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Accepting No As An Answer


Accepting no as an answer….without a fight?

Wow, have I had a hard time learning and accepting this. Like many of us, I could never truly accept a no from somebody. Similar to the stages of grief, I went through my very own personal stages of unwillingness, whenever I was confronted with a “no.” No just wasn’t something to accept.

To me, a no was always negotiable. If I just tried hard enough, I would be able to turn it into something else. Something more along the lines of what I wanted.

If I couldn’t do something, I’d complain.  The other person didn’t want to go to that restaurant or watch that movie with me? I’d start nagging. The other person didn’t see something the way I did? I’d start discussing and justifying. Whenever I heard a no to something that I felt emotionally invested in, I’d get angry and frustrated…

Of course this was not always the case, but it did happen more often thatn I would like to admit.

Until, of course, I changed my reactions to receiving a no.

Before, I tried to force people to want and do the same things that I wanted to do. Often, this worked out just fine. There are always people who enjoy the same movies, restaurants, tasks and outings. However, if somebody did not want to do something according to my agenda, I felt threatened on a very primal level.

I wanted something, and they where hindering me in getting it.

I wanted to have dinner at the new Asian restaurant, my best friend didn’t. Consequently, I couldn’t go to that restaurant.

I wanted to go out to a party, my boyfriend preferred to stay at home. Consequently, I couldn’t go to the party.

I wanted to take the relationship further and fix what we had, he did not want to. Consequently, I tried harder at making it work.

You probably already noticed the flaw in my logic quicker than I did:

I was incapable of hearing somebody else’s truth. Even thought they were giving me an answer, I felt I had to change it. Their no meant I couldn’t do or have something I wanted.

These are of course very random and shallow examples compared to the complexity of life, but you probably have your own examples for when you refused to accept a no and just charged on, either ignoring somebody’s no, or wearing them down until they begrudgingly changed the answer. Or, you have been in the situation where someone else just didn’t want respect your answer and kept trying to force you to change your mind.

When we have an agenda and want something from somebody, it is hard to accept no for an answer.

Come on, please do this for me. Please go there with me. It’s just this one thing, why can’t you visit my parents with me. Why don’t you want to go out to dinner with me? I love the opera, why won’t you come with me? Why can’t I come with you and your friends?

The list is infinite.

We might feel frustrated, irritated, powerless, angry, lonely and disappointed.  We just don’t know what to do anymore.  We have run out of ideas and ways to manipulate and convince the other to change their mind.

So we nag some more. We plead, we shout, we cry, we convince, argue, discuss and try to offer our best points on the subject. Or we change the way we are, how we speak, what we do in order to please the other person. We start overfunctioning, doing or best, degrading ourselves – just so the other person will shift their no to a yes. Even, a maybe would be OK.

I want to be honest with you. I know from my personal experience (and you most probably do too) that this sort of reaction rarely leads to anything good. In fact, most of the time it will lead to ugly fights, bad communication, personal degradation, bad feelings, and annoyance. 

This was my reality for a very long time. However, I have chosen a new way to react since then, which I am going to share with you here.

Cat’s Five Steps To Accepting A No 

  1. I am an open invitation. I enjoy the company and involvement of other people and whenever I feel good about it, I invite them to join me, or participate.
  2. Whenever I am confronted with a “no,” I listen. I listen to why the other person feels that way, or where the no is coming from. Sometimes it is as simple as being too tired, or having something else to do/other priorities.
  3. I accept their answer and do not grovel, beg, or try to convince. They have given me a clear answer and spoken their truth. I wish that people respect my choices and responses, so I respect theirs too.
  4. I say: OK Or : I hear you, thank you for being so honest with me. And then I do my own thing.
  5. I choose my consequence: Depending on the context of the no, there are many ways I can react to it that do not involve the other person. If it is a non-negotiable for me, if the other person is disappointing me over and over again, I might decide to leave the relationship. If they do not want to join me, I can take myself out to dinner, or go to the cinema, or do whatever I had planned. I can decide to take my focus off of the issue and refocus on doing something for myself. Something I love, and feel good about. I can ask somebody else to join me. I can shift the date. I can do whatever feels right, while accepting that the other person does not want to be part of it. 

This list has proven to be applicable to every ‘no’ that I have encountered so far.

Accept the ‘no’ without discussion and trust that you can rely on yourself for support, entertainment and whatever it is you need.

Reclaim your energy and power and give back other people’s right to have an opinion and needs that are different to yours.

However, if you feel strong emotions connected to the ‘no’, express them! Say that you feel lonely, disappointed, upset, or whatever it is you feel. Let the other person know what it means to you, while still accepting their spoken truth.

See what happens.

I have learnt to look at it this way:

Everytime I accept someone else’s no, I am reclaming my power of choice. I can decide what it is that I want to do, how I can pursue my goals, and how to lead a life on my own terms. I am freed from the need to cater to other people’s needs by changing myself for their approval or partnership. 

I can return to being an open invitation to the people I love, while knowing deep inside that I am perfectly fine and capable by myself.

It’s is a beautiful and freeing feeling. You should try it out 🙂

Take care,



Illustration by Cat De Pillar

The Good Enough Creative

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