Darren McGarvey: It's hard to say '˜no' when you're desperate to be liked

Last Monday, having fastened my slippery one-year-old into his pram while throwing a packed rucksack over my shoulder, a random phone call from a benevolent, thoughtful double-glazing window company was the first minor derailment of the day.

A double-glazing salesmans pitch was almost enough to persuade a cultural terrorist to spend £9000 on new windows. Picture: Getty
A double-glazing salesmans pitch was almost enough to persuade a cultural terrorist to spend £9000 on new windows. Picture: Getty

I get so many nuisance calls that this should have been no different. All that was required was a polite but stern “No, thanks. Have a good day.” Except, this time, the salesperson was not fishing around to see if I had recently been injured in a road accident, or miss-sold payment protection insurance. On this rare occasion, they were selling something I needed: windows that don’t make my house look like the set of Prisoner Cell-block H.

The woman, who sounded like she was reading something hastily scrawled across an Etch A Sketch, also claimed I would be entitled to a significant discount if my windows were deemed unsafe or environmentally unfriendly. So keen to be seen taking the domestic initiative by my adoring partner, I expressed a vague interest in their offer and asked for a letter to be posted out. “Oh, we don’t post letters, but we can send someone round to your home.”

How convenient.

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Before I knew it, I had agreed to a consultation later that night, thus bookending my already jam-packed day with two unnecessary conversations about windows I couldn’t afford to buy. All because I wanted to please my partner and a lady I’d never met on the phone.

It’s not the first time I’ve paid a price for not being able to say “no”. I did it before with a pair of spectacles. Having chosen the frames I wanted, I was only notified of the astronomical price at the till – in front of a queue of middle class people who don’t need to know how much something is before they buy it. Rather than say simply “sorry, but £165 for one pair of glasses is a little out of my price range”, I just handed over my bank card, not wanting to inconvenience anyone.

Sometimes, I just can’t bring myself to say “No”. Sure, it’s nice to oblige people out of a sense of duty or to be polite, but a part of me wants so much to please other people, to be useful, helpful and give my time to others, that I agree to things without giving it a second thought.

And as with everything, there is a selfish interior to the reasoning. Beneath the generous veneer lurks a vain hope that I can simultaneously provide some sort of minor public good while also being well regarded as a person.

But this behaviour is exhausting and always ends up producing the exact opposite effect than I intend: me, too tired and bent out of shape to do anything, withdrawing from society to lick my wounds, with a trail of last-minute cancellations in my wake.

I don’t know about you guys, but phones, email and social media make me far too available. On any given day, I can receive anything up to 20 messages from different people, with different questions that require non-standard responses.

This desire not to upset, offend or put certain people out can become so extreme that it grinds my life to a shuddering halt; requiring a few days of complete isolation just to regroup mentally. But last week, it almost led to me agreeing to buy £18,000 worth of double-glazed windows.

8pm that night, a well-dressed, charismatic, earnest looking gentlemen arrived at my home, armed with only the brass in his neck and every sales-trick in the book. Business cards, bits of windows to wheel out like little exhibits, leaflets and, of course, a deal that he can only do that night.

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After tea and a chat, he measured all the windows and doors, then tallied up the price to £18,000. The caveat being that he had the authority to knock it down to nine grand – as long as we signed the contract there and then.

Yet still, despite every alarm bell in my head ringing out “No, no, no”, there was a part of me that just wanted to be liked by this aggressive capitalist, whose pitch was irrefutably dazzling.

There I was, a self-proclaimed cultural terrorist, who doesn’t take crap off anyone, sitting on a couch my uncle gave me because I couldn’t afford a new one, sandwiched between my partner and a very charming, hardworking double-glazing window salesman who just seemed too nice to turn down.

Really, I just wanted them both to like me, to think highly of me, for different reasons, so down the rabbit-hole of self-validation I descended.

“Maybe, if I buy these windows”, I reasoned, “my partner will think more of me and it will bring us closer together.” In turn, by pleasing her, this nice wee salesman will also get a kick-back as he approaches retirement. How thoughtful and considerate of me.

Luckily, we managed to get the guy out the house moments before my impulse control problem set us back half a decade. But the reprieve was short-lived, because its suddenly Monday again and all week I’ll be chasing my tail, hoping people think well of me. So, I can only apologise for the lack of an epiphanic conclusion or passionate call-to-action in this week’s column, but I haven’t the time to reach one. I’ve got a thing I had to be at half an hour ago, that I said “Yes, of course” to without really considering. Not because it was a valuable, kind or generous thing to do, but because I didn’t want anybody to think I’m a bad person.

lDarren McGarvey is also known as Loki, a Scottish rapper and social ­commentator @lokiscottishrap