People Taking Advantage of Niceness – A Case Study

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    Hello good people of Tiny Buddha!

    I’m working on trying to cure my chronic niceness/eagerness to please and while I’m making some headway, there’s one area I’m especially struggling with and that’s interactions with strangers, especially service staff.

    Case in point: today I went to a bakery to buy bread and there was a large group of people there already, with t-shirts saying they were apart of a vegan food tour. The bakery was staffed by one person so I patiently waited until the woman at the register was free. I asked for two loaves (the variety I wanted was in the display case ready to go), and her face fell. “There maybe more of this group coming in later and they seem to like this bread, sorry.” I sat there for a moment dazed. My more assertive self told me to snap back, “yes, but I’m here now with money ready to go. Please sell me the bread.” My passive (heh, read:doormat) self said, “oh, she’s clearly stressed, you can come back later, no big deal.” I must’ve been standing there silently long enough that the woman thought I was angry, and she said in a panic, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know why I said that. If we run out we run out. Here.” She rang up the purchase. I said thank you and as she was running my card she started to vent about how stressed she was, etc. I mumbled something like, “yes, I used to work retail, it can be a challenge,” which only seemed to encourage her to complain more. I left the shop feeling deflated – first for not standing up for myself, and then for allowing this person to emotionally vomit all over me.

    I’m curious posters…how would you have handled the situation differently?



    I think I would have done something similar. I think she realised what she said wasn’t right and maybe she wanted to somehow explain her actions by explaining how much pressure she was under.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 11 months ago by Vince.

    Hi Miniature Bodhisattva,

    I think I would have stood there looking dazed too out of confusion!

    If I was feeling exceptionally assertive I could see myself saying, “What am I, a second class citizen? I know I’m a regular, but LOL come on!”

    And if she apologized I’d typically say, “No problem.”

    So weird! I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.




    Dear Miniature Bodhisattva:

    How exciting: your first thread here!

    In your example you didn’t react yet- not assertively and not passively. She realized what she did before you reacted. If I was you I wouldn’t be bothered by this specific event because obviously the woman was distressed and …. malfunctioned. Hope she functions better in the future. If you’d like to give another example where you did react, I will be glad to reply.



    Dear Miniature Bodhisattva,

    I once went to a workshop where you could learn how to react quickly when people offend you. The very first method we learned was not to say anything when someone offends you and just look the offender in the eye. I think, acidentally, you allready used that method that day. Sorry to hear that she „emotionally vomited“ on you. Personally I think it’s okay to set clear boundaries in such situations. In this case that would mean interrupt the flow, „sorry, gotta go now. Can I have my credit card back? Thanks. Have a nice day.“.

    Standing up for yourself is something you can learn. It needs some time and practice though. Maybe there are some classes about that topic in your area? Or you might even take advantage of a good cognitive behavioral therapist. He/she might set challenges for you that get you out of your comfort zone and practice certain situations with you.

    You asked how others would have handled the situation. Since for months now I have always bought the same type of bread and won’t take substitutes, in this certain case I would have said „Well, then I will buy my bread at the other bakery around the corner from now on.“ and left. ..but while that would have been very satisfying in the short term, it wouldn’t have been a good solution in the long term, I’m afraid. The other bakery is a bit further away from my home. Standing up for yourself can be tricky.


    Hiya .

    This is one of life’s curiositys-people can act so strange ! I would have said ‘oh’ walked away , thought about it and then come back and complained.


    Thank you all for your comments!

    – Yeah, you’re right, I do think she realized she was in the wrong. After I calmed down a little I did feel a twinge of pity for the her at the situation (being the only one to man the shop with this horde of people).

    – Heh. I’ve always fantasied about throwing some diva-level hissy fit at someone who gave me poor service. If I ever do, I’ll keep the “second class citizen” phrase at the ready.

    – this is actually my second post! I posed another question about bumping into a former flame (search “We Go to the Same Temple”). You and Inky were quite helpful in dealing with that BTW. I actually had another example today at work when the receptionist at my company asked me today to fill in for her in the office activity committee’s preparations for the annual picnic. (I had no desire to get involved for a bunch of different reasons I won’t bore you with.) I said I would (*cringe*) but quickly added, “I just want to make it clear though, I’ll only be doing this one time. I’m sorry (*double cringe*) but I don’t want to be on the committee.” I ended up getting out of it, but again, I was disappointed I just couldn’t say no upfront. I’m at least proud of myself I’m at least putting boundaries – but again, I just wish I could put on my big girl pants and stop trying meet people halfway.

    – I love that piece of info from the workshop. I’m definitely going to use it consciously now (as opposed to doing it on accident). I am working with a professional on this, but sometimes it’s good to get fresh perspectives on these things. So again, thank you.

    – Yes, people are strange…but I also know we’re all doing the best we can. I’m hoping the cashier uses this a learning experience…just I have.


    Dear Miniature Bodhisattva:

    Yes it is your second thread. I remember it very well. The example you gave reminds me of my own cringing at my efforts to be assertive for a long, long time. I was so hard on myself for not doing it…right. Is that what your cringing is about?

    What helped me in my quest to be assertive was to be what I term “excruciatingly patient” with myself. All the self beating (my cringing like responses) at my imperfect performances at asserting myself did nothing to help me improve. It was only that excruciating patience with myself, endless patience that helped. At this point I think I am pretty good at being assertive. At least I am way better than I used to be.

    So you are making progress. It is about Progress, not Perfection. Patient Progress. So, instead of cringing at performing imperfectly, congratulate yourself for doing better, for making progress, every single time. Be kind and gentle with yourself.




    Thank you so much! I grinned ear to ear when I read, “progress, not perfection”. I actually read that exact same thing elsewhere and made it my personal mantra for this year…I appreciate you reminding me! I do cringe because I’m not perfect (that’s another thing I’m working on – the unreasonable expectations I have for myself). Just as I wouldn’t be harsh on a child learning to ride a bike, I shouldn’t be hard on myself when I’m learning (re-learning?) the skill of being assertive.

    BTW, I think I speak for everyone on the Tiny Buddha Forum when I say how much I appreciate the work you’re doing here. You’ve helped out a lot of people – including me! 🙂


    Dear Miniature Bodhisattva:

    Thank you so much. You are so kind! I felt appreciation for your kindness and attentiveness to members on this site for a long time.

    Back to the Progress, not Perfection mantra, then. It is about learning: unlearning the ineffective ways of thinking and behaving and learning effective ways of thinking and behaving. This kind of learning does take a lot of time and patience and it doesn’t end. There is no diploma at the end of four years or so. Or ten years, or a 100. You just keep learning, so perfection, that is learning everything there is to learn, is really impossible.


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