Why So Many Of Us Struggle To Say ‘No’


No. It’s just two letters, but it packs a powerful punch; or at least we think it does, because so many of us are afraid to say it.

For some reason people, and particularly women, are afraid to just say no. We feel the need to justify our response. We feel the need to excuse. We feel the need to sugar coat it, soften it, not offend.

Recently, I was having dinner with my sister and her fiancé. He received a text message from one of his female friends asking his advice about turning down a guy who was inviting her to go “hot tubbing”. I said, “Tell her to say no… It’s pretty simple”. It sounds simple. This woman is 30 years old, and she is afraid to say no because she doesn’t want to insult, offend, piss off, or aggravate some guy she could seemingly couldn’t care less about.

This situation got me thinking… I too have been in similar positions, and I have found myself side stepping turning someone down. I’ve lied and lied and lied with some bullshit story, when the truth is I didn’t want to go. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to go. It could have been the guy was someone I totally wasn’t interested in. It could have been that I was tired. It could have been I had to work super early in the morning. It could have been that Netflix and Thai food sound like a better night. It could have been a million reasons, but it all boils down to the fact, I did not want to go out with this person at this time.

All I had to say is no, but I didn’t.

Why am I, a 32 year old, confident, intelligent, independent person, scared to say no in social settings?

I am quite comfortable saying the “N” word in a professional setting. I don’t even bat an eyelash (extension) saying no. I don’t think twice, and I don’t feel the need to explain myself. So why, when presented with it outside the confines of my office, do I squirm away from a polite declination.

Retaliation… retaliation is a big reason why. I’ve had men who after I politely declined their advances completely lose their shit on me, for lack of a better term. I have been called every single name you could call a woman just because I said ‘No thank you.’

I was called an insecure c**t when asked point blank if the guy was wasting his time and should just move on and I said ‘yes.’

That’s it. I answered his question and it was the wrong answer. The only acceptable answer to him would have been, “Oh my Gosh! I’m so flattered a strapping, lovely, perfect specimen such as yourself would ask lil’ ol’ me out! I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than spend a night stroking your ego… Please, may I get you a sandwich in a French Maid outfit?”

Often times, I take the path of least resistance, which is the ghosting method. It seems egocentric men tend to take a silent rejection better than being told to their face (or phone screen). It doesn’t always work that way, but the odds are better.

Another reason I shy away from saying no is I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Usually people I care about: friends, guys I am on the fence about, guys I really do like, family. Even when we’re not rejecting someone, the need to say no arises, for whatever reason. I can’t stand when someone won’t take no for an answer. When you stand your ground, they are upset with you. They sulk, or won’t respond to you. I find this behavior to be incredibly obnoxious, not to mention childish.

Sometimes, they push you and push you, and you find yourself on the defensive. You find yourself making up reasons why you “can’t” do something, when you don’t have any obligation to defend your response. This whole routine is just exhausting. I find myself cutting these people out of my life, like I’m trying to cut carbs. I don’t need that in my life. No means no. I’ll just stop responding at this point if someone won’t take my initial no for an answer.

I’ve finally started listening to my mother, when she said, “no one ever died of hurt feelings”.

She’s right – we all need to get over it.

I’m working on saying just a simple no these days. I’m working on not justifying or excusing my declinations. I’m working on eliminating people in my life who won’t take no for an answer. It’s freeing. Give it a try sometimes – just say NO!