What We Do When We Want to Say “No”
Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Many of us have a hard time saying “No”. And we have a lot of strategies that we employ when we are put in the position of wanting or needing to say “No”, but we want to avoid doing so. Some of us avoid situations or people who we feel might put us in this position, limiting our activities or movements. Some of us laugh or try to make a joke out of the situation, or toss a word salad to distract from what we’re actually saying.
Some people are so conditioned that saying “No” is unacceptable that they do something my co-author Marcia Baczynski calls “the habitual yes”. “Many people automatically default to saying yes to just about any request. Before there’s even a chance to digest what the question was, that "Yes" is flying out of their mouth."
My strategy to avoid saying the dreaded “No” was always to say “Maybe”. Then I would walk away stressed about the fact that I still had to either say no or do the thing I didn’t want to do. It would weigh heavily on me, and I would be very creative in coming up with excuses that involved me being obligated to do some onerous task. That way when I explained why I was a “No” the person who had asked would have to have sympathy for me. This behaviour was exhausting and demoralizing!
But why do so many of us have a hard time saying “No”? Most people don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings or let others down. Often we fear that a conflict may result, or that there may be retaliation. Some of us have been raised to believe that it is our job to care take everyone around us, or that our needs are not as important as what others want. Perhaps we want others to like us and include us, and fear that they won’t if we say “No”.
Whatever the reason is, for many of us saying “No” is a frightening and intimidating act that we will do almost anything to avoid.
That’s why saying “No” confidently and clearly is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. In the Consent Culture Intro workshop, featured in our upcoming book Creating Consent Culture: A Handbook For Educators, we share fun and interactive exercises that help students to experience and practice saying “No” in a safer environment. Practicing saying no while the stakes are still low is an essential aspect of creating consent.
To learn more about the workshop and the book, visit www.creatingconsentculture.com
Order the book here!