Compliance at the front door.

When my doorbell rang the other morning I whipped off my apron and dutifully went to open the door, hoping to find a neighbor with a plate of cookies or even a request for help, and not a salesman or proselytizer. Alas, it was a complete stranger, a man, holding some flyers.

He extended his hand for me to shake, and told me his name. I did not take his hand, because I don’t know a thing about him yet and we are not entering into an agreement or a social relationship. I am often this non-compliant at the front door, because I’m defensive about protecting my home territory. The threshold of our house is one place it seems important to resist those who want to be what seems to me over-familiar. I can be friendly without touching, can’t I?

Most people, on seeing that you do not want to shake their hand, will put theirs down. Not this man. He kept sticking his hand out at me, for what seemed like a minute but was in any case long enough to be very pushy and rude. Being a compliant person in all the wrong situations, I gave in and shook his hand. I was angry enough with myself afterward that it’s caused me to rehash the event and probably over-analyze it.

What do you think he wanted to sell me? He is starting a lending agency in town, and wants me to know about it and tell all my friends so that if we have to go into debt, he can be our creditor. This raises more questions about why he put so much importance on shaking hands – Was he unconsciously saying, “Shaking hands is what men of honor do, and I want you to believe I am trustworthy.” ? I would never borrow money from someone who is so unmannerly or obtuse that he would not defer to a woman at her own doorstep.

There is a point of etiquette I learned from Miss Manners some years ago about hand-shaking. Perhaps it doesn’t apply in business situations where women want in many ways to be treated just like men, but I don’t live in that world. The rule is, if a man and a woman are meeting, it is up to the woman to extend her hand first, if she wants to shake hands. The man should wait to see if she offers her hand; if she doesn’t, they don’t shake. It’s doubtful Mr. Moneylender reads Miss Manners, but really, even if a man extended his hand to another man, and he didn’t take it, would any sensible guy keep his out there waiting?

After my visitor departed, with me wishing him a friendly, “Good luck!” — See how compliant I am? — it occurred to me that with someone who is that bold, I should have been bold as well. I might have taken a moment to give him some tips on the proper and courteous way to behave if one is selling oneself door-to-door. Well, maybe next time…but I hope I never have the opportunity.

8 thoughts on “Compliance at the front door.

  1. I am afraid I spend more time being mad at myself afterward too. What a pushy man. I have even got to the point, on seeing it be someone I don’t know and who is brave enough to walk up my driveway, I just don’t open the door but talk to them though it.
    I am glad you read Miss Manners and knew proper etiquette. I read her too.
    I think I even remember that one about shaking hands too.

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  2. You’re absolutely right – it is proper for a lady to be the first to extend her hand to shake. A Gentleman should never do so, according to traditional manners. It’s not something I give much thought to, except in situations like the one you mentioned.

    I’m even more guarded at the threshold of my house I don’t generally open the door to strangers – I open a window near the door instead and converse through the window (which is not at ground level). This greatly reduces the risk of an unwanted intruder, and also makes it absolutely certain that I can get rid of a solicitor who is too pushy : )

    Don’t feel bad about being guarded – it’s not unfriendly or inhospitable, it’s just SAFE. I’m sure if the man had turned out to be an indigent, you would have provided him with a sandwich and been most kind : )

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  3. Compliance…great word to describe how it feels when I feel pressured. Social situations are difficult for introverts…especially when we feel violated. It is always amazing to me that some people cannot feel the boundaries that I am trying to keep…they just barrel their way in…it feels weird inside when I give in to someone who has no sense of me…the other. Just be glad that in this situation we do not live in a “kissing” culture. Although I have thought that those who greet with a kiss could possibly not be so brass with their hellos.

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  4. I would be upset at this too; he sounds pushy and rude; and who would want to have his business! sounds like a loan shark or worse. We have to figure out a better way for our front door too, as it is shared and no way to see who the person is. We hope to be working on that… God keep you!

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  5. I agree that nobody has the right to push you to shake hands or answer your door or phone or anything else if you don’t want to. Some people mistakenly think they’re helping to draw introverts out of their shells by forcing their over friendliness on us. It’s taken me most of my life to come to the conclusion that I don’t have to “be nice” if someone is making me uncomfortable. At work I sort of rebelliously refuse to wear my name tag. I don’t know the customer’s names, so why should they know mine? Stay safe and be bold! 🙂

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  6. Oo — that does make my back bristle just thinking of it. And I agree with you about the etiquette from Miss Manners — I was taught the same, as a well-brought-up Southern girl. And I do use that strategy in social situations also. If I’m introduced to a new man by a friend, I extend my hand first. Men always seem to like this — it takes the pressure off of them. But a woman alone (as you were), accosted by a strange man, who INSISTS on taking her hand? Ha~ He is nothing but a bore! (Sorry, but that’s my impression.) I’m sorry to say I would not have been as compliant as you, and once the idea to NOT shake his hand had entered my mind, I would not have given in. He would have received my “teacher look,” which is a somewhat intimidating look, and I would have folded my hands in my arms. Ah well. I am not a friendly person, in such situations.

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  7. And I can be unfriendly and shake hands. Gretchen, I’m with you…the Woman offers her hand and Only Then does the man offer his…plain, simple, basic manners and, yes, they do matter. As to being too compliant…there are those who say that doesn’t apply to me (grin) but I say I’m still working on not being too compliant and that’s one reason, safety is another, why I live behind a locked gate.
    Some decades ago, I learned the hard way…a man pushed his way into the house, tried to rape/murder me. I survived by jumping out of a second story window. Too bad if someone thinks I’m rude because, frankly my dear, I don’t care. Not anymore.

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