It’s been a while since I got a very hard, blunt ‘No’ from a dancer. This weekend, I got to re-experience one when I moved outside my normal genres. I approached a guy who was sitting next to the dance floor. I asked him to dance. He looked me dead in the eye and said “no.”
Which is fine; he doesn’t owe me a dance. And, I have no reason to need an explanation for the ‘no’. But, the manner of this particular ‘no’ actually made me think it was sarcastic at first. He looked me dead in the eye with a scowl as he declined the dance. He maintained straight eye contact immediately after the ‘no’, as if judging my reaction.
I pouted at him because that’s how I typically would respond to a sarcastic ‘no’.
My assumption that such a blunt, borderline-hostile ‘no’ was sarcastic may be because I can be a pretty sarcastic person. Had I been a newcomer, that ‘no’ probably would have really hurt. Not because of the ‘no’ itself, but because it was so very blunt. If I were insecure in my skills, a ‘no’ like that could have killed my confidence to ask again.
Why blunt can be hurtful
When people are super, super blunt or mean about a ‘no’, they tend to be more prone to cause hurt. This is because not being at least a little bit polite or kind with the ‘no’ feels like a shut-down.
For the purposes of this article, I am lumping blunt and mean together. Although the intention behind a blunt or mean ‘no’ may differ, the feeling they create in the recipient is very similar. You can have all the good intentions in the world. But, if you are so blunt that it hurts, you are causing unnecessary pain.
For someone who is a seasoned dancer, it may not hurt very much. A small stun, certainly, but not pain. But for a newcomer, very blunt rejection can lead to feelings of not being welcomed or wanted in the scene. This slows the growth of the scene down and creates bad feelings.
The cost of kindness
Kindness is one of the few things we can give that costs us absolutely nothing. Whether it’s a “No, thank you” or smile, there are ways to reject a dance in a way that doesn’t leave the other person feeling stunned or shut down.
Again, nothing of this is against your right to say ‘no’. But, saying it in a mean way is both unnecessary and destructive.
Promoting the right to say “No”
I’m very glad communities are adopting the idea that ‘no’s are OK. It’s healthier for both parties involved. But, as often happens with groups fighting to change the status quo, some adhere so strictly to the idea they are trying to promote that it can undermine their very success.
This is one of those occasions. If you support the right to say ‘no’, I encourage you to promote kindness with that ‘no’. Otherwise, you’re adding fuel to the very reasons some people support the “Always Say ‘Yes'” idea.
You can support the right to say ‘no’, without using that right to discourage or hurt others. The two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive.
Exceptions to the rule
There are some optional exceptions to the ‘be kind’ rule. For example, there is one dancer who followed me to my hotel room and tried to get me to remove my clothes a few years ago. I most certainly give him a straight, and borderline venomous, ‘no’.
Most of the times, exceptions should be people with whom there is a direct conflict, vulnerability, or other issue that makes a kind ‘no’ seem not strong enough.
But, these exceptions should be rare. Even if the person has a very annoying habit (squeezing hands, being off-time, etc) they still should be treated kindly. Please remember that almost no one wants to be a bad social dance partner; some just don’t know they have a problem.
Will you be kind?
Next time that you feel you want to say ‘no’ to a partner, please consider being kind when you say it. That doesn’t mean you have to give an excuse, but it does mean considering the other person’s feelings and doing your best to be polite and kind.
I would much rather have a no than a dance out of a sense of obligation. Those feelings alter the dance so it no longer becomes enjoyable for me. Give me a no, I’ll find someone else or I’ll do a solo!
It’s not about “dont say no,” it’s about being kind when you do say no.
Very well said article on saying no. I teach my female dance partners that it’s ok to say no, that you don’t always have to say yes to everyone that asks you. Especially if you’ve just danced a very fast or long song and need a rest in between. That being polite and kind when declining a dance with someone..IS EVERYTHING!!
Dance offers getting declined happen. The reason (if provided) doesn’t really matter; usually it’s just a need to take a short break. There will be other opportunities later in the night, at the next social, at the next event, etc.
The disappointment from a courteous ‘no’ fades over a short time, the sting from a harsh ‘no’ tends to last and be remembered.
For instance, there is only one ‘no’ that still sticks with me. I asked a lady to dance, whom I was not familiar, nor had ever danced with before (my next question at the time would have been, “would you prefer zouk or salsa?” because I didn’t know if she knew zouk). She looked me down and up with a look on her face as if she was looking at excrement stuck to her shoe, said ‘no’, then turned her nose up and to the side. I was having too good of a time at that congress for that to deflate my mood, but I still remember it.
That was about 4 1/2 years ago, and I still have zero inclination to ask her to dance a second time, to put effort to associate with her when among mutual friends, nor offer any assistance to her.
I feel that everyone has a right to dance with whomever they want to and do not owe anyone an explanation. Absolutely, be polite about it. That being said, I have had many guys persist and want to know “WHY?” when a simple , ‘no, thanks’ isn’t enough for them. Egos get involved. Sometimes friends nudge me, “Aw, go on! Dance with the guy!” Sometimes i do, under duress but sometimes I feel like i have paid my dues and don’t want to dance with the inept guy, the rude guy, the mentally unstable guy. And I have had my share of rejections, too, so I am cautious asking men to dance. They have every right to say ‘no’ to me for their own private reasons. Don’t take it personally, my dancing friends.
This is something I struggle with and my question is: how many no’s mean don’t ask me again? I have been dancing for many years and in my circles probably considered one of the more advanced leads. If someone turns me down in a nice way for whatever reason and I come back later on the same night and get turned down again, I have a hard time going back for a third time even on a different night.
Joel, I know this is late, but my rule of thumb is that if it is a no without further explanation (like “I’m taking a short rest,” or “Maybe a little later,”) then I treat that as a indication to move on for good. If it is without further explanation from someone I’ve danced with before, then I’ll ask again later. In either case, someone saying no two times is enough for me to stop for the night, and unless I’ve danced with them before, I won’t ever ask them again.
I don’t mind a kind no, but then do not get up two seconds later and dance with someone else. That happened to me one time and the girl came back and apologized because she said that was a very good friend and she asked me to dance. No problem with that.
I am a guy, and when a lady say No! and seconds after immediately goes and asks someone, feels pretty awful and creates a really bad feel to it. Then later that same lady goes and stears at you all the time almost sending a message waiting to be asked to dance. What do you do? Someone like me I never ask that person again. Simple explanation is; one you don’t want to feel like stalker, and if once that person kind of pushed you aside once why on earth would you go back and ask that person again regardless if that lady is one pretty sexy good dancer. After all that rejection help me to become one of the best dancers just to show her how stupid she was on misjudging someone with humble personality. I know she now has very stressful time everytime we bump into each others path, and can feel waiting for my call and I know many guys just like me don’t ever ask a lady with that attitude again why? Because there are many girls or ladies that love to dance within a healthy spirit. Those who are just nonsense unpolite and ignorant end up at the end and get what they deserve. There are ways of saying No, and that is never say no, unless you know how to say it according to type of individual and in the most honest way, no hypocritical. The worst of all is saying a blunt No with a lame excuse I’m tired, or I’m resting but just seconds later ask someone else or going to dance with someone else. There may be obvious reasons. But many guys talk to each other and say don’t ask that lady because she says no rudly, and within a sense solidarity that lady would not be asked to dance, because no one likes to be feel like discriminated and have a ruined night just for an unpleasant attitude.
I understand that rejection can hurt. However, you don’t know why that lady said no. I would never obligate someone to say ‘yes’ when they don’t feel like dancing. Sometimes, there’s a specific song, tempo, or connection that a person is not a fan of. So, they don’t dance with that person because they won’t enjoy the dance.
That is their prerogative, whether they are a lead or a follow. Just like it is your prerogative to ask/not ask that person ever again.
Great article. I think that it’s important for people not to say yes out of politeness, but saying no can also be polite if you do it in the right manner.
My philosphy is “I don’t owe anything to anyone and nobody owes me anything.” Instead of trying to change others into saying kind “no”, change (improve) yourself to be able to handle unkind “no”. Also, you don’t really know if it’s truly unkind “no” or it’s just you interpreting it as such.