IN THE DAYS WHEN SALESMEN knocked door-to-door, housewives knew exactly what to do. They either let the guy in or blew him off. The brush off was, “No thanks, I’m not buying anything today.” That standard phrase was the salesman’s cue to move on to the next prospect.
Someone who tries to catch your eye or chat you up is playing the salesman, knocking at your door. Your job is to decide. You respond either with, “Well, yes, hello there!” or else declare that you’re not buying. Standard phrases exist to announce your decision civilly. The “how” of your resolve matters because it shapes your reputation. Good reputations are hard to forge but easy to shatter.
One often hears that it’s not pretty to appear “too easy,” or that it’s best to be vague with unwanted admirers lest you hurt their feelings. Such mistaken advice guarantees to hurt feelings because it forces others to mind read.
Mind reading is someone standing in a crowd fuming, “Why doesn’t anybody come up to me? Look how cute I am. Look what a great body I have.” It never occurs to them to get proactive. The flip side is dismissing a knockout with the assumption, “He’d never be interested in me.”
How do you know? Resorting to mind reading assures to make you more frustrated the minute. You simply cannot know a thing about someone’s inner desires through outer appearances. The only way around it is to communicate, and posing is hardly the clearest means of communication.
The fear of being judged “too easy” arises from confusing social promiscuity with sexual promiscuity, the former being well within proper etiquette. The sling hog who takes on all comers is sexually easy. Social ease, however, distinguishes you as approachable, affable, and gracious. Graciousness costs nothing and pays handsomely.
The nicer you say “No,” the more effective it is. Stock phrases are “Thanks for asking but I can’t; I’m sorry but I’m not available; I’m flattered by your attention but I can’t.” Even after a few dates you can declare your decision not to pursue with “Thank you, but I don’t believe I will be seeing you again.” Notice how it is unnecessary to offer a reason. Doing so only encourages others to suggest ways around the obstacle when the real point is refusing what you are not obliged to do.
“Yes” phrases include, “Why thank you; I would love to; I look forward to getting to know you better; that sounds like a great idea; why yes, what would you suggest?; did you wish to give me your phone number?; would you like to go someplace quieter?; that sounds like fun.”
Cuteness has nothing to do with your haircut or the physical arrangement of your face. It is a confident self presence that comes from developing your own style.
“Yes” and “No” are short words that require long thought. Delivered with grace they lend a clarity that everyone will gratefully remember. “He wasn’t interested, but he’s a nice man” is a remark that can’t harm anyone’s reputation. With time, the “how” becomes part of your style. In matters of style, focus on doing and leave saying to others. They will anyway.