One thing about what age it becomes acceptable to swear: It can vary not just depending on location, it can also vary depending on your gender and disability status, and possibly other things i know less about. if you are female and/or disabled, people may want to preserve your “innocence” and may have a bad reaction to you swearing at a later age than they would if you were an able-bodied, neurotypical male. This is especially true for severely disabled people, regardless of gender.
Some scary controlling people will tell you over and over how important consent is to them. They will tell you that they want to respect your boundaries, and that if anything makes you uncomfortable, they will stop. They will say this over and over, apparently sincerely.
Until you actually say no.
And then, suddenly, they create a reason that it wasn’t ok, after all, and that you’re going to do what they wanted anyway.
They will tell you that it *would* be ok to say no, and that of course they’d respect it, but you said it wrong. And that you have to understand that it hurts them when you say it that way. (And that you should make it better by doing what they wanted).
Or they will tell you that of course they don’t want to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but you said yes before. And that this means that either it’s really ok with you, or that you don’t trust them anymore. And that you have to understand that it hurts when you withdraw trust like that (and that you should make it better by doing what they wanted.)
Or that they have a headache. Or that they just can’t deal with it right now. That maybe when they feel better or aren’t tired or grumpy or had a better day it will be ok to say no. (And that meanwhile, you should fix things by doing what they wanted).
Or that by saying no, you’re accusing them of being an awful person. And that they’d never do anything to hurt you, so why are you making accusations like that? (And, implicitly, that you should fix it by doing what they wanted.)
If this kind of thing happens every time you say no, things are really wrong.
No isn’t a theoretical construct. In mutually respectful relationships, people say no to each other often, and it’s not a big deal
Sometimes, people that I think of as close friends because of how long I’ve known them and the things they’ve helped me with decide to totally cut me out of their lives without warning and without explaining why they’ve done it. I can’t become a better friend or person if they don’t tell me what’s wrong, so what am I supposed to do in situations like this? It hurts and leaves me distrustful of everyone for a long time whenever it happens.
- It’s really hard for people to say no to you because of the way you react when other people don’t want what you want
- But you have a lot of really good qualities, and people like you a lot
- So, in the medium term, people put up with not being allowed to have appropriate boundaries so they can be around you
- But, eventually, this becomes intolerable
- And when people reach the point of not being willing to put up with it anymore, they’re not inclined to discuss it with you
- Because it would involve having the kind of confrontation they’ve spent your whole relationship carefully avoiding
- For instance, if you want a friend to go to a movie with you, and they say they don’t want to see that one, can you see that as ok, or does it always feel like a betrayal?
- When you invite your friends to so something, and they’re busy or have conflicting plans, can you see that as ok, or does it always feel like a betrayal?
- Friends don’t always want to do the same things, and it’s normal for friends to say no to suggestions for getting together. If it *always* upsets you, there’s a problem.
- There are legitimate reasons to be upset when friends don’t want to do something, (or especially when friends cancel plans without a good reason.) But if you’re *always* upset when friends say no to things you suggest, there’s probably a problem with your expectations.
Can you think of recent examples in which a long-term friend said no to you, and you didn’t get upset?
- If not, it’s likely that you have problems accepting no for an answer
- Because friends say no to each other all the time for all kinds of good and even important reasons
- And that’s part of what maintains good relationships and allows people to try new things
- In good friendships, people can and do say no to each other regularly.
- If when your friends say no, they almost always apologize, back down, and do what you wanted, something is wrong
- Friends need to be able to say no. Friends need to be able to hear no.
- It’s ok if sometimes it turns out that something was more important to you than your friend initially realized, and your friend changed their mind once they realized.
- But if that happens all or most of the time, it’s an indication that you probably should work on learning to take no for an answer
- If this is happening with all or most of your friends, you’re probably making it difficult for people to say no to you, and that’s probably making it hard for you to maintain relationships.
- (Not an absolute indication, because it’s also possible that a lot of people in your life have trouble saying no for reasons that have nothing to do with you. But if you notice this pattern, it’s worth seeing if there’s something you can do about it.)
- If you ask for a lot of favors and almost no one you consider to be a friend ever says no, that’s a sign that something might be wrong
- Because there are a lot of things that it’s ok to ask but not ok to assume the answer will be yes
- And if your friends don’t ever say no, it’s very likely that it’s because they feel like they can’t
- If people who do say no tend to end up crying, apologizing, and doing the thing you asked them to do anyway, that’s a serious red flag
- It might be that your friends are manipulative and like to make you feel bad about asking for things, and don’t like to say no – that’s a thing that happens, and a possibility that it’s important to take seriously
- But it also might be that you’ve made it really difficult to say no, and that it’s causing relationship problems, and it’s also important to take that possibility seriously
How do you react when your friends don’t want to share some aspects of their life? For instance:
- Do you expect to meet your friend’s coworkers and get hurt and offended if this doesn’t happen?
- Do you get upset if your friends don’t want to answer intimate questions about their sex life?
- Do you get angry if your friends don’t want your advice about their personal life?
- Do you expect your friends to listen to your theories about their medical condition and follow your plan of treatment?
- If you’re having these kinds of reactions, something is wrong.
- Friends don’t share everything with friends, and people have the right to keep their private life private, even if their friends want to be part of it.
- Friends also have the right to have other social relationships that not all of their friends are included in (There’s a good article on Geek Social Fallacies that explains why).
When you apologize, does it usually result in you getting your way?
- A real apology means acknowledging that you have done something wrong, that you’ve stopped doing that thing, and that you will try your best not to do it again in the future
- There are other kinds of apologies that are more about either manipulating others or submitting to someone’s power over you
- There are all kinds of situations in which using those are legitimate, but not between close friends. Apologies between close friends should be genuine.
- Some kinds of apologies are really about making it hard for people to tell you when you’re hurting them
- I wrote about that some before
- If when you apologize in your personal life, people tend to feel guilty for making you feel bad, and then do what you wanted anyway, something is wrong
If any of this sounds like you, it’s probably really important that you work on learning to take no for an answer. Other people, even friends who care about you very much, have all kinds of legitimate reasons to say no to you. If you can accept that as an inevitable part of a relationship, it will make it a lot easier to have and keep mutually good relationships going.
As I said, I don’t know you, and it may well be that this isn’t the problem, or that it isn’t the main problem. But this is a very common problem, and it might be worth considering.
People will try to tell you that you can do things you can’t do.
It’s hard to insist that no, you can’t do them. Or that you can’t do them safely. Or that you can’t do them without using up all your spoons and losing the capacity to do things that are more important.
They will tell you that this is giving up, or being lazy. They will tell you this with their words and their body language. And by pretending that you have not said anything, and just refusing to take into account your actual abilities.
They will tell you this with hate. They will tell you this with good intentions. They will tell you this as concern trolls and terrified parents.
Sometimes, in that situation, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t allowed to say no until you’ve run yourself into the ground trying, or until you’ve tried and failed and things have gone badly wrong. Because people won’t believe you, and will put pressure on you in all kinds of ways.
The thing is, they’re wrong, and you don’t have to believe them or comply with their demands.
It helps a lot to be confident in your ability to judge what you can and can’t do. Sometimes you have to say no over and over.
Knowing ahead of time that something won’t work for you and insisting on planning accordingly isn’t lazy.
It’s being responsible.
How do you get someone who is telling you what to do with your body to go away?
- Walking away from the person.
- “I don’t want to talk about that.”
- “Please stop.”
- “Thank you for your concern”.
- “I’ll have to think about that.”
Changing the subject can also help. Or, combining saying no with changing the subject.
Being able to say yes is important. Being able to say no is important.
Being able to say maybe is also important.
It’s usually ok not to know what you want, even if others want you to decide right away. You don’t always have to know reasons. It’s ok to just feel unsure. Feeling uncertain is an ok reason not to say yes right away.
Sometimes there’s legitimate time pressure and people do need you to make a decision right away. It’s ok to say no if you’re not sure.
And when there isn’t time pressure, it’s ok to say maybe. Even if that annoys others.
When you don’t want to give the reason for saying no, and the other person is pressuring you, what is a polite way to get them to stop?
- “Thank you for your suggestion. I’ll think about it”.
- “Maybe; let me get back to you.”
- “I’ll have to think about that.”
- “I have to leave now. Nice talking to you.”
- “Thank you, but I’m not interested, and I don’t want to talk about this further.”
Sometimes you can also just change the subject and ignore anything they say about the thing they’re demanding reasons about. This can be especially effective if there’s something they will usually take any opportunity to discuss. That doesn’t work in all situations, but it does work sometimes.
Basically, though, it’s not always possible to defend boundaries politely. It’s ok to be rude when you need to be in order to protect your boundaries. No one has to be polite all the time at all costs.
When you first start learning how to say no, you won’t know how to do it politely.
This means that you’ll offend people. Even when you have every right to say no. Even when everyone agrees that it’s ok to say no.
Asserting boundaries politely is a skill worth acquiring, if you can do it. But that takes time and practice. It’s something that’s learned alongside learning how to have boundaries; it’s not something you can learn first as a prerequisite for being allowed to have boundaries.
And when you haven’t figured out how to say no politely, the reactions you get might look to you like evidence that you really *can’t* say no. It might look to you like you have to choose between having no boundaries, or hurting people in unreasonable ways.
This is especially true if you are a disabled person who has learned to pass as nondisabled by following rules. A lot of disabled people are taught that they must pass at all costs, and taught not to asset boundaries as part of this. Starting to learn to have boundaries will probably undermine your ability to pass. That can be terrifying, and some ways people react might be triggering. But you’re ok. You’re not broken. You’re allowed to have boundaries, even if it means looking weird. Even if it breaks rules. Even if people are offended. You are a person and you have rights.
The rules for politely asserting boundaries are really complicated. It takes time and practice to learn these rules. And not everyone can master them. And even people who can have to be rude sometimes in order to have boundaries, and that’s ok too. Being able to be polite is not a prerequisite for having rights.
It’s ok to say no, and it’s ok to have a rough time learning how.
There are different kinds of no:
There’s a kind of no that’s asserting a boundary, and there’s a kind of no that’s pushing people around.
For instance, this are things that are personal boundaries:
- Declining a job offer
- Saying no to a date
- Not sharing your computer with someone who wants to use it to check their email or look something up
- Not letting someone hug you
These things are usually pushing someone around:
- Telling someone they’re not allowed to talk to their friends
- Telling someone they can’t read particular books or blogs, or watch certain movies
- Telling someone they have to sit still and look normal and not wave their hands
RE:- boundaries without anger. Obviously there are exemptions to the following statement where “no” would be enough; but I think the reason a lot of people have problems with personal boundaries in this way is that when someone says no, they are reluctant to provide the reason. If denying/refusing a gift, offer or invitation, answering why is only polite, yet people get frustrated when people ask.
Here are several reasons that folks get annoyed when you ask why:
- They might not know a clear reason, but know that they don’t want to do the thing. That’s ok. You don’t have to know your reason in order to decide to say no.
- The reason for saying no might be rude to say. For instance, if you ask someone out and they find you physically unattractive, it would be considered very rude to say so. But it’s an entirely legitimate, and common, reason not to want to date someone.
- If they’re rejecting a job offer, it might be because they’ve received another offer from someone they think it would be much more pleasant to work with. It can be very difficult to say this politely, and it’s not a good idea to offend people in your network by implying that you think it wouldn’t be nice to work with them.
- The particular gift might be something they’re upset by the idea of possessing (eg: if you give them an itchy sweater), but it’s never considered polite to say that.
- The reason might also be complicated to say. For instance, if they like a particular activity, but they find it overloading, so they only do the activity with people they know really well and who know how to react appropriately if the overload gets too bad. Most people don’t even understand that explanation on any level. More people say “of course I can handle that!” and then get offended if they don’t immediately accept that as true and agree to do the activity.
- They might think that accepting your gift/offer/invitation will create a kind of relationship they don’t want, and not feel comfortable explaining that. Especially if they’re not quite sure why they feel that way.
- The reason might be private. For instance, if you’re a man and you ask out a closeted lesbian, she has every right not to want to come out to you.
- Or, if someone finds a particular kind of movie triggering because of past abuse, they might not want to tell people about this. They might rather just quietly say no.
- They might think that if they give a reason, you’ll just argue about the reason. Given that you didn’t just take no for an answer to begin with, this is a legitimate concern
At bottom, people don’t owe you an explanation. When you ask for one, you’re implying that people need your permission to have boundaries. Further, you’re implying that you will only give this permission if you think they have a good reason.
Even if you don’t mean it that way, that’s how it comes off. It puts pressure on people that no one likes to experience. If they wanted to give you a reason, they would have done so when they said no to begin with.