Hello, How May I Accommodate You Today?

Dear Reader,

To what lengths will you go to avoid being rude? This might be an odd question, but seriously, think about some of the little things you have done to not be rude. Here are a few of my own examples:

  • A man held the door open for me and I was rather far away from the entrance. To accommodate him and ensure that he wasn’t left holding the door for too long, I quickened my pace considerably for his convenience.
  • I had a meeting with someone who arrived considerably late. When she said that she hoped that I wasn’t waiting too long, I responded that I had arrived no more than a few minutes ago. 
  • A waiter got my order wrong. I decided to just eat what I was served because 1. I didn’t want to make my tablemates wait any longer for me, 2. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone who had put time and effort into the dish, but also 3. On an unrelated note, I didn’t want to have an awkward conversation to request a new order.

I am considering all of this now, because of a recent interaction I had. I was in the Seaport area of Boston at work when my colleague offered to get me cinnamon doughnut holes. These weren’t just any doughnuts though, they were fresh-made, warm, and FREE. Honestly, I am not much of a doughnut person and I had just made a personal promise to myself that I would cut down on desserts. However, when my colleague offered to get me a doughnut, I hesitated. Conversation as follows:

Boston Common, winter 2018

Colleague: Hey, I’m going to grab some doughnuts and apple cider, do you want me to grab you anything?

Me: Hmm, no thanks, I don’t think I really want anything.

Colleague: Really? Not even a doughnut? They smell so good! 

Me: Umm, I know, but I don’t really like the aftertaste of doughnuts.

Colleague: Come on, they’re warm. Just try one, it’ll be fine, they’re from Flour Girl Bakery.

Me: Okay, I guess I’ll try one…

To recap, I’m not very much into doughnuts, I am trying to cut down on desserts, yet, I gave in and ate a doughnut hole to be polite. 

It must be a human thing to go out of one’s way to be accommodating in such low-stakes situations. I can imagine that other animals would be accommodating if it meant saving their lives or avoiding direct conflict, but for humans, just making sure a conversation or an interaction flows without hiccups is enough of a reason to push ourselves towards accommodation.

Of course, my interaction, is a teeny, tiny example of how accommodation can push us to go against our best interests. However, there are many bigger, more serious examples that I am sure many of us have experienced. For example, committing to taking on more responsibility simply because someone we didn’t want to disappoint has asked us to do so. Sometimes saying yes can be a good thing; you will experience more opportunities and make deeper connections with the people around you. However, saying “yes” and being too accommodating can make us feel out-of-control, out-of-touch with our true wants, and, perhaps, even resentful of the people who ask too much of us or have too much influence over us.

Eating the doughnut left me with mixed feelings. First, it reconfirmed to me that I am HIGHLY susceptible to peer pressure. Second, it made me feel like I couldn’t trust myself to keep internal promises (i.e. to cut down on desserts). However, on a third note,… the doughnut was good… like really good, so part of me was glad that I tried one. I don’t know how you walk the fine line between politeness and being too accommodating, Dear Reader. However, I hope that at the end of the day, you always make decisions that will bring you the most happiness in the long term.



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