How can I assert my dislike of something more effectively?
December 28, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

How do you honestly and politely let someone know when you don't like something that they absolutely love without opening the door for them to try and convert you into liking it?

My go to response is usually, "You know, that's hasn't really been a good fit for me." But when I use that with certain people (namely my parents and handful of others) those people get really offended. Other people will say something like "what, what's wrong with you, how could you not like it? You need to give it another try" which frustrates me because then I don't feel like my assertion is being heard or respected.

Sometimes I also say things like, "Oh, I've never had much success with that," and that is received in an iffy manner. Why? Why is me not liking something such a big deal?

What are some alternatives I could use that may not elicit the same responses that I described above?
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Human Relations (24 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I've had good luck in situations like this by not actually saying that I don't like something. I listen, and then when I respond, I say something positive like, "Oh, that does sound interesting." Or "I can see why you'd like it!" and then of course, change the subject. The key is to keep them talking about themselves, which is not usually very difficult with most people.
posted by lemniskate at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2013 [14 favorites]

People are passionate about the things they like. It is what it is.

It's usually more efficient for me to not assert my dislike of something at all and simply steer the conversation in another direction without comment one way or the other if I don't wanna be "convinced".
posted by johnpoe50 at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Don't just say, "I don't like that" (or its equivalents). In improv, they call it "Yes and," because saying "No" tends to stop scenes -- and conversations -- in their tracks. Stopping a conversation dead in its tracks is weird, so people grab on to the last thing, which leads to their trying to justify how awesome that thing is.

Instead, try, "That hasn't really been a good fit with me. You know what I like? This other thing. Have you seen that?"
posted by Etrigan at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think you just have to be ready to instantly deflect. I'm of an age now where I don't really care why you hate bacon or bourbon or whatever, but twenty years ago I probably would have annoyed you by trying to convert you. Now I know that it just means more bacon for me.
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on December 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

Maybe something like, "I've heard really great things about that from a few (or a bunch of) people, but for some reason it just didn't click with me. Maybe I'll give it another shot when I have time." This accomplishes a few things: it validates their belief that something has merit, it acknowledges some vague disconnect without indicting someone else's taste, and lastly, while you are under no obligation to give it another try and haven't committed to doing so, by already bringing up the idea yourself, you've stopped that particular conversation before it even started. It's pretty similar to what you do already but just includes something positive about the thing (and that there is a group that likes it and liking it is not an anomaly) and sounds like you value their opinion enough that you are willing to reconsider/try again, even if you never actually do.
posted by katemcd at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

One line I used that absolutely stopped this cold was "You know, I'm not sure why you would think you would my life and my preferences better than I do." That works, of course, only with a select group of people who a. aren't easily offended or b. I don't especially care about.

Otherwise, "oh, gosh, no thanks!" said in a cheery fashion, followed by a swift change of subject, has done the trick for me. If you don't say no, it leaves room for them to negotiate with you.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:48 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why? Why is me not liking something such a big deal?

What are some alternatives I could use that may not elicit the same responses that I described above?

You might try greater specificity: "It was great, but I couldn't get beyond XYZ," "It was great, but XYZ kept tripping me up."

Or you could just pick up the one or more things you do like about what they're talking about what they're talking about and use those things as a segue to discuss something you like: "Oh, yeah [thing other person likes]! When I get a craving for [aspect that you like] I go for [thing you like]."

I think an issue with these discussions is that you're shutting the other person down completely -- they're trying to share something they like with you and you're just going NOPE and then not providing an alternative avenue for sharing. So give another place for the conversation to go, don't just have it shudder to a stop at your dislike for this specific thing. You don't have to say you like the thing they do, but making some kind of connection over that thing or a similar thing or at least providing a way to make a connection over something related is probably going to go over better.
posted by rue72 at 1:49 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the practice/preference is morally unobjectionable to me and just not to my taste, I focus on their enjoyment or history in the hobby, fending off invitations and insistence by emphasizing that it is Not For Me.

That is, I make it clear that I think it's a-okay for them by asking them questions about how long they've been doing it, how they got interested, what they like best about it, how the experience plays out, and so on. I show an interest in their interests and ask specific questions.

"So, [friend], when did you first get interested in [wearing a beard of crickets]? Gosh, does it tickle?"

But every time they offer to teach me how, take me along, or otherwise get me involved in [wearing a beard of crickets], I pipe up with a cheerful "No thanks, it's not for me!" And I mean every time. That phrase can be accompanied with other phrases, either to soften the effect or to be more forceful in the refusal:

"No, thanks, it's not for me!"
"I've thought about it and it's not for me."
"I appreciate it the thought, but it's not for me."
"You've offered several times, but it's not for me."
"I've decided it's not for me. If I change my mind, I'll let you know."

One thing I strongly recommend against: making excuses for why it's not for you. Making physical, logistical, or financial excuses for not pursuing [wearing a beard of crickets] invites your conversational partner to explain why it actually isn't too [taxing/inconvenient/expensive] to [wear your own beard of crickets], why it's downright [rejuvenating/locally situated/economical]! And now they think your refusal is instead a negotiation.

"It's not for me" doesn't give them specific reasons to argue around; if they ask why I've decided that, I give a vague, shruggy answer and redirect the conversation, maybe by asking more questions about them, maybe by talking about something I do enjoy and devote time to. Life is full of hobbies, and we each get to pick our own.
posted by Elsa at 1:59 PM on December 28, 2013 [23 favorites]

You can shrug it off:

A: But maybe you haven't tried the right species of crickets? (thanks Elsa)
B: Oh, maybe.
A: I don't understand why anyone wouldn't enjoy that feeling of wriggling crickets on their chin
B: Who knows! So hasn't the weather been dreadful lately?

You can joke it off:

A: But how could you not like a full beard of crickets?
B: Oh I know, I'm such a philistine! Just can't stand them, how about that.
A: Do you really not like them??
B: Nope, I'm scarred for life after a dreadful cricket accident as a child.
B: It's lucky we all don't, that's all the more crickets for you!
posted by emilyw at 2:10 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Example: this actually happened to me over Christmas. Everyone at the gathering had read [POPULAR BOOK SERIES] a dozen times and was exchanging trademarked goodies from POPULAR BOOK FRANCHISE. They looked at me funny when I smiled blankly at the more obscure references and jokes. That's fine, but they also spent long minutes telling me "It's riDICulous that you haven't read POPULAR BOOK SERIES, you read everything, you love [POP CULTURE VAGUELY SIMILAR TO POPULAR BOOK SUBJECT] what the heck is wrong with you?" over and over, just like they do every time it comes up.

I can't bear to say, "Listen, I'm glad POPULAR BOOK SERIES has brought you all so much pleasure, but I tried reading it and I thought it stank. I hated it. Hated it."

So I shrugged and said "I tried it. It's not for me. But hey, those FRANCHISED SOCKS are cool!"

They aren't ever going to stop trying to push it on me, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that
A) I'm not crushing their spirits or ridiculing their taste while they're trying to enjoy [THING THEY LOVE], and
B) if I ever change my mind about POPULAR BOOK SERIES, I won't have to endure a thousand renditions of "And you said it stank! You said you hated it! Boy, were you wrong!" Instead, I'll get treated to the somewhat gentler "Boy, it took you long enough!"

Similarly, when I someday come to my senses and decide that the pleasure of wearing a beard of crickets is unparalleled, I will not have alienated my cricket-beard friend and will have his enthusiasm and companionship to enjoy along with the sensation of a thousand tiny legs scratching my throat and face.
posted by Elsa at 2:14 PM on December 28, 2013 [14 favorites]

If it's a thing (food or drink or clothing type), "I'm leaving more for you to enjoy!" or, if they're actively handing you some at that moment, "oh, if I had some it would just be wasted," seems to work.

For hobbies or other non-consumables, folks get one more politic response along the lines of "I really appreciate your excitement but it's definitely not for me." And after that they're being rude.

I find that getting specific gives someone an in: "Oh, you think wool is too scratchy? Just try this Merino wool JUST TRY IT." whereas being general makes it hard for them to have a catchy comeback.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone above has nice responses, BUT: this is something that's gone on for a long time, so maybe it's time you DO cut them off at the knees.

It sounds like you HAVE been trying to politely deflect your parents or whoever, so go ahead and give them a blunt, conversation-stopping reply:
"Oh come on, you just haven't given cricket beards enough tries!"
"No thank you, it's just not for me."
"Just try these crickets, you'll love them!"
"No thank you."
"Here, let me just put these crickets on you...."

At this point, since THEY aren't respecting YOUR choices, there is absolutely no reason to continuing to be polite:
"Just try it, I know you'll love it....."
"Wha?!? But...."
"I said NO," and walk away.
posted by easily confused at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

At this point, since THEY aren't respecting YOUR choices, there is absolutely no reason to continuing to be polite

I agree with this entirely in general – when someone's so blatantly disregarding my refusals, gentleness and politeness are no longer my primary concern – but the OP did specifically request a demurral that is honest, polite, and unlikely to give offense.

But OP, if you're up for it, showing that you are offended by this persistent disregard for your opinions and preferences can work wonders. You might have to do it a handful of times to the same person before they start respecting your demurrals; establishing boundaries can be remarkably effective provided you also patrol those boundaries pretty vigorously at first.

"Here, let me just put these crickets on you...."

For me, that's the point where I just get up and leave – leave the table, leave the sofa, leave the room, leave the house for a minute or for good. I had to do it with a relative: she leaned over and started [putting crickets on my face] and would not stop no matter how politely or repeatedly or even snarkily I asked. Finally I just plain lost it: I yelped "NOPE!" and left the table for a few minutes.

To be honest, I thought she was going to be pretty miffed that I cried out and turned my back on her mid-story, and I really had to steel myself so I wouldn't apologize or make nice about it. But when I returned, she acted as if nothing had happened – but she hasn't [cricketed me] over dinner since. Boundaries!
posted by Elsa at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

If they do it more than a couple of times, I don't engage except maybe to nod. Change the subject or say nothing. Some people get very uncomfortable with a response of silence, but it's not rude and it gets your point across.
posted by wryly at 3:48 PM on December 28, 2013

I just don't bother to say if I like it or not. I ask a couple of questions "How did you get started?". "Is this popular all over Your Area?" and then I change the subject or wander off in search of a tissue or whatever. No one cares if I love what they love--most people just want to gas on, and so, I let them. Works like a charm about 95% of the time.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:58 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

But when I use that with certain people (namely my parents and handful of others) those people get really offended. (emphasis mine)

Is this something you do often? Or often enough with people you are close to/comfortable with? Because I used to do this as part of the stereotypical "empathy" socializing many women grow up learning to do, and then I realized it just didn't come across very well in many situations.

Why is me not liking something such a big deal?

It shouldn't be. Maybe it's just your timing. Is it possible you are coming across like a Debbie Downer? I liked Ideefixe's suggestions for participating without taking the focus off the storyteller.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I just love seeing you so happy and passionate about this! Isn't that the best feeling, to find something that you really get into like that? I'm like that with unicorns so I know what you're talking about. Hope you post some pictures on Facebook next time you do it!"
posted by headnsouth at 5:19 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like the "it's not for me" thing, but it sounds like you're getting a bad response even to something that nonspecific, so I would take lemniskate's advice from the first comment--ask them to talk about it, show that you understand how appealing it must be, and use that as a distraction. "It's wasted on me," accompanied by a rueful shrug, has been useful to me when I used to hang around a group of people that were into wine and I wasn't; it makes it sound like a personal failing on your part that you'd love to overcome but can't.

If pressed, try to avoid giving reasons that they can pounce on. If you say, "I don't like it because X," then that gives them an opening to try to convince you that X isn't an issue, ways to overcome X, etc. It's a salesperson's trick--get the mark to give specific objections so that you can counter them. If all you say is "no, thanks," there's nothing to work with.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:01 PM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

The problem here isn't you; it's the rest of us. People like to think that people they like like the things they themselves like. So when we find someone we like doesn't like something we love (or loves something we dislike), there's a tiny sense of betrayal, and a desire to convert them. It's not really thought through or even particularly well-understood by that person in the moment.

When I'm in your shoes, I often say, "More for you, then!" and try to change the subject. People will sometimes have a hard time letting it go, but a shrug and another subject change will usually move things along.
posted by rosa at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

These people are not being especially polite to you by insisting you should like something you have stated you don't, or by questioning whether you really mean it, so I wouldn't be too concerned about being hugely polite in return. I tend to just say "Not my thing, that." If they push it in the ways you describe I'll be as firm as I need to be to get them to stop. This can range from a curt "I said it's not my thing" through to "Do you like everything I like, do you think? It would seem unlikely, no? So this is a thing you like that I don't. Okay?"

As an aside, I find expressions like "That hasn't really been a good fit for me" to be sort of weak, in a sense that almost invites the responses you're getting. Firstly, it's indirect and euphemistic. "Not a good fit" implies that maybe you just haven't tried the right size yet, if you see what I mean. Be direct. "I don't enjoy that". "That isn't something I like." It's not rude to state an honest preference directly and unequivocally. Secondly, by putting your preference in the past - "That hasn't been a good fit...", you are giving a suggestion that it could be a good fit in the future. You are almost inviting them to attempt persuasion. These passive, indirect ways of stating preferences and desires almost always lead to this sort of problem. Polite assertiveness avoids it.
posted by Decani at 10:21 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with Decani that your stock phrases might be too weak. I have used "I just don't care for it" and "it's just not to my taste" to great effect in the past. There's no arguing with taste.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:45 PM on December 28, 2013

I just say 'it's not my cup of tea' and if they push then I sometimes get all overly enthusiastic about how wonderful freedom of choice is and personal preference and isn't it weird how something that resonates so much with someone falls flat with someone else and blah blah you get the drill.

In other words I bore them away from continuing to harass me.
posted by h00py at 6:14 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would divert the conversation to something you DO like.

"Cricket beards are not for me, but I love ladybugs!"
"But crickets are superior to ladybugs because reasons."
"Ladybugs work great for me! More crickets for you, I guess." (Do not address reasons.)
posted by desjardins at 8:36 AM on December 30, 2013

Also, I think it really matters in how you voice your dislike for something. Do you do it in a way that shows a judgement on the person that likes the thing? Do you disparage the thing? Or do you just state that it's not something you like? Because the first two can put people into fighty/prove how awesome the thing is places, where the third option can just hang there without any judgement.

Option 1:
"Cricket beards are the bomb!"
"Seriously? Who the fuck would like a cricket beard? Something's gotta be wrong with you to like cricket beards!"
"How can you not like cricket beards? What the hell is wrong with your??"

Option 2:
"Cricket beards are the bomb!"
"Eeeeeeeewwwwww. Crickets plus beards....*shudder* sooo gross."
"Come on! Have you even tried a cricket beard? You probably tried it with cave crickets, right? Those are weird, but with regular crickets, it's awesome...really."

Option 3:
"Cricket beards are the bomb!'
"Really, that sounds nice. Why do you like them?"
"Blah, blah, blah, You should totally try them."
"Oh, I don't think it's my thing, but I'm glad you like them."
posted by teleri025 at 10:31 AM on December 31, 2013

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