Used to be when I sat down for a haircut, I’d feel the need to make small talk. I’m not the biggest fan of small talk — but I felt an unspoken obligation to somehow entertain the person cutting my hair. So I’d compulsively chat about the weather, lawn care, freeway traffic patterns, whatever, until the deed was done. In some subtle way, however, I blamed the other person for “making me” talk. Over time, I’d develop a very quiet resentment toward the person performing the service, even though that person may have very well disliked discussing St. Augustine grass as much as I did. And in some small way, I’d walk away from my haircut congratulating myself for being such a socially generous person.
These days, I sit in glorious silence while a brave professional manages my hair. I remain polite, courteous — but I don’t take it on myself to make conversation. I am paying for a service. The other person is providing the service. This is the nature of our contract, the parameters of our relationship. To go above and beyond, I am doing no one any favors. Taking on a burden, seemingly to “make someone else happy,” is just that: a burden.
When you overextend yourself in whatever relationship, negative feelings tend to gain steam over time. “Being nice” does you no good if it leads to resentment. The kindest thing you can do in many situations is to be crystal clear about your personal boundaries. Clear boundaries indicate you are taking responsibility for your own experience.