Even women who’ve been around the block a few times, can have trouble saying “no” in some dating situations. Despite the major strides women have made with the women’s movement and equality, many women are still raised to be people-pleasers who don’t know how to say “no.”
Why is that a problem? Why should you say “no?” When we say “yes” to things we don’t want, we can end up over-committed or taking care of others instead of taking care of ourselves. You can become resentful if you often do only what others want because you don’t get what you want. Having trouble saying “no” is a big problem with dating, because it keeps you from getting what you want from men. It also doesn’t work very well in most relationships when you don’t know how to stand up for yourself. When you don’t get your needs met, you can feel unhappy or angry with your partner.
Feminism has added an extra layer of complexity to dating when you have even the slightest tendency to be a people pleaser. Women often don’t stop to think whether they are making choices solely based on feminism instead of figuring out whether their approach will actually work for them in a particular dating situation.
Some women make the case that being equal to men means we should equally take the initiative – and the risks in love. But why is there a “should” in their rationale? Why make decisions based on what is politically correct rather than our own unique feelings? Expecting women to ignore their emotions is denying our individuality — which is actually what the women’s movement was about, not simply saying men and woman are the same. As Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
Feminism isn’t the problem, it’s how we translate it. Being true to yourself is doing what’s best for you, whether others like it or not. When you put yourself first in that way, it may require you to be able to say “no” to a man, your friends, family, or to feminism. This doesn’t mean that saying “no” has to be abrasive. But, if you’re a people-pleaser, it can be hard because somebody may not be happy with you.
Can you say “no” to what you don’t want? Take this simple “yes or no” quiz to find out. For each question, give yourself 1 point if you answer “no.” If you answer “yes,” give yourself 0 points.
- Can you say “no” to another date with a man when you aren’t interested?
- Can you tell your friends that no, you don’t want to be fixed up if you don’t?
- Can you say “no” to a last-minute date?
- Can you say “no” to hanging out if you want to be asked out on a real date?
- Can you say “no” to splitting the check when you secretly hope he will pay?
- Can you say “no” to driving to your date, instead of him driving to you?
- Can you say “no” to calling a man who gives you his card rather than asking for yours when you prefer he call you first?
- Can you say “no” to sex unless you have the commitment you want?
- Can you say “no” to living together if you want marriage?
- Can you say “no” to rescheduling a date if he cancels without a good reason?
Now add up all your points. What is your total score?
If you scored a 4 or more, you may have trouble standing up for yourself.
If you have trouble saying “no,” you might want to explore why it’s a problem for you. Do you think saying “no” in some of these situations is not politically correct? Are you uncomfortable with saying “no”? Are you afraid of conflict or of disappointing people? Are you unsure how to say “no” gracefully? Understanding why you tend to say “yes” can help you make changes.
How do you say no? It’s a good idea to practice saying “no” if you want to get better at it. It can be helpful to start with saying “no” in situations that won’t lead to a lot of conflict, like telling the waiter if your order is wrong. With practice, you can gain more confidence so that you can gradually begin to say “no” in scarier situations. Think of the saying, “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” When you have a smile on your face, it can take the sting out of what you are saying. Try out different ways to say “no” until it feels more natural for you. You can say things like, “No, thanks,” “Not now, but maybe another time,” “I’m not comfortable with that,” or simply, “No.”
Maybe you’re thinking that this is going to be a lot harder than I am making it sound. If this is really hard for you, then start out with something easier like, “I’m not sure how I feel about that” or “I’ll get back to you.” You might want to apologize or explain your reasons for saying “no” if you feel guilty, but that’s not necessary. You can also role-play with a friend and practice saying “no” in different scenarios.
How do you tell someone you’re not interested? There are plenty of nice ways to say “no.” All you have to say is, “It was very nice to meet you. You seem like an interesting man, but I don’t think we’re a match.”
Saying “no” to what you don’t want can be scary sometimes, but it is an important skill to develop in order to get what you do want. If you want to improve your relationships, it is worth the effort to become more comfortable with identifying and communicating what works for you. You can learn how to tell people “no.”
What was your score on the quiz? How difficult is it for you to say “no”? How does it feel to try to say “no” in these situations? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your comments below.