You’ve been staring at a young lady across the crowded room for the better part of 10 minutes, but she has shyly looked away every time you try to achieve eye contact. You approach her, in a manner you feel is polite, ask if she cares for a drink, she meekly says no.
How do you handle the situation? Would you smile your charming smirk and ask again, thinking she is playing hard-to-get? Would you remain in her area letting her know you came over just for her? Or would you respect her ‘no’ and go back to your seat?
We, sadly, live in a society where ‘no’ is not valued. Men and women alike are taught that playing hard-to-get is widely celebrated and a fun game. No matter how a person says no, it should be heard and valued.
Many women and men find their no’s are worn down until they mean nothing, like repeatedly asking if the woman at the bar wants a drink. She finally thinks if she says yes to the drink the person may finally leave her alone. Her initial ‘no’ now means even less to the person asking to buy her drink. They now think they can ask for more: her time, the seat next to her, her number, her body. She doesn’t owe anyone anything for that drink that was forced onto her. Her initial no should have been respected.
I have had my no questioned more than once. When I was younger, it felt as if my no was my shield made of wood that hostile men could simply bash through. I’d like to think my ‘no’ is now on par with being an adamantium shield, resistant to nearly any amount of fierce weaponry. The thing is, a ‘no’ shouldn’t be an invitation for battle. No one should live in fear of their no not meaning no. No is powerful; no is functional. No is not my way of breaking you down; it’s my way of guarding myself, it’s my freedom. I choose no. You cannot choose to break my no. You need to respect my no, and I yours.
This isn’t just valid in the dating world or the bar scene, either; it goes for all elements of society and different situations. There are some situations I feel more comfortable saying no than in others. We are taught not only that our no means little, but that we should also feel guilty about it. That man was just trying to be pleasant, why didn’t you say yes? I’ve been in situations where my panic and my guilt were simultaneously alerting me. Panic to say no because I was totally uncomfortable but guilt because how would I look saying no to this guy that’s assuming the presence of nice and charming?
In order to respect your own no, it requires constant dedication to it. Practicing it. Believing it. You can begin this process by being diplomatic in everyday life. Learn how to turn down your family or friends’ invitations to a dinner that you know you can’t attend. It isn’t your fault you cannot attend, et cetera, so simply say no. Keep your answer clear and concise. As they are your family or friends, this provides a safer place when or if they ask why you cannot attend. At this point, keep your answers short and to the point. Remember you don’t owe explanations for your no.
In an open space, with strangers, refuse to be interrupted. If you begin to say “no, thank you” and the person cuts you off with a reason why you should say yes, firmly say ‘no’ again. If the person is sounding hostile, turn away, move away, alert someone. Your no needs to be respected.
It is a good idea to learn strong body language, hold your posture well, try to look them in the eye and speak clearly. This can be ridiculously difficult. People with shyer demeanors, those who are adverse to social situations, or those who have anxiety can find this world-shatteringly hard. Even with intimidating and extroverted people it can prove trying.
With these issues and damn near every form of media telling men that women like playing hard-to-get it can be really frustrating—in both practicing your no and having your no flung back at you like a game. Constant vigilance, as Mad Eye Moody would say! Sometimes it’s really disheartening but do try to remember your no is valid, and although you might need to practice it, you don’t need to fight for it. Your no is your right and should be respected.