The Importance of Saying No

The other day I made a short Facebook post after I commented something similar on my sister’s status. It’s been shared 6 times.  That’s a lot for me.  I figure it must mean that it hits home for many. Here’s the post:

That’s it. It seems simple. It’s not.

Why do we struggle with no? That’s a loaded question. It’s that consent issue again. We are raised to not defy authority. We don’t get consent over our own bodies until we hit puberty, maybe later. We aren’t encouraged, ever, to say no.

Telling someone no means that you are probably going to disappoint them. We all know this. So we say yes when we want to say no.

We teach a lot about how to say no and why it’s important in Cuddle Party, a communication and consent workshop I facilitate. The example we give is that you want to head home on a Friday night, after work, and read the new book you just received. It’s been a busy week and you need something low key. Your friend calls and invites you to this party that they don’t want to go alone to. You are tempted to say yes, because you want to support your friend but you know you really need to stay home. Saying no to your friend is saying yes to yourself.

The other example we give is that if someone asked you if they were headed in the right direction towards Main Street, would you tell them yes if they were really going the wrong way? No. You’d correct them. It is the kind thing to do. In the workshop we say that saying no is really just giving the other person the information they need to navigate their world. It’s kindness.

But why is it kind to tell someone no? We just said that they are going to be disappointed.

Let’s take a Cuddle Party as an example. I really want to cuddle with Pat. I ask Pat if they would be interested in holding each other, face to face. Pat declines my invitation. I’m bummed. I really thought Pat and I had some good energy between us. Did I want Pat to cuddle with me if Pat didn’t want to cuddle with me? No. That’s just awkward. So I move on from Pat. Pat is a no.

Later, I’m standing around the food table and Erin is also standing awkwardly around the food table. We strike up a conversation and I suggest we move to the floor where I can give them a hand massage while we talk. They are an enthusiastic yes! It feels good to give a hand massage to someone who really wants it.

If Pat had reluctantly said yes, that cuddle wouldn’t have felt very good for either of us.

These are very simple examples. But can you see how saying no actually helps both of you?

Let me try another more everyday life example.

You ask your co-worker if they can give you a ride to pick up your car at the end of the workday. It’s all the way across town and they know the traffic will be bad and that 15 minute trip is going to leave them stuck in the car with you for 45 minutes. They think you talk too much and complain about your kids all the time. The idea of having to sit and listen to that is nauseating. But they hate saying no. So they reluctantly say yes. All morning they are dreading the end of the day. By lunch they’ve come up with an excuse why they can’t. So they shoot you an email to say that an emergency came up and they aren’t going to be able to help. Not only do you not see the email right away, but you don’t check your email until you are waiting around by their desk at the end of the day. You didn’t even have time to make other plans. If they had just said no to begin with, you could have found someone who wanted to be a yes. Your co worker went home early to avoid you and feels bad that you were left hanging. A no would have been easier.

You can swap these scenarios out with a million different people in your life. A babysitter. Your mother-in-law. Whomever. We’ve all probably been on both ends of these scenarios. I know I have.

In the bigger picture, saying no is setting boundaries. Something I used to struggle with a lot. This year I’ve seen myself really make great strides at getting better at both setting boundaries but especially in figuring out what those boundaries are.

One thing I still struggle with is hearing no. Especially when it comes from my boyfriend. In the recent instance it felt like rejection. After time to process, I was reminded that his no wasn’t necessarily a no to me, but it was a no to the invitation. More importantly, it was a yes to his needs. In this case, he didn’t want sex, he wanted more sleep. Was I disappointed? Obviously. I had to reach out to friends so someone could tell me it wasn’t rejection and to help me process my feelings and why was I so upset.

Why was I so upset? Baggage. I had that partner that stopped wanting to have sex with me. Remember that? Eventually, the lack of sex wore on our connection. We had to keep de-escalating our relationship. I still consider him a friend but we aren’t anything close to what we were. I think it is just some left over feelings around that.

We all struggle with no. We struggle with saying no. We struggle with hearing no. With practice, we can improve. I promise.

Are you interested in a safe place to practice saying no? Both Cuddle Party and private Cuddlist sessions are a really safe place to explore your no and to hear a no. I’d love to work with you. I also enjoy the practice! 🙂

You can find my next Cuddle Party or book a private session at

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