Need help with rejecting helpful offers of enrichment
January 23, 2017 7:56 AM   Subscribe

So I know this is beyond silly but does anyone have a way to deal with or decline forced-upon lent items? Other than, you know, just saying "no thanks."

I have a couple of friends who will lend me books and films without asking whether I'm interested first or if I actually want to borrow the item. The situation will be that something comes up in conversation and then I'll come in to work one day and a book or dvd will be on my desk with a note like "I was thinking of our conversation and thought of this book/film that I think you will like, I look forward to discussing it with you." It's incredibly sweet and usually welcome, except that:

1) the items are lent in such a way that I have no say on accepting them or not
2) the items are lent in such a way that I can't really pretend I read or watched it because it's clear a discussion is expected
3) sometimes it is a book that I'm not interested in reading and sometimes it is a long, long, long book that I am not interested in reading

For a long time now I have just sucked it up and watched/read whatever I'm given whether I'm into it or not because it's obviously important to my friend and I like engaging with my friends. But lately it's been getting out of hand and I'm very busy and have a pile of my own reading I am trying to get to and being handed another 463 page book that my friend wants me to read so we can talk about it is just not something I want to make time for right now. But I can't think of anyway to not do it other than:

1) tell friend the book does not interest me (I have rejected this option because it is mean)
2) say I am just getting around to reading it forevermore (I have rejected this option because it is impractical and also a little mean)

Are these my only options? Is there anything else that won't be mean or upsetting or give the wrong message? I would like to keep these friends. I also have no problem with engaging with stuff my friends want to share with me, sharing interests is great, I just feel like it's getting to be a bit much sometimes. I'm also starting to feel a bit like what I think doesn't actually matter and they just want a sounding board for all the stuff they think is great but maybe that's just me becoming a resentful cow.
posted by Polychrome to Human Relations (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
How do you not have a say?

Surely they are handing you the book/film - just don't take it from them. Explain that you are very grateful, but you will not have time to read/watch it.
posted by bergnotburg at 7:58 AM on January 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


"Sorry, I'm very busy and have a pile of my own reading I am trying to get to."

If they insist, take the book/film and hang on to it. If they ask you about it in three weeks/months, just tell them you haven't had time and offer to give it back. If they tell you to hang on to it, just add it to your library and never give it back unless they ask for it. Whenever they ask you just tell them you haven't gotten around to it.
posted by bondcliff at 8:01 AM on January 23, 2017 [15 favorites]


The polite thing to do is to take it home with you for a few weeks then bring it back and say "I've kept meaning to read this but I've had to accept that I'm probably not going to make time for it so I wanted to return it to you. I really appreciated the thought though."
posted by 256 at 8:02 AM on January 23, 2017 [14 favorites]


How do you not have a say?

Surely they are handing you the book/film - just don't take it from them.


Like I said, they aren't handing the stuff to me. It's left on my desk at work waiting for me.
posted by Polychrome at 8:03 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Say "no, thank you." No explanation why, just no thank you.

Literally don't take it into your hands.

If they won't stop, say, "Please respect my no."

If they won't, physically remove yourself from their presence.

This thing they're doing? It's asshole behavior. They may not know it, which is their problem not yours and their privilege to overcome, but this behavior is inappropriate and you are always allowed to say no.

Every once in a while I will have a person in my life who a) doesn't get it b) truly means well even though their motivation is still basically they are superior to me and just trying to make me a better person (the difference from the outright assholes being that they don't understand social subtleties enough to understand that not everyone wants to be made better in their specific way). With those people, I just say "I don't have room for this in my life or house right now, and if you make me take it I will throw it away." Their stuff is usually pretty precious and that puts an end to it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Thanks, I've added it to my wish list / library hold list. I hope I'll be able to get to it before the heat death of the universe, ha ha! You know how it is with us book / film lovers!"
posted by Etrigan at 8:05 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


What 256 said, although I'd say "I don't have time to read/watch it". (Yes, "not going to make time" is more honest, but ruder.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:07 AM on January 23, 2017


Just take it back to their desk and put a note on it that says, "Thanks for thinking of me but I have a huge pile of books and movies I'm trying to get through. I'll let you know when I'm ready for this one."
posted by ilovewinter at 8:07 AM on January 23, 2017 [20 favorites]


It's left on my desk at work waiting for me.

Oh, in that case you leave it right back on theirs. As soon as possible, so they understand you didn't take it anywhere.

Other people don't get to make you responsible for their belongings. Put it back enough and it will stop.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:08 AM on January 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


Just be positive about the offer but decline it because you just can't. A little self-deprecation, exaggeration and humour helps.

"Oh, god, it sounds great and I wish I could, but I have stacks and stacks of other things I'm aiming to read and half of those are things I'm supposed to return to people I borrowed them from. If ever my stacks get lower than ceiling height, I'll ask to borrow it."
posted by jacquilynne at 8:10 AM on January 23, 2017 [18 favorites]


Is there anything else that won't be mean or upsetting or give the wrong message?

It might be more helpful if you framed this as them trying to make a connection, not forcing an unwanted task on you. So you can let them know that you appreciate the connection (and maybe even become reciprocal) without having to become a handmaiden to their desires. But by "giving in" you've set up some sort of "Hey, this is how to interact with Polychrome" expectation that now you have to gently undo.

So first question: Do you want to share a connection with them? If so maybe you could reciprocate in kind? Like think of a book or movie you really liked and suggesting they read/watch it and you could talk about it? Or maybe they are just trying, awkwardly, to have something to talk about with you, so maybe you can offer topics along the same lines but without the homework aspect? So like "Hey thanks for the book, I don't have time to read it right now with my own reading backlog but I'd love to chat over coffee about $TOPIC with you anytime"

Alternately, I really like Etrigan's suggestion of giving the item back but saying you've added it to your list. There is NOTHING requiring you to hang on to someone's possessions. Think of it like they sent you a link over email. Book goes back on their desk. Sincere thank you is given. Follow-up is scheduled. And then get it out of your mind. There is a good chance (if you are like me, you may not be) that this isn't happening as often as you feel it is, but it's bothering you so it's taking up more psychic space than it needs to.
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on January 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


> Like I said, they aren't handing the stuff to me. It's left on my desk at work waiting for me.

Yeah, you walk it back to their own desk with a sticky note that says "I appreciate the offer, but I'm currently up to my eyebrows in other things!"
posted by rtha at 8:28 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Do they value the object itself and expect it to be returned? Some people loan things because they really like them and expect them to be returned, while others just consider themselves done with a book or movie once they've finished and want to find the object a new home.

If it's the former, I'd say to politely tell them you're short of time and will make a note to borrow it in the future. If it's the latter and you have space in your office, I'd be tempted to just throw the offering in a desk drawer and, if asked, say you haven't gotten around to reading the book.
posted by mikeh at 8:28 AM on January 23, 2017


So first question: Do you want to share a connection with them? If so maybe you could reciprocate in kind? Like think of a book or movie you really liked and suggesting they read/watch it and you could talk about it?

To build on Jessamyn's excellent answer, perhaps you could tell them that you don't have time for that book, or that it doesn't sound appealing to you (which is not mean, in my book*), but you are in the middle of or just finished this other thing X, so that they both have a thing to discuss with you and also get to feel like they are in tune with what you are currently in to. It may also allow them to tailor their recommendations to things you actually are interested in.

*I tend to couch things like that as something along the lines of "I read a review of it that made me think it's not for me" or "I've read other things by that author and never really got into them" or "Something about that subject just doesn't click with me - it makes my brain hurt when I try to read about it."
posted by Rock Steady at 8:55 AM on January 23, 2017


I came to say what 256 said, so since that's already been said, I'll go bad cop. Since they're leaving it on your desk, just say you never saw it.

Friend: "Did you get the book I left on your desk for you?"
You: "No, when did you leave it?"
Friend: "This morning before you came in."
You: "Hmm that's weird. I wonder if someone else picked up or something."
(two weeks pass)
You: "Oh hey, I found that book you left for me two weeks ago. It was on the floor behind my desk. It must have fallen off."

Once this happens several times, they'll get the message.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2017


If something was left on my desk in the manor you say, I'd bring it back to them saying, "Thanks, but really I'm overwhelmed timewise and realistically won't be able to get to this in forever. Maybe in the future if I have some more free time would I be able to borrow it then?" That way you're not saying, "I'm not interested and I judge you for finding this interesting." and instead you're saying, "I don't have time. Don't call us, we'll call you."

If they insist you keep it, even if it will be months or years, refuse. "I'm sorry, but as I said, I'm overwhelmed with items. If I physically have this, it will weigh against me. I'm sorry, but I can't accept this."

If they are not physically there, then in the same fashion as they left you the item with a sticky note, leave them with a sticky note saying the same thing. Or a short form, with the full text via email.

Essentially immediately turn this into a game of hot potato and insist that you win. In theory with consistency, this should stop the constant stream of things coming in.
posted by nobeagle at 9:50 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, I don't think that Option 1 has to be mean. I can and do tell people that some things are just not my jam. Like, I believe you that it's well done, but that sort of thing--that genre or whatever--just never really clicks for me, and I've got a pretty giant backlog of stuff I have been wanting to get to, so it's pretty unlikely that I'll get around to this thing anytime soon.

I used to feel a little bad about saying that to people until I noticed that nobody seemed to hesitate to tell me they didn't like the things I do. I'm usually really selective about personally recommending things to people because I know that my tastes aren't universal. But every now and again, someone will check out something I like and hate it. I don't take that personally unless they frame it in a personal way, so I don't think it's unreasonable for me to expect the same.

There have been a couple of times where someone's been really really insistent, so I'll tell them, "OK, I'll read/watch this thing you really like if you read/watch this thing I really like." Then they have to tell me they don't want to.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:57 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


"1) tell friend the book does not interest me (I have rejected this option because it is mean)"

How is this mean, and then you get resentful that they don't know it doesn't interest you?

It's not mean to express preferences and it doesn't make you a cow of any kind.

"Hey, thanks, I'm just not up for this type of reading right now. Thanks for the thought."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:18 AM on January 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't think it is mean/rude to say you're not interested in something -- I think the key is not to make it personal. Like, you wouldn't want to say "Oh, I don't read Dan Brown books, they're so dumb" (implying that the person who likes them is dumb!), but it's perfectly polite/nice to say something like "Oh, that's just not my cup of tea." I also think it's fine to say "Oh, that sounds interesting but honestly my 'to read' list is miles long already so I don't think I'll have time anytime soon!" If someone really insists, it's also fine to leave the thing sitting in a desk drawer until they ask after it, and then make a very vague excuse - "Oh, I didn't get around to it, but let me return it while we're on the subject - I don't want to take advantage of your kindness!"
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:24 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


1) tell friend the book does not interest me (I have rejected this option because it is mean)

No, it's not mean. Telling your friend that their interests are dumb is mean. Telling them that your interests differ is not.

But that being said, maybe you can meet her halfway by seeking out a standard source of "summaries" that you trust.

For example, to the extent that she wants to discuss the books/movies for plots, Wikipedia synopses are pretty good. For deeper themes, maybe a Sparks Notes/Cliff Notes type thing? New York Review of Books? How about youtube reviews?

The next time she delivers you something, find a summary you like, and then follow up with her the next time you see her, and the book/movie back and say: Thanks so much for this, I didn't have time to properly digest it, but I looked on [source] and I'm super interested in [interesting thing].

Or, say: Thanks so much for this, I didn't have tiem to properly digest it, and based on [Reviewer]'s review, I don't think its for me. What did you see in it?

Over time, you might be able to train her to stop bringing the things in the first place. She can mention it, and you can track it down however works for you.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:52 AM on January 23, 2017


I think taking the item to be polite is okay. Then when a sufficient amount of time has passed (a week?) you can return it and say something like, "Thanks so much for thinking of me! Unfortunately I'm buried in a list of books/dvds right now and I know I'm just not going to get to this right now. Do you want to grab some lunch/coffee sometime? I'd love to hear why you thought it was so interesting." Then you don't have to read/watch the thing but you can still benefit from time with your friend and hearing what they are thinking about. If an initial discussion (maybe the one that inspired the lending) precludes you from being able to offer another discussion, just use the first part.

I think accepting the thing for a short amount of time is a polite way to give the impression that you are interested and were willing to give it a shot (even if that's a small white lie). If you return a book/dvd several times with the same excuse, they'll eventually get the picture.
posted by LKWorking at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Like I said, they aren't handing the stuff to me. It's left on my desk at work waiting for me.

Yeah, you walk it back to their own desk


or if you're like me and rather a friend of clutter, you just assign a corner of your desk for stuff that you'll probably never get to. Eventually the lender will see their item, perhaps deep in the pile, and say, "So what did you think?"

"Haven't got to any of that stuff yet."*

And so on. Think war of attrition.

* which is entirely honest because also (if you're like me) you might, over time, eventually get to it, but on your schedule, in accord with your particular needs, interests, not theirs.
posted by philip-random at 1:10 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


I try not to borrow things from people because I don't have time to read/watch it, then I forget who gave it to me or lose it. Maybe tell them thank you, but you're a bit of a scatter brain and you'd hate to lose something so important to them so you'd prefer not to borrow it.
posted by Jubey at 5:46 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


This happens to me and I didn't even realise it was a problem! Here's my solution:

I accept the book and say thanks when I next see them. I take it home and put it on the bookshelf.

If they ask me about it, I say: I'm sorry, I just haven't had a chance to get to it, I've got a huge pile of books to get through/I just haven't been reading so much this year/whatever.

I tell the truth and I don't act all apologetic, but I do say it with kindness.

If, at that point, or some later stage, they want their book back, they'll ask!

I've never had someone express annoyance that I didn't read their book. But if that happened, I would just repeat the above statement, with a sincere apology, but no budging.

"Oh Jane, I'm sorry - I can see that it's a really important book for you. I'm just mentally swamped at the moment and I don't have the bandwidth. Let me return it so you're not missing it anymore."
posted by reshet at 7:59 PM on January 23, 2017


I'd take it back and say nicely, "History tells me that this is going to be added to the huge pile at home and then you'll never see it again, so I'd better just give it back to you. Thanks though, I do appreciate the thought!"

It works for me because it's true, and there's a bit of humor thrown in to lighten it up.
posted by sweetpotato at 1:05 PM on January 24, 2017


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