also might stop them from talking to you. However, if you move to the front of the bus, you could perhaps dissuade any attention due to the presence of an authority figure(bus driver). Additionally, talking to the bus driver might help as the driver might recommend, publicly, that the stranger leave you alone or, in the extreme case, that they exit the bus.
  • Comment on what they are doing in a loud manner - this one is a gamble. Often, if you declare your disinterest or nervousness loudly enough, it will stop the other person from bothering you. Additionally, other people might hear it and come to your aid. Unfortunately, if you misread the situation, you've just yelled at someone/embarrassed them for no reason, and you look like the crazy person. Also, this one asks for you to rely on others and if the Bystander Effect has taught me anything, it's that people do not always act, even when they want to.
Two last funny options:
  • Tell them you have diarrhea, prone to projectile vomiting, or some other kind of typically gross or wanted condition.
  • Give them the face, as seen here:
  • Finally, you can tell them you know a crazy guy in a cape, because hey, you do. 
And there you go, I hope this list has helped, and if you have any other suggestions, other than the obvious one of punching someone in the face, please feel free to comment below.

Thanks for reading, remember, "Stay alert! Stay safe!"

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