Learning The Power of Saying “No”

In a bold move, I recently turned down a date with a seemingly nice guy.

As a professional people pleaser, asserting myself, drawing boundaries and pushing back are skills I’ve never acquired. The result has been a lifetime of limping through bad dates and so-so relationships because I either ignored the red flags that screamed “unavailable” and “problems,” or simply couldn’t say, “No.”

I’m slowly changing that.

On paper, Michael had all the attributes of a “nice Jewish boy.” He was a techie with a good education who dutifully visited his mother in Long Island every Sunday. The problem was he’s a widower, and though it had been four years since his wife’s death, he spoke of her in such glowing terms it was obvious that a lowly mortal as myself could never compete. At one point, he even got teary-eyed reminiscing about his perfect angel.

The former me would have been sucked in by those tears and offered a free therapy session right there on the spot.  From years nursing boyfriends through divorces, financial crises, and job troubles, I knew better. It’s a no-win situation. I’m also not a licensed therapist.

The deal-breaker came when I noted Michael being a “lazy dater,” casually shooting me an e-mail when the mood or boredom strikes. Yet, never – God forbid, never – picking up the phone.

When, after his vacation, he took four days to respond to my e-mail, stating he was “busy,” and then asking me out on Thursday for Sunday, an alarm sounded. I’m a single mom who because of my work in media gets easily 200-300 e-mails a day. Is he really that busy? Did he wait to reach out because he’s juggling women? He wanted to see who accepted first?

I wrote back:

Pardon me if I’m misinterpreting this.  But, in all honestly, an e-mail four days later with a Sunday invite doesn’t feel right. As someone who has done my fair share of online dating, it tells me the person is preoccupied or simply doesn’t have time for me. Best of luck, J

Mr. “I’m-So-Busy” responded in less than 5 minutes.




One response to “Learning The Power of Saying “No”

  1. Learning to say “no” applies to far more than dating. I believe a person should condition themselves to say “No” immediately if they have the slightest reservation. Usually, you can later say yes and it will be even more appreciated than had you initially said yes. Saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to more important opportunities.


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