Silence Means No

Several years ago I was dozing through a televised football game when one of the commentators said, “Well, silence means ‘no.'” I had no idea what they had been talking about that led one of them to say that, but it woke me right up.

Silence means no. How could I have lived this long and not known that??? A former football player knew that! I must say this is probably the first thing I have ever learned from a former football player.

Silence has always been an issue for me. I don’t mean “quiet.” I like the quiet. I mean that silence as an answer or response has always been a problem for me.

When I was a kid, if I said “bye” to someone before they left, I expected to be answered back. If the person failed to answer me, I would feel abandoned.

When I would bring up an important topic to someone and they either didn’t answer at all or changed the subject to one they cared about, I would feel humiliated. This happened to me a lot and still does!

If I liked a boy and they ignored me, I felt rejected.

If I didn’t understand things and couldn’t find out what was going on, I would fill in the answers that made the most sense to me. And I would act on that. Even though it was often just my imagination at work.

There are dozens and dozens of examples from my life I could list but I think this gives a good idea of what I mean.

Lately I have been experimenting with the use of “silence as no” in my own favor. I have always been one to jump in with some kind of answer or response in almost every situation I have found myself in. I have, as a result, taken on way too much responsibility for way too long.

My dance troupe is experiencing “growing pains” and “creative differences” this year. One thing that keeps happening is that some members are kind of slacking off. This leaves just a very few of us who attend nearly every class and can be relied upon. So, naturally, we are being taken for granted. Yes, I am disappointed to have that dynamic rear its ugly head in my dance troupe, my favorite and most special activity. But human nature is everywhere that humans are.

It still feels really odd not to respond to a Facebook post asking, for example, if someone will “take the lead” in arranging a venue, for example, or running the class because the teacher is unable or unavailable. The phrasing of these requests feels directed at me and one or two other dependables.

Sometimes the posts seem manipulative. For example, today the post was, in so many words, “I just heard ‘such and such a venue’ still wants belly dancers.” Someone, not me, asked for the date and time. The answer: “I don’t know, I haven’t heard from anyone in several weeks.” Ummm, so how is it that you just heard they still need us???

At any rate, one of the dependables went ahead and researched the issue and posted what she learned. She “took the lead”!

Maybe it is not the troupe that is experiencing growing pains and creative differences, maybe it is just me. Quite often lately, I am left feeling manipulated and even a bit pushed around. During our most recent class, I felt incredibly pushed around and had no idea why it was happening and what I could do about it. I fumbled through and just did what I thought I was being asked to do but it felt very awkward and I went home as soon as I possibly could and felt very out of sorts. There seems to be many layers uncovering themselves inside of me lately and I don’t know for sure when I am being treated poorly or when I am being triggered. Perhaps both.

I am disappointed that I have not come far enough yet to be able to take such things in stride since there is a good possibility that this is simply a part of a typically messy life. Even so, I am VERY disappointed that these scenarios keep happening. It has reminded me of how things ALWAYS end up for me in my jobs. Since I cannot seem to behave in a way that draws respect from others, I end up withdrawing. It just feels like things get broken when I do that.

Several years ago, I actually took a break from the troupe that lasted several months. My main problem at that time was exhaustion from the terrible job. When I came back, it was okay and I stepped back into my place pretty smoothly.

The other day, when I mentioned to my friend, one of the dependables, that maybe I should step back a bit, she panicked and said, “Oh, no! Don’t do that! I’m depending on you!!!” Oy vey! Not that! I reassured her that I didn’t mean taking a big break, I just meant maybe I need to be less reliable so I don’t get taken for granted.

I wish I had better answers for myself and I wish this process was a little more pleasant. I will continue to work out the possibilities in “silence means no” because it is obvious to me that I have hit upon something important here that I can in fact work with.

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10 Comments

Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decisions, emotional health, friends, human nature, peer pressure, progress

10 responses to “Silence Means No

  1. Hard to say no isn’t it, even when it’s in your best interest, you will go ahead and offer whatever help you can, many don’t appreciate the help given not so much that your looking for gratitude but simple “thank you” will suffice.

    When with a large group differences will pop up from time to time, and can make you recall events which have happened and it’s easy from there to draw the paralles within your group to the ways others actions can make you feel.

    Learning to say no is really difficult, because you feel guilty for being reliable, I know I used to, but once I started saying no, the pressure eased considerably.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s something I have been working on for a very long time so I guess I thought maybe I was over that hurdle!!! Being helpful seems to be second nature and it is so awkward to feel like I am being unhelpful, or to even be told by someone that I’m being less than helpful, when I’m just trying to save my sanity!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a lesson I still haven’t mastered, either. I _have_ gotten as far as using silence to mean ‘no’, when it’s something I really don’t think I _can_ do, or have no interest in whatsoever. Sometimes I can actually say ‘no’ in those cases. But when it’s something I _am_ interested in, care about, and/or _can_ do, I feel guilty even thinking ‘no’ if don’t want to do it. I have to be feeling particularly overwhelmed to say ‘no’ then. But boy, does it feel good!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “When I was a kid, if I said “bye” to someone before they left, I expected to be answered back. If the person failed to answer me, I would feel abandoned.”

    This is one of the sadder things I`ve heard in a while. Because the person who failed to answer probably had no idea they were doing something hurtful and you had no idea they didn’t do it on purpose. That’s exactly the kind of thing that hurts my heart because it is not malicious and could easily be avoided if only we said exactly what was going on in our heads at all times which, of course, we could never do (and thank heavens for that because you’d create a thousand problems for every one you solved).

    Also, not to make light of your sad feeling but this made me think of soap operas (which I used to watch as a kid – Santa Barbara was my favourite). No one EVER says goodbye before they hang up the phone and it used to bug the heck out of me.
    “Savannah is coming home from the hospital on Tuesday”
    “How does Taylor feel about that?”
    “She’s busy with her art opening but Arturo is concerned about Macy.”
    “Well, he knew what would happen.”
    (meaningful look into the middle distance)
    – click –
    What?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it might not have been such a big deal to little me if it had been an isolated thing. But my questions and attempts at conversation were almost always ignored or not heard–parents in their own little world most of the time. It was part of the deal and that is what the problem was. LOL! My mother still has trouble listening to me! All these years later and some things never change….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always felt guilty about not letting other people encroach on my boundaries; this is especially difficult because attract narcissists who understand friendship as taking hostages.

    Today I got a text from one of these friends; she’s not a bad person; she’s just unhealthy and doesn’t know that it’s ok to ask for what she wants directly and that I mean it when I say that I don’t consider it my job to read her mind or to muse over encoded messages in which she states a demand as a question.

    Today when she sent me a text at an hour when I was clear I would be working I left it unanswered.

    I don’t think I’ll respond to it at all…

    Liked by 1 person

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