Posts Tagged ‘The Dance of Anger’

How to say NO. Hint: You don’t have to explain yourself

November 29, 2021
Aaaaa, do you see the light when answering NO?

“Watch for any kind of defensiveness within yourself. What are you defending? An illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Many years ago, I saw someone with the habit of needing to explain himself on the game show You Bet Your Life. Long before his scandalous lifestyle was revealed, host Bill Cosby asked a contestant if his mother ever made a certain recipe indigenous to his home country. The guy went into a long harangue ending with his mother didn’t.

Mr. Cosby replied that a simple no would’ve sufficed.


I had a lesson in discernment. I gave fuel for discussion when a simple no would have sufficed.

A friend stumbled with words while asking me for a favor. Actually, I had to state the question because, after telling me a long, explanatory backstory, the favor was implied but never asked.

I immediately knew my answer. However, opting to practice diplomacy and restraint instead of blurting out a flabbergasting, “Are you nuts? That doesn’t work on so many levels,” I said I would get back with my decision.

Later that day, life provided an incident illustrating that to fulfill the request wasn’t a good idea. The next day, while sharing what happened, I segued into declining the request siting my recent experience as an illustration of why I didn’t want to do what was asked.

My answer was challenged. Although I didn’t defend myself, I listened to how a simple “no” would have been okay, but my reason wasn’t acceptable because it wasn’t believed.

It made no sense to elaborate my why because the question wouldn’t have been posed if it were looked at more deeply by her in the first place. A favor was requested, not a dissertation.

Furthermore, experience has taught me that introducing logic when someone is emotional rarely promotes clear communication.

Upon reflection, I learned several lessons.

  1. Keep it simple. If I said, “No, it doesn’t work for me,” I could’ve avoided her rant. There wouldn’t have been fuel for rebuttal.
  2. Use discernment. Historically, my observation of this person’s emotional state in the past was a clue that my decision to explain even a little wasn’t a good call. Additionally, the favor wouldn’t have been asked if this person knew better. To someone closer to me, I might have shared more of my thoughts. Even though life provided me with my validation, I didn’t have to share it.

“Expecting healthy behavior from unhealthy people is futile; expecting different results from the same behaviors, according to Earnie Larsen, is insane.”

 Melodie Beatty, Codependent No More

(Yikes. I would add, we have to admit to ourselves that they have unhealthy behavior. In the past, I often, way too often, choosing to see the best in people, wouldn’t allow myself to see that.)

3. Don’t tiptoe around people’s emotions. I was tired of dealing with anger and sensitivity, so I listened to but didn’t stop the rant. By not drawing the line, I gave away my power to her. Why should I tiptoe around others because they might get upset?  It’s not my responsibility to take care of others’ emotions as long as I’m not dumping mine on them. I didn’t exercise my option to stop the rant and say, “My answer is no, and it’s not up for discussion.”

4. There’s no need to defend my choices and beliefs. On the bright side, I didn’t inwardly react or feel the need to elaborate on my reasoning upon demand. By not reacting, I observed more dynamics of the interaction.

“Even if you don’t hold your ground, moving differently in a relationship is the best way to learn about your own self and the relationship. Only after you begin to change a relationship can you really see it.”

 Harriet Goldhor Lerner, The Dance of Anger

Tired of giving away your power, even though you might
not realze that’s what you’re doing? Contact me at:
virginia@soulgoals.com

I work with people who choose to share
their gifts or business in a BIGGER way
but don’t know how, feel stuck or could 
use new tools or support.

I help them ignite their Soul’s goals
and be richly compensated doing what
they love.

Originally posted as an excerpt from my Soulgoal Missive a long time ago.

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