Recently on the road, a guy had offered to help me with my bike, and he did help a ton. But all day long, he wouldn’t let me do anything, to the point of shooing me away or just nudging me out when it came to doing anything.
“Can’t get too close with that pressure washer!” followed with him taking it out of my hands. Tire needs to come off? “Out of the way, missy!” And somehow we ended up going to a mechanic’s shop and spending $35 to have the guy change a tire I was totally capable of changing myself. I couldn’t find the strength to be more assertive about it because I somehow felt bad, and didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though the shit he was saying and doing made me feel like a complete idiot and totally incompetent.
We’ve all been caught with our mouths agape and our tongues tied when what starts as simply accepting an offer of help turns into a co-opting of things you are perfectly capable of handling alone paired with a large dose of condescension. Finding your voice in such circumstances is the best way out of an uncomfortable situation, and dealing with Mr.Helpful with assertiveness is key.
You’ve already taken the first step, which is recognizing the source of your discomfort and silence: not wanting to hurt his feelings. That’s a common trap for many of us, and completely discounts the reality that he isn’t the least concerned with how you are feeling. Being willing to speak up, despite the fact it feels awkward, is a skill to strengthen. Yes, it will feel mean (it actually isn’t) and you’ll need to be okay with that, knowing it’s in your best interest to confront his actions. Additionally, the type of guy you are describing is less likely to respond with ‘oh, gosh, sorry, I wasn’t thinking!’ and more likely to push back, requiring your voice to be even stronger.
Practicing what to say ahead of time can help, in the same way we mentally rehearse scenarios we might encounter on the bike. Having stock answers can be useful when you are caught off-guard, and they can be as simple as ‘thanks, I’ll take it from here’ to a more humorous ‘it’s my bike, let me make the mistakes’. But if those approaches fail, then further boldness may be necessary, such as ‘I need you to stop right now, and I need you to leave my bike alone.’ It’s most likely not worth it to try to explain why you can do it yourself; simply set the boundary, repeating it clearly, boldly, and without hesitation as often as needed while stepping up to your bike and taking over the repairs.
Accepting that Mr. Helpful may be annoyed by your assertiveness, or feels offended because ‘I only wanted to lend a hand,’ makes it easier to set boundaries. After all, you’re the one that’s going to be riding your bike; shouldn’t you also be the one to take responsibility for making the decisions regarding it?