“No”, It is one of the shortest words in English but it seems so seldom used. We have a tendency to skirt around the rejections we give. If someone asks you for a favor, you say, “I wish I could, but now’s not a good time.” If someone asks for a job we say “We decided to go another direction.” It seems as though in an effort to be more polite we find ourselves curtailing the truth of the matter in some cases. Which can be pretty clearly laid out to be a simple disinterest in what is being offered.
But in it’s succinct brevity “No” feels rude. Though it is a defense, it feels like an attack. Negation is an obstacle that for some means defeat, and for others initiates a challenge, not only of the offer but of elements of a person’s identity. We can see that with people who are told know, they want what they are denied even more, unable to accept “no” as an answer. So while there is no more clear way to express a refusal of any kind of offer, there also no more inflammatory. In some ways, a cold flat, “No.” is more incendiary than a”Hell, No!” because the latter expresses somewhat of a finality and emotionality that is harder to contest.
When we are rejected, we often wonder why, and when a rejection can be attributed to a logical reason, it can make sense and be accepted, but it can also signal that some kind of negotiation could assuage whatever concerns are leading to this conclusion. Conversely, personal preference is very difficult to contend with as it is irrational, a refusal of “I don’t want to.” or “I don’t like it.” admits a closed perspective rooted in subjectivity. There is less room to argue with a personal preference, but it also means that there is a value judgment made about the invitation that can be hurtful to the person being rejected.
But should this hurt be acknowledged or apologized for? Do we bear any responsibility for the insecurity, invalidation, and self-consciousness associated with rejection in a world that can seem to be preternaturally antagonistic? If this is the case, it might explain why so many people go out of their way to soften the blows of rejection by so-called “sugar-coating” the bad news. When we get the sense that our refusal to accept an invitation might cause unintended harm, it is not uncommon to issue a disclaimer by stating “nothing personal” or backpedal with a thank you afterwards. By acknowledging that rejection can cause harm we accept some responsibility for the feelings of other people, but in doing so we might also leave ourselves open to insistence by not creating a hard line.
There certainly an art to delivering a rejection, just as there is an art to receiving one.
How are we to know the difference between a failure on the part of the other party to see our value versus, a failure on our part to communicate our value, and what might simply be a mismatch? How can you tell the difference between haters and those offering constructive criticism? This requires a sense of trust that is not always present in our relationships and leads to well-meaning suggestions to generate a mire of resentment.
We will cover this and more as we progress through this month, and we hope that you do not reject us, but if you do, hopefully our investigation will give us the tools to cope with that in a healthy way.
Founder, Citizens Of Culture