Monday, 11 April 2016

Saying no

There are many facebook groups for doulas where people swap ideas and information related to the work we do and one of the posts I see crop up quite regularly goes something along the lines of "I was interviewed by a potential client but I didnt get the job. They said they can't afford it/ partner isn't on board with the idea/ they changed their mind/ the doctor doesn't like the idea. What can I say to this client to secure the job?"
Every time I read this scenario I want to tear my hair out and scream "they said NO, they may have tried to soften it with an excuse but it is still a no".
This morning I read  a new version of the same story and I thought to myself "why dont they get that no means no".

At the moment that I thought this I realised that I was thinking the slogan of an anti-rape campaign. That is interesting. Did the no means no campaign arise from potential rapists not understanding the word no, I wondered. Or is there a broader issue at work?
Then I remembered that just yesterday my daughters were invited to lunch and their response was effectively a "no" (I dont know what language they actually used) After their negative response the person issuing the invitation attempted to change their minds. 
Hmmm, there is a pattern building where people who want to say no use other terminology and where people who don't want to hear a "no" (either direct or implied) continue to attempt negotiation, leading to discomfort and resentment (and sometimes a sexual assault).

How many things would change if we all got to be really good at saying and hearing a "no"?


  1. I wish I knew.
    Saying no is something I am bad at.
    I think/hope I am better at hearing it...

  2. EC
    I think most people are bad at saying no. It gets easier with practice.

    Of course, no-one would have to practice saying it if If we were all good at hearing it.

  3. Saying no is an art. Taking as it as a no however is a different kettle of fish.

  4. For some reason the word "NO' is now taken as rudeness rather than just saying no. I have no idea why or how this started but no means only no. NO more and NO less!

  5. I think there's a general aversion to saying (and hearing) a direct No. People prefer to say it in a roundabout way like "Not today, but perhaps next week". A flat No invariably makes people bristle, even if they accept the idea of refusal in principle. I like to think I can accept a No but I'm likely to bristle as well! The frustrating thing about the anti-rape "No means no" campaign is that it doesn't seem to have had any effect. If anything, the problem is worse than ever and too many men still haven't got the message.

  6. I think the situation with doulas is different because they’re looking for work, and maybe the goal is less to persuade a particular person to hire them than it is to make their services appear more attractive, just as a man wanting dates might gracefully accept one woman’s no, but would like to reduce the total number of nos. Nos are tough on a person’s income in the first instance and on his morale in the second. Still, I get your main point about people pushing themselves on others because they have needs that they want those others to gratify whether those others want to or not. I’m getting the idea that being a doula is not a good way to stay in work where you are. Given their scarcity, I guess it’s the same way here. Maybe husbands feel displaced by them.

  7. Ramana,
    yet again you get it in a nutshell :)

  8. Anne,
    I suppose a simple "no" often comes across as blunt but at least it's clear!

  9. Nick,
    See, that "perhaps next week" is something I would believe and follow up on. "not today" would be quite clear though

  10. Snow,
    There are doulas here and in the US who do quite well for themselves. I am not one of them, despite all my efforts. I think my ability as a doula is good and my understanding of non-judgemental support is better than most but people dont seem to warm to me on a single meeting and there are no second chances.
    Some partners find us threatening but most doulas work hard to keep everyone involved


  11. I'm learning to say no to my mother. It's taken years and years to do and I still find it hard, but actually it's better all round because at least everyone knows where they are with a direct no.

  12. Joey,
    Some people are harder to be direct with than others :)


go on, leave a comment or four.