Respect My Right to Not Want to Interact with You

By | 29/08/2016

Just because someone wants our attention, it doesn’t mean we have to give it to them. It’s an arrogant and selfish attitude to insist on an unwanted interaction, even when coming from a place of love.

A man said I was disrespectful and rude. Why did he say such a thing? Because I didn’t want to talk to him over the phone. I don’t know him; all I knew was that he wanted to make “constructive” criticism of my work, but I couldn’t care less about it.

A colleague tells me that her mother said: “Your childhood friend came over and she can’t wait to see you! When can we schedule a meeting?” My colleague has no interest in knowing how this person is, or in meeting her again.

A daughter answers the phone and tells her father, “So-and-so wants to talk to you.” The father answers, “tell him I’m not here.” “But he really wants to talk to you.” The father says, “yes, but I don’t want to talk to him!”

So, who’s right? Is it the person who is offended because they didn’t get the attention they wanted, or is it the one who believes they’re entitled to choose whom they want to meet or listen?

Are people who make a point of stating their unasked-for opinion about others entitled to it, or are they presumptuous, for believing that other people must listen to them just because they feel like speaking out? Is it selfish and disrespectful to only interact with people who interest you, when you want to?

It’s very important to understand these seemingly banal situations, as they are part of our complex everyday relationships and involve moral issues, people’s rights and fairness.

I believe we are absolutely entitled to decide whom we want to see or listen; just because they want to talk to us, doesn’t mean we have to allow them – no matter who they are. Even if we’re being offered the best deal ever, we can say no if we want to.

People don’t have the right to impose themselves on others, even if it’s out of love; when a person forces closeness with someone who’s not interested, they are being aggressive, overbearing and presumptuous, no matter their good intentions. It’s actually very selfish to want one-sided needs met, in this case; it means they couldn’t care less about the other person whose attention they are trying to get.

Even among friends, this holds. Nobody is entitled to go over to a friend’s house to give them a piece of their mind on something unrelated to them, even if they didn’t like or approve of their friend’s actions. Said friend hasn’t asked for their opinion! Even if in a close friendship, a person might not want to know their friend’s opinion, or anyone else’s, for that matter.

There’s also the opposite situation, in which someone wants an opinion you doesn’t want to give; the asker must then respect the your right to refuse to do so.

It’s not wise to say “but we’re so close, we have to tell each other everything”, as this is often how close friendships end. People must always be respectful of others’ rights. It’s not enough to want to talk; the intended audience must want to listen. People become aggressive and inconvenient when they insist on saying things others don’t want to hear, even in close relationships between relatives and, especially, between couples. In these cases, people tend to be even more disrespectful and say whatever crosses their mind, which is a dangerous attitude. They are always antagonizing and hurting each other and seem to believe that, just because they’re related, they can say anything without having to worry about how their words will be received. But in every human relationship, it’s important to try to envision what can hurt the other person and avoid aggressive actions, even involuntary ones.

The fact is that when people do and say whatever they want and don’t care how it’s received, it’s because they are predominantly selfish or intend to be hurtful.

Tradução: Amanda Morris