June 23, 2008

#01-125: How to Insist Politely (and Avoid Stalking)

statue of a man with a large camera peeping around the corner of a building like a paparazzo
Statue of a member of the paparazzi, who are often accused of stalking

Note: There's a fine line between being helpful, and harassing someone! Learn how to press a point without going too far in this lesson.

Get Ready: When you disagree on something with a friend--which movie to go to, perhaps, or how to pay for lunch--how do you settle the matter?

Two friends, Mary and Susan, have just had lunch together in a restaurant. When the bill arrives:

Mary: Here, let me get that.
Susan: No way! I won't hear of it! It's my treat.
Mary: No, I insist. I had a lot more than you did.
Susan: That doesn't matter. You paid last time, I'll pay this time. It's my turn.
Mary: I can't let you do that. I'm going to pay, and that's that!

What should these women do? Who should pay? Should they split it?

Whatever the solution they come up with, what is important here is that these are friends, and they should remain friends. The language they are using is firm and insistent, but still friendly and polite.

How would this sound?

Mary: I'm going to pay.
Susan: If you do, I'll kill you.

Not so nice, is it?

Here are some other appropriate phrases for polite insistence:

  • I insist.
  • I won't hear of it!
  • I won't take no for an answer.
  • I can't let you do that.
  • That's that!
  • That's final!

Eventually, the friends will have to compromise, or one of them will have to "back down" and let the other pay.

Often, such a compromise is arrived at like this:

Mary: I'll tell you what: let me pay this time, and I'll let you pay next time.
Susan: Promise?
Mary: I swear!
Susan: Deal!

The problem is, we need to know when to quit. Imagine a man and a woman meeting at a party:

Bill: Hi, I'm Bill.
Jane: Hello, I'm Jane.
Bill: So, Jane, can I have your phone number?
Jane: I'm sorry, I already have a boyfriend.
Bill: But I just want to call and chat.
Jane: No, really, I can't.
Bill: But I insist! I won't take no for an answer!

Insisting on something like this after the person has said "no" is what we call harassment. If Bill persists in his behavior by, say, following Jane home, or visiting her at her workplace, he has advanced from "harassment" to "stalking." In many countries, certain forms of harassment and all forms of stalking are crimes.

There is another interesting modern twist on this, called "cyberstalking." It's the same idea--"not taking no for an answer"--but over the Internet. One definition includes using information technology to harass someone through "false accusations, monitoring, the transmission of threats, identity theft" and other harassing behavior.

While the method is different, the principle is the same: insisting too much after someone has already said "no."

So remember, polite insistence is ok, but it has a limit. At some point, it becomes harassment, and can even escalate into stalking. Be careful how you use these phrases!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalking

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. compromise
  2. cyberstalking
  3. escalate 
  4. harassment
  5. insist
  6. persists
  7. split it
  8. stalking
  9. transmission
  10. treat

  1. using the computer to invade someone's privacy
  2. become more and more (usually worse and worse)
  3. be firm in one's intentions; stick with a decision
  4. divide it so that both pay equally
  5. disturbing or bothering someone without stopping
  6. sending of a message by electronic means
  7. find a solution that makes both sides happy
  8. followings someone secretly, against their will
  9. continues; doesn't stop
  10. a gift given to make another happy; also, something good to eat

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 23, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. a; 3. b; 4. e; 5. c; 6. i; 7. d; 8. h; 9. f; 10. j