The "Icky" Guy On The Bus
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Today, I came across more than one story of the "icky guy" on the bus.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared my daughter’s story of her experience:
So, other than reminding people to not be that icky guy, and reminding people around him to step up and say something (and yes, I will offer suggests on that towards the end), I’d like to help unpack the “not sure what to do” piece that also keeps surfacing.
While we are beings who enjoy connection, we don't have to engage with everyone, or anyone at anytime that they might desire. We have the right to chose to engage or not.
While it is nice to be polite, it is not a must. My recommendation is to act as you would want others to act with you. Which means politely saying, “hey, I’m reading and don’t want to talk.” Or, “I understand that you are trying to be social but I am not interested.” Or any of a 1000 options that don’t need to include apologizing. There is nothing for you to apologize for. Just as they took a chance that you might engage, it is ok to take a chance that a clear direct answer that is not rude will be respected.
Once you've set a boundary that is ignored, there is no reason for you to expect that anything else you say or do is going to educate that person to change their behavior.
One of my favorite mentors, Martha Thompson, taught us that just because you get more creative in your answer to not wanting to talk, doesn’t mean those around you will get smarter. Stick to your plan. State your needs slower and lower and in many cases, with fewer words.
“Hey, I’m reading and don’t want to talk.”
“I said I don’t want to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk.”
“Stop talking to me!”
No, you shouldn’t have to get to the last one, but again, if they were well-intentioned, they would have gotten it the first time.
So, here we are on a bus. No matter how many people are around you (unless your problem is an empty bus and a creepy bus driver), you aren't alone. You have potential allies, and people who might cause more trouble. Only you can decide that.
But let’s say that there are others might be allies, it is okay to turn to one of them and say, “Hey, this person is not leaving me alone. Can you help me get him to stop or alert the driver?” They may or may not help, but at least the icky person sees that you are trying to enlist help. And you are serious.
Your comfort is not negotiable. If you want to talk, talk. If not, don't. This is why we call our main Empowerment Self-Denfese course, “The Freedom to Choose.”