DEAR HARRIETTE: On my daily walk to work, missionaries stand on the sidewalk and attempt to convert anyone they can by handing out pamphlets. I really don't ever want to have conversations about religion, especially at 8:45 in the morning. I have been struggling to find a way to show I do not want to speak to or support them, but I always get lured into a conversation. I don't want to be rude and start a fight, but I also don't want to waste time pretending to be converted on the sidewalk. -- No Chit-Chat, Denver
DEAR NO CHIT-CHAT: It is time for you to toughen up. Just because those missionaries are hanging out on a sidewalk that's part of your daily path, it does not mean that you have to talk to them. You do not even have to make eye contact. There is no rule of social engagement that says that you have to speak to anyone on the street.
That said, it is friendly to acknowledge the people who cross your path. In many cities, the common way of doing this is to smile and sometimes nod your head. You may feel more comfortable doing that rather than averting your eyes. But if one of these missionaries -- or anybody else for that matter -- tries to stop you in your tracks and have a prolonged interaction, just don't do it. Keep walking. You can say, "I don't have time to talk now." You can also tell them that you aren't interested. That is not rude. That is you asserting your rights.