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Author Topic: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"  (Read 11384 times)

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Dragonflymom

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #30 on: September 09, 2017, 09:54:14 AM »
I think people also need to learn to hear the soft no.  I think even most askers, if they ask "Would you like to split the nachos with me?" and get a response of "Well I was thinking I'd rather order a burger" would take this is a soft no even if the word no isn't directly spoken, and not push for the direct yes or no.  But some people don't, and those people can come across as making pushy or rude requests.   And while I'll ask (a direct ask, not a hint) to split dessert with somebody I'm super comfortable with making a request like that to - like my husband - if he's looking at the menu and saying the cheesecake looks good, I'm not going to even ask if he wants to split a flan with me, since he's made what he wanted clear and I'd take that as a soft no even without actually asking and I don't want to put even subtle pressure on him to do a thing that he doesn't really want, since I know he would do so to make me happy.  And if he says the steak looks good, I'm not even going to ask for him to split a garden burger with me - because I know I'm asking him to do something that he doesn't want and he'd rather have the steak.

I think *that* is what being a guesser is.  Not manipulative hinting, which I never do.   If I really want or need someone to do a thing for me, I'll directly ask - *if* from what I know of the person, I haven't intuited that it's something they are really not going to want to do for me or aren't able to do that for me.   It's instead paying enough attention to the people around us to not ask for something that it's pretty clear they wouldn't really want to do or can't do.  It's listening for the soft no that may not have the direct word no in it, but it's clear the person is saying in their own way that they don't want to do the thing.  It's paying attention to what's going on with people, and not doing something like asking a friend with a back injury to help you move, because you care about them and know they need to heal from their injury.  It's remembering "friend recently got out of the hospital.  He's been using a cane every time I see him.  He's probably not the best person to ask to help clean out my storage shed." or  "Other friend says he's bored all the time, posted on Facebook that if anybody needs any big favors done, to let him know.  And he says he loves helping people move.  I think he's a good person to ask for help moving."  That's what being a guesser is in my view.  Not hinting or manipulating, but "guessing" using social intuition if a favor is possible for the person to do and reasonable to ask of them given their situation, and something they are reasonably likely to do given what you know of them - before doing the direct ask.

And maybe the letter writer is dealing with a little of that too, with these friends.  Where they are refusing to hear a soft no, or pay attention to what she actually wants, and in that case the request does become pushy.  I've had a few situations like that as well.  Like a friend will send me "sheet music" that's not really sheet music - it's lyrics and guitar chords when I don't play guitar - and ask me to learn a song for her to bellydance to.  I give her a soft no "What you sent me isn't actually sheet music like I need with notes and everything, it's lyrics and guitar chords, so this isn't going to work"  I didn't actually say "no" but I think to a polite person the no would be clear and they wouldn't push beyond that.  But she didn't.  She said oh well the song is mostly chords and you can listen to it on youtube and learn it - so instead she doubled down, made an even bigger request - for me to spend hours and hours learning the piece by ear and trying to figure out something to do with chords and my melody instruments.  And I do think that's rude too - to push beyond the polite equivalent of a that won't be possible and instead escalate the request for a favor into something really huge.
"By swallowing evil goats unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach"  Winston Churchill

miranova

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #31 on: September 09, 2017, 10:24:14 AM »
"This salad looks good" is something I might say but then end up getting something else.  It does NOT mean (to me anyway) that I am hinting to you that I don't want to split something else.  That is the problem with these kinds of hints.  Not all of us speak the same hinting language.  You can tell me all day long that I'm supposed to know the hidden meaning there, but since I would never use that sentence myself to mean what you are saying it means, my brain is never going to jump to that conclusion.  Sometimes I say what looks good on the menu simply as a conversation starter or to see if the other person has had it and agreed it was good.  Never to communicate that I am not considering anything else on the menu.

I think we can all agree that asking someone with a bad back to help you move is pretty inconsiderate, and I don't think that has anything to do with hinters/guessers.  That's just common sense.

nutraxfornerves

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #32 on: September 09, 2017, 12:42:00 PM »
Mr. Nutrax was terrible at reading people. Not just something like "I wonder if the salad is big enough to share;" he was oblivious to body language, voice tone subtleties, and just about every other indicator. If I said "Your mother seems really down in the dumps today. I wonder if her arthritis is acting up," he'd reply "Really? How can you tell?" Mom's unusual lack of talkativeness, and her sitting very still in a chair instead of bouncing around offering refreshments didn't register with him. However, he knew he had a problem. "If something is bothering you, " he told me early on, "tell me. I don't know why, but I always miss all the clues."

Back to the OP story. "I would rather die than offend" reminds me of that schoolgirl dynamic where the worst thing you can call someone is "mean." I think some victims of that never outgrow the fear of being told "you are mean" and the subsequent short- or long-term ostracism.

Nutrax
The plural of anecdote is not data

PastryGoddess

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #33 on: September 09, 2017, 01:25:35 PM »
I think people also need to learn to hear the soft no.  I think even most askers, if they ask "Would you like to split the nachos with me?" and get a response of "Well I was thinking I'd rather order a burger" would take this is a soft no even if the word no isn't directly spoken, and not push for the direct yes or no.  But some people don't, and those people can come across as making pushy or rude requests.   And while I'll ask (a direct ask, not a hint) to split dessert with somebody I'm super comfortable with making a request like that to - like my husband - if he's looking at the menu and saying the cheesecake looks good, I'm not going to even ask if he wants to split a flan with me, since he's made what he wanted clear and I'd take that as a soft no even without actually asking and I don't want to put even subtle pressure on him to do a thing that he doesn't really want, since I know he would do so to make me happy.  And if he says the steak looks good, I'm not even going to ask for him to split a garden burger with me - because I know I'm asking him to do something that he doesn't want and he'd rather have the steak.

I think *that* is what being a guesser is.  Not manipulative hinting, which I never do.   If I really want or need someone to do a thing for me, I'll directly ask - *if* from what I know of the person, I haven't intuited that it's something they are really not going to want to do for me or aren't able to do that for me.   It's instead paying enough attention to the people around us to not ask for something that it's pretty clear they wouldn't really want to do or can't do.  It's listening for the soft no that may not have the direct word no in it, but it's clear the person is saying in their own way that they don't want to do the thing.  It's paying attention to what's going on with people, and not doing something like asking a friend with a back injury to help you move, because you care about them and know they need to heal from their injury.  It's remembering "friend recently got out of the hospital.  He's been using a cane every time I see him.  He's probably not the best person to ask to help clean out my storage shed." or  "Other friend says he's bored all the time, posted on Facebook that if anybody needs any big favors done, to let him know.  And he says he loves helping people move.  I think he's a good person to ask for help moving."  That's what being a guesser is in my view.  Not hinting or manipulating, but "guessing" using social intuition if a favor is possible for the person to do and reasonable to ask of them given their situation, and something they are reasonably likely to do given what you know of them - before doing the direct ask.

And maybe the letter writer is dealing with a little of that too, with these friends.  Where they are refusing to hear a soft no, or pay attention to what she actually wants, and in that case the request does become pushy.  I've had a few situations like that as well.  Like a friend will send me "sheet music" that's not really sheet music - it's lyrics and guitar chords when I don't play guitar - and ask me to learn a song for her to bellydance to.  I give her a soft no "What you sent me isn't actually sheet music like I need with notes and everything, it's lyrics and guitar chords, so this isn't going to work"  I didn't actually say "no" but I think to a polite person the no would be clear and they wouldn't push beyond that.  But she didn't.  She said oh well the song is mostly chords and you can listen to it on youtube and learn it - so instead she doubled down, made an even bigger request - for me to spend hours and hours learning the piece by ear and trying to figure out something to do with chords and my melody instruments.  And I do think that's rude too - to push beyond the polite equivalent of a that won't be possible and instead escalate the request for a favor into something really huge.

I'm a direct person, so its helpful to get this view of things.  However, I think if someone doesn't get the hint the first, second, or third time, then it's time to use your words and say no...point blank.  And you do that knowing that you've given them plenty of chances to hear the soft version before bringing the hammer down :)

Also, I think if you know that someone is impervious to hints, it's ok to not hint and be direct from the get go.  My aunt is a hinter/guesser and she gets so frustrated when people keep pushing back.  But its always the same people who do it.  So rather than changing her approach for just those people, she works herself up into frustration and then both parties are upset with themselves and each other. 

gellchom

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #34 on: September 09, 2017, 01:48:37 PM »
I think people also need to learn to hear the soft no ...
... the soft no that may not have the direct word no in it, but it's clear the person is saying in their own way that they don't want to do the thing.   
....
 ... they are refusing to hear a soft no
 I think to a polite person the no would be clear and they wouldn't push beyond that.

 As Miranova points out, though, it's not always that people are refusing to hear a soft no, it's that they just don't hear it, because if they were saying no, they would just say no.  Which is to say, the bolded simply isn't a safe assumption.  To others, it simply isn't "clear."  And it seems rather unfair to brand them as impolite for that.

 Now, it's true that people have different ways of communicating, and the point isn't whether one is right and one is wrong. Rather, the issues are effective communication --  you may be right that everyone "should" learn to hear soft nos, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen and, in the case of the original column, placing blame on others because you didn't communicate clearly to them.  After all, you can say something to someone in crystal clear, eloquent French; but if they don't speak French, you aren't communicating no matter how articulately you spoke.

That's what the original column was all about; the unfair assumption that the other person is perversely refusing to take a hint, or even being a bully, when in fact they just aren't hearing a no, soft or hard, because that is never the way they would say no.  Or in the case of the LW, simply asking at all.

If you feel that people don't pick up on a soft no, then it seems to me, and to Hax as well, evidently, then the thing to do is to find a way of saying a clear but polite no, not to blame them for being bullies or insensitively or even deliberately ignoring what you thought to be a "clear" no.

It just isn't that hard to say no both clearly and nicely -- it doesn't have to mean bringing any hammers down. In the case of the friend with the musical request, for example, perhaps she did not realize, especially if she is not a musician herself, how much work and trouble her request entailed. So you might say something like, "I'm sorry, but that would take much more time than you might realize, and I just can't do it."   

One thing that might help is to remember that someone who is comfortable asking directly for something is probably also very likely to be quite happy hearing a direct no and in fact might definitely prefer it.  While one person is thinking, "For heaven's sake, can't she take a hint?" the other person might be thinking, after several back-and-forths, "For heaven's sake, if she didn't want to do it, why didn't she just say no instead of stringing me along?  Then I could've made other plans two days ago." 

This often comes up when A asks B if they want to come for dinner or go to the theater or something; B says "I don't know; it's a busy week; DH doesn't usually like to do things on Sundays" or something like that, and A takes it at face value and waits for a decision, and by the time A gets a clear no, it's too late to invite anyone else.  Now, I understand that to B, this might have seemed like a clear soft no; but how hard would it have been simply to say, "It sounds like fun, but it's been a busy week; I think we will pass. Maybe another time." 

I am genuinely struggling with why people feel like it would be "offensive," as the LW put it, just to say something like that.

But we've digressed a bit -- the original column wasn't even about deeming people impolite for failing to catch a soft no; it was branding them as bullies for even asking nicely for something reasonable and very minor in the first place.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2017, 01:53:53 PM by gellchom »

NFPwife

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #35 on: September 10, 2017, 08:35:11 PM »
I think people also need to learn to hear the soft no ...
... the soft no that may not have the direct word no in it, but it's clear the person is saying in their own way that they don't want to do the thing.   
....
 ... they are refusing to hear a soft no
 I think to a polite person the no would be clear and they wouldn't push beyond that.

 As Miranova points out, though, it's not always that people are refusing to hear a soft no, it's that they just don't hear it, because if they were saying no, they would just say no.  Which is to say, the bolded simply isn't a safe assumption.  To others, it simply isn't "clear."  And it seems rather unfair to brand them as impolite for that.

 Now, it's true that people have different ways of communicating, and the point isn't whether one is right and one is wrong. Rather, the issues are effective communication --  you may be right that everyone "should" learn to hear soft nos, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen and, in the case of the original column, placing blame on others because you didn't communicate clearly to them.  After all, you can say something to someone in crystal clear, eloquent French; but if they don't speak French, you aren't communicating no matter how articulately you spoke.

That's what the original column was all about; the unfair assumption that the other person is perversely refusing to take a hint, or even being a bully, when in fact they just aren't hearing a no, soft or hard, because that is never the way they would say no.  Or in the case of the LW, simply asking at all.

If you feel that people don't pick up on a soft no, then it seems to me, and to Hax as well, evidently, then the thing to do is to find a way of saying a clear but polite no, not to blame them for being bullies or insensitively or even deliberately ignoring what you thought to be a "clear" no.

It just isn't that hard to say no both clearly and nicely -- it doesn't have to mean bringing any hammers down. In the case of the friend with the musical request, for example, perhaps she did not realize, especially if she is not a musician herself, how much work and trouble her request entailed. So you might say something like, "I'm sorry, but that would take much more time than you might realize, and I just can't do it."   

One thing that might help is to remember that someone who is comfortable asking directly for something is probably also very likely to be quite happy hearing a direct no and in fact might definitely prefer it.  While one person is thinking, "For heaven's sake, can't she take a hint?" the other person might be thinking, after several back-and-forths, "For heaven's sake, if she didn't want to do it, why didn't she just say no instead of stringing me along?  Then I could've made other plans two days ago." 

This often comes up when A asks B if they want to come for dinner or go to the theater or something; B says "I don't know; it's a busy week; DH doesn't usually like to do things on Sundays" or something like that, and A takes it at face value and waits for a decision, and by the time A gets a clear no, it's too late to invite anyone else.  Now, I understand that to B, this might have seemed like a clear soft no; but how hard would it have been simply to say, "It sounds like fun, but it's been a busy week; I think we will pass. Maybe another time." 

I am genuinely struggling with why people feel like it would be "offensive," as the LW put it, just to say something like that.

But we've digressed a bit -- the original column wasn't even about deeming people impolite for failing to catch a soft no; it was branding them as bullies for even asking nicely for something reasonable and very minor in the first place.

As someone who is direct and really dislikes hinting and meta-level communication, I definitely prefer a direct "No." I don't even need/ want a reason.

Your example is so perfect gellchom. That kind of response is what I call "information instead of answer" I don't consider it a soft no although the person communicating it might. When I get "information instead of answer" I push for a final answer. To the example, I'd say, "So, is that a yes or no? I need to purchase tickets/ make reservations, etc. If you need to check with your husband, let me know by (deadline)."

I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC. Oops. I learned from that person that when something seems out of left field, I should probably seek clarification. 

gellchom

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #36 on: September 10, 2017, 10:46:25 PM »
I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC.

I'm just baffled by that story -- she even felt she had to hint for that?  For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone, no matter how reticent, could think that saying something like "I'm getting kind of chilly; would you mind if we turned down the A/C a bit?" could be received by considered by anyone, "direct" or "indirect," as offensive, bullying, rude, pushy, or anything other than completely reasonable and perfectly polite.

If it's on the theory that you shouldn't ask directly because you don't want your friend to feel obliged to say yes, then in this case I think that that is what's offensive -- it's insulting to your friend to imply that they might prefer to let you sit there and freeze.

Kiwipinball

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #37 on: September 11, 2017, 07:15:13 AM »
I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC.

I'm just baffled by that story -- she even felt she had to hint for that?  For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone, no matter how reticent, could think that saying something like "I'm getting kind of chilly; would you mind if we turned down the A/C a bit?" could be received by considered by anyone, "direct" or "indirect," as offensive, bullying, rude, pushy, or anything other than completely reasonable and perfectly polite.

If it's on the theory that you shouldn't ask directly because you don't want your friend to feel obliged to say yes, then in this case I think that that is what's offensive -- it's insulting to your friend to imply that they might prefer to let you sit there and freeze.

I also can't believe that someone thinks it's bullying to ask someone else to share a dish (obviously what the nacho person did was ridiculous - she needs to get over herself). Temperature would more directly affect both people, so that could be more problematic. But if the driver needs it at that temp, there are still things that can be done - aiming vents different ways, perhaps there are 2 sided climate control, offering a jacket or something like that. But I'm a direct person (in most stuff) so the failure to be able to ask directly is always a little baffling to me. I've also gotten caught (I've realized much later) by people who thought I was hinting about something when I was really just making conversation.

NFPwife

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #38 on: September 11, 2017, 08:45:06 AM »
I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC.

I'm just baffled by that story -- she even felt she had to hint for that?  For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone, no matter how reticent, could think that saying something like "I'm getting kind of chilly; would you mind if we turned down the A/C a bit?" could be received by considered by anyone, "direct" or "indirect," as offensive, bullying, rude, pushy, or anything other than completely reasonable and perfectly polite.

If it's on the theory that you shouldn't ask directly because you don't want your friend to feel obliged to say yes, then in this case I think that that is what's offensive -- it's insulting to your friend to imply that they might prefer to let you sit there and freeze.

It was baffling! I figured it out years later, when I was in a cross cultural training and the presenters were talking about how, in their culture, one wouldn't say it was too chilly or too warm in your home if they were visiting. Instead they would say, "My hasn't the weather been X lately?" I almost fell out of my chair because, while the person in the car wasn't of that culture, that was almost what she'd said, verbatim. So I asked the person we have in common about it, and, he said, "Yes, she wanted you to adjust the air." Years later, I saw her do the same thing when I was a passenger in the car.

(I had to write a reaction paper for that training and the moderator loved the story --she made a comment that a person in her life would have said, "What is this a rolling morgue?" if she wanted the air adjusted.)


pattycake

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #39 on: September 11, 2017, 10:06:14 AM »
I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC.

I'm just baffled by that story -- she even felt she had to hint for that?  For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone, no matter how reticent, could think that saying something like "I'm getting kind of chilly; would you mind if we turned down the A/C a bit?" could be received by considered by anyone, "direct" or "indirect," as offensive, bullying, rude, pushy, or anything other than completely reasonable and perfectly polite.

If it's on the theory that you shouldn't ask directly because you don't want your friend to feel obliged to say yes, then in this case I think that that is what's offensive -- it's insulting to your friend to imply that they might prefer to let you sit there and freeze.

It was baffling! I figured it out years later, when I was in a cross cultural training and the presenters were talking about how, in their culture, one wouldn't say it was too chilly or too warm in your home if they were visiting. Instead they would say, "My hasn't the weather been X lately?" I almost fell out of my chair because, while the person in the car wasn't of that culture, that was almost what she'd said, verbatim. So I asked the person we have in common about it, and, he said, "Yes, she wanted you to adjust the air." Years later, I saw her do the same thing when I was a passenger in the car.

(I had to write a reaction paper for that training and the moderator loved the story --she made a comment that a person in her life would have said, "What is this a rolling morgue?" if she wanted the air adjusted.)

I have sort of the opposite problem which is when I take things in my own hands and adjust the vents on my, the passenger, side, the drivers jump to turn the a/c down! I am not hinting at all, I just don't like the air blowing right on me! But I will ask the driver if it can be turned down if it's too cold (even in my friend's van that has individual driver/passenger controls, because I can never remember how to do it.)

TootsNYC

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #40 on: September 11, 2017, 06:51:46 PM »

(I had to write a reaction paper for that training and the moderator loved the story --she made a comment that a person in her life would have said, "What is this a rolling morgue?" if she wanted the air adjusted.)

That would have been a heck of a lot clearer!

NFPwife

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #41 on: September 12, 2017, 12:25:22 PM »

(I had to write a reaction paper for that training and the moderator loved the story --she made a comment that a person in her life would have said, "What is this a rolling morgue?" if she wanted the air adjusted.)

That would have been a heck of a lot clearer!

I would have preferred it, especially as it wouldn't have taken me years, and a cross cultural training, to figure out!

Lexophile

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #42 on: September 13, 2017, 12:28:38 PM »
I had a co-worker who I also hung out with socially, and she was used to me going along with just doing whatever she wanted.

I started to resent being strong-armed into going to the nearest dive bar every time we went out or seeing whatever movie she wanted to see or staying out later because she wasn't ready to go home yet.

She asked me to come along for a trial visit to a gym that was local to her (not so local to me), and I figured what the heck, it was a free visit and I wasn't doing anything that day. I made up my mind beforehand though that the gym was too far away for me to join as a regular member.

She was furious with me when the membership rep offered us a discount on two memberships and I declined. I shrugged and just said, "Well, this isn't going to work for me." I was surprised at how easy it was and how much better I felt for just expressing myself. I learned an important lesson that day about not giving in to others' demands and the rewards it can bring.

We didn't go out together much after that, but I found I was perfectly fine with that because it left me more time to be with friends who did things I liked to do.
"Submission to what people call their 'lot' is simply ignoble. If your lot makes you cry and be wretched, get rid of it and take another." - Elizabeth von Arnim

miranova

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2017, 01:16:33 PM »
I think people also need to learn to hear the soft no ...
... the soft no that may not have the direct word no in it, but it's clear the person is saying in their own way that they don't want to do the thing.   
....
 ... they are refusing to hear a soft no
 I think to a polite person the no would be clear and they wouldn't push beyond that.

 As Miranova points out, though, it's not always that people are refusing to hear a soft no, it's that they just don't hear it, because if they were saying no, they would just say no.  Which is to say, the bolded simply isn't a safe assumption.  To others, it simply isn't "clear."  And it seems rather unfair to brand them as impolite for that.

 Now, it's true that people have different ways of communicating, and the point isn't whether one is right and one is wrong. Rather, the issues are effective communication --  you may be right that everyone "should" learn to hear soft nos, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen and, in the case of the original column, placing blame on others because you didn't communicate clearly to them.  After all, you can say something to someone in crystal clear, eloquent French; but if they don't speak French, you aren't communicating no matter how articulately you spoke.

That's what the original column was all about; the unfair assumption that the other person is perversely refusing to take a hint, or even being a bully, when in fact they just aren't hearing a no, soft or hard, because that is never the way they would say no.  Or in the case of the LW, simply asking at all.

If you feel that people don't pick up on a soft no, then it seems to me, and to Hax as well, evidently, then the thing to do is to find a way of saying a clear but polite no, not to blame them for being bullies or insensitively or even deliberately ignoring what you thought to be a "clear" no.

It just isn't that hard to say no both clearly and nicely -- it doesn't have to mean bringing any hammers down. In the case of the friend with the musical request, for example, perhaps she did not realize, especially if she is not a musician herself, how much work and trouble her request entailed. So you might say something like, "I'm sorry, but that would take much more time than you might realize, and I just can't do it."   

One thing that might help is to remember that someone who is comfortable asking directly for something is probably also very likely to be quite happy hearing a direct no and in fact might definitely prefer it.  While one person is thinking, "For heaven's sake, can't she take a hint?" the other person might be thinking, after several back-and-forths, "For heaven's sake, if she didn't want to do it, why didn't she just say no instead of stringing me along?  Then I could've made other plans two days ago." 

This often comes up when A asks B if they want to come for dinner or go to the theater or something; B says "I don't know; it's a busy week; DH doesn't usually like to do things on Sundays" or something like that, and A takes it at face value and waits for a decision, and by the time A gets a clear no, it's too late to invite anyone else.  Now, I understand that to B, this might have seemed like a clear soft no; but how hard would it have been simply to say, "It sounds like fun, but it's been a busy week; I think we will pass. Maybe another time." 

I am genuinely struggling with why people feel like it would be "offensive," as the LW put it, just to say something like that.

But we've digressed a bit -- the original column wasn't even about deeming people impolite for failing to catch a soft no; it was branding them as bullies for even asking nicely for something reasonable and very minor in the first place.

As someone who is direct and really dislikes hinting and meta-level communication, I definitely prefer a direct "No." I don't even need/ want a reason.



I had a hinter/ indirect communicator in my car, in the middle of August, and she said, apropos of nothing, "We've been having such chilly weather lately, haven't we?" I remember thinking "What? No, we haven't. It's been blazing hot." I said something like, "Um, I guess?" Then, I realized, much, much later that that was her way of asking me to adjust the AC. Oops. I learned from that person that when something seems out of left field, I should probably seek clarification.

You reminded me of an example from my father in law.  A while back he said he wanted to show me some things he had bought at a yard sale.  So he started showing me a bunch of candle snuffers (I think that's what they are called, to extinguish a candle).  I was being polite and saying nice things about his finds, but was sort of confused why he suddenly decided to show them to me.  Later, my mother in law pulled me aside and said "he was trying to give one of those to you, but you wouldn't say which one you wanted".  WHAT?   I give up.

gellchom

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Re: Carolyn Hax on "I don't like to say no" = "You are rude to ask"
« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2017, 04:51:43 PM »
LOL -- I was kind of in the LW's position this week!

I took my MIL out to lunch, and the server asked her if she would like fries with her hamburger.  She looked up at me and said, "Are you going to eat some?"  I said, "No, thanks, but you go ahead and get them -- you don't have to eat them all."  She said, "Then I won't have them."

It irritated me at the time, not because I felt bullied (I didn't), but because she really wanted the fries, but she wouldn't own it; she wanted it to be my responsibility either for her to consume the calories or for her to go without the fries.  She does that a lot ("Didn't you want to stop for dessert?"  "Gellchom must be tired and want to leave now" "DH probably isn't in the mood for Chinese food" when it is clear to one and all that she is the one who wants dessert/to leave/Italian food).  I don't understand it, because it's never anything anyone would mind a bit her asking for directly or think less of her for wanting.  And she is very much a "direct," not a hinter, generally -- it's only when it's something she doesn't want to admit (perhaps to herself) wanting.

But, to her credit, she didn't sulk about those fries.  So in the end it worked out fine: she asked, I said no, she made her choice, and she lived with it without recrimination.

And I will try to take it as a learning opportunity not to let myself feel manipulated, by "translating" and pretending she is asking directly rather than digging in my heels and pretending I don't hear what she wants.  (She is almost 90, so we are not in a situation where I'm worrying about reinforcing the manipulation by complying; she isn't going to change whether I do or don't.)

Next time I might even say, "Sure, let's share the fries" and then just not eat any if I don't want them.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 04:53:27 PM by gellchom »