You Are Not Obligated To Give Your Attention Or Time To Anyone

It isn’t rude to refuse to speak to strangers

Sarah McManus MSc
5 min readMay 29, 2021


A close up of a younger man’s green eyes
Photo by Erik Lucatero on Unsplash

How often do you find yourself listening to to someone who is talking about topics that make you uncomfortable? How many times have you been backed into a corner by someone you don’t really know so they can talk at you?

Customer service woes

A couple of years ago when I worked at a retail store in a popular shopping location, we had a small group of particularly rowdy guys come in. The four of them were approx. mid-thirties and their rough-cut voices filled the shop. This situation wasn’t special in our town, guys like that were usually our best customers money-wise so a few of us hovered nearby, ready to help should they need it. They only began to stand out when, on their first lap of the shop, they paused near my twenty-year-old co-worker to tell her how beautiful they thought she was. She gave a nervous laugh and stepped away from them, leaving them to it. Another customer asked for my help. Those guys did a few more laps of the store, found some footwear they wanted, paid, gave my colleague one last lingering look up and down, and then left.

This situation was already not acceptable, but it was only after they were gone that I learned that that hadn’t been the whole story. In between the uncomfortable moments I’d witnessed, they had actually cornered her in a quiet part of the shop to tell her more about ‘how beautiful’ they found her, and ask questions such as her age, and if she was single. Once I’d ensured that she was OK, aside from feeling nauseated and a little worried about leaving alone when her shift ended, I asked, as carefully as I could, why she had stood and listened to them. I had no intention to victim-blame, but this was a busy store, and not a particularly big one, any of us could be alerted easily or provide a safe place to escape. What she told me in answer was a little heart-breaking,

“I didn’t want to be rude.”

These men, total strangers whom she would never see again, had openly objectified her, asked personal questions, and all around made her workplace feel like an uncomfortable place to be, yet she was concerned with being rude to them by simply walking away, rather than listening. Even…



Sarah McManus MSc

Sarah is a UK-based writer with an MSc in Psychology. She writes about mental health & Neurodiversity. She is also the Owner and Editor of The Blade & Beyond.