10 Feb 2016

Does “No” Mean No? Does No Really Mean “Yes”?


Does no really mean a no?

Does no really mean, yes? This is a question I have been asking myself. I suppose what I am really getting at is whether we women really say what we mean? Do we say exactly what we want to say or do we leave much open for interpretation in the hope that we will be understood.

Is it intentional our often times obtuse language and responses?

I am sure you can imagine scenarios where this happens. We might feign interest and yet deep down we feel completely the opposite. We say it “doesn’t matter”, it is “not important” so often and yet clearly it is. If the signals are not translated correctly, we can become mighty huffy. Yet how can we expect clear and lucid translation?

Do you think it is simply a female trait or do the boys play the same language games?

I noticed myself doing this recently. It was a small and silly incident but after I over reacted I understood that I had been sending mixed messages; not even mixed messages. I had been communicating the opposite of what I really wanted. I suspect we women expect men, in particular, to be mind readers. I am not sure mind reading is one of the male population’s best attributes and it is probably less than wise to test them.

This revelation hasn’t stopped me so far ;)

I can see it could be unattractive to be too forceful or direct, nobody likes a bossy personality or a know-it-all and yet I am sure there is room for better communication skills between the sexes. Why don’t we say what we mean? Even the way we women communicate with each other is sometimes less than straightforward.

In a simple conversation we may say what we don’t mean and we may also say what we think needs to be heard. How complicated is that?

Not saying what we intend to say is complex. Why do some of us feel the need to be obtuse?

Is it because to be “coy” and “fragile” was considered a wonderful quality way back in the day? Or is it because we lack the confidence to say exactly what we mean? I oftentimes think if we articulate in a more precise way, observing the niceties of etiquette and grace, then we may be much happier.

Note to self; don’t expect others to decipher my personal code.

Do you say what you mean? Does your no really mean a no? Let’s chat. xv

Say Yes To Black & White

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Rita C at Panoply

I honestly think sometimes we are obtuse in communicating as women because we want to be flexible in any given number of situations, so our words may say one thing, yet we leave interpretation open. [Where do you want to eat? I don’t care] [Do you want to go to a movie?, leaving the invitation open to discussion] [Do you think that outfit is best for your event?]. My husband is an expert witness (now retired), but he speaks in what I refer to as deposition mode – constantly drilling for succinct and to-the-point communication, without “do you want tos” or “I don’t cares”, and frequently says, “listen to my words”. Interestingly, I just found a catch phrase I found appropriate. It reads, “people may hear your words, but they feel your attitude”. I can totally relate to that phrase. Funny thing, though, I am often seen as blunt (to a fault) by female friends and family.


Flexible.. is a good way of looking at how we view situations..
I like that catch phrase… very true… :)

Our French Oasis

I say what I mean, I think I am pretty straightforward, but and it’s a big BUT, there is the question of tact, that need for small white lies so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, this is when I don’t say exactly what I mean, but that’s for a good reason right? But no, I don’t say “I really don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day” for instance and actually mean I really want something very special or at the very least some flowers and then expect my husband to understand that I am just talking in complete opposites – I think we might all get very frustrated if I started down that route, myself included!!! It’s a fairly common female game but not one I play!


Very clever of you to understand the importance in being straightforward.. I am not sure all women are… myself included sometimes!
And I agree.. tact and the nuances around conversations are very important..


Clear, thoughtful communication makes all relationships better. Sometimes, the heat of a disagreement makes this difficult. If we stop our own racing thoughts and try to focus on what the other person is saying, understanding will often follow. Easier said than done, though! Yes, I agree that women can be particularily abstruse. I don’t find this to be the case with men. They usually communicate in a much more straigtforward way.


Men do tend to say what they want although I do also believe they are quite expert at saying what we want to hear as well!

Wendy Shippee

Growing up I was taught, be polite, careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings and be demure especially with men. I practiced all of this until I was about 40. As a mother and a women in business dealing with the public (I owned 2 complete day spas), I had to throw it all down the drain. A new person appeared. I had to be direct and make sure I was heard as well as understood. It took a while for everyone to adjust including my self, but I think we were all better for it. When I was raising my children ( especially my daughter) I wanted them to be honest and direct with everyone. This did not always go over well but they all 3 are happy, well adjusted and confident adults


Sounds like you got it just right, Wendy..
We could probably all infuse a little of our professional speak with our personal speak…:)

Susan Stupples

It is much easier to be straightforward! That way we can be at peace with ourselves. Being straightforward does not mean being tactless and hurtful. The essential element is speaking the truth. In life, the truth is not always what people want to hear because sometimes they are just looking for someone to agree with them. We must live as truthful human beings – there are too many lies and deceptions in the world. To add to these is simply a waste of time and energy.

Mimi Gregor

I think that a lot of women want to be liked, so they say what they think the other person wants to hear. We care more about how we appear from the outside, to other people, than we do about how we appear from inside our selves to our selves. We need to remember that we don’t make other people happy or sad. How they react is up to them. We need to start caring about our selves — because that’s the only person we are truly able to affect.


Women are still in that state of flux, I think, where the generations of women previous did, indeed, socialize many of us to be less direct because we were NOT supposed to consider ourselves first. I think it takes a while to shake those lessons; even when our womenfolk are gone, we often still hear those voices in our heads. And going back further yet, coyness and sometimes manipulative behavior were paramount to a woman’s safety, health or future, where the world was organizing their marriages and giving their property to their husbands (just watched Downton Abbey last night, can you tell??) whether by tradition or law.

By that same token, men have been socialized to be direct, to take what they want, to speak in forceful terms. They don’t know from “the gray area”. I’ve had this discussion with my husband and the men in my life many times and subtle behavior is really lost on most men. I think this, too, is changing–but it takes time. They still hear the voices, too.

Either way, in the heat of an argument, women still often accuse men of being “thick”, and men get angry because they didn’t get the “code book” for the signals we send. It takes a bit of practice at the “art of language” to be able to convey a message gently but directly; mostly, I’m successful at this now, except when tempers fly. I don’t tiptoe, but there’s a way to say something, and then there’s a way to say something. Either way, I think the romanticism given to those beloved movies and books–where hammers on the head are not required–are losing their place in the real world.

Taste of France

When I was younger, with big responsibilities for my age, I said yes when I wanted to say no. I was afraid to say no because anytime I did, I got threats–one boss told me that maybe I should be demoted if I needed to sleep 8 hours a night (he wanted me in the office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but almost always also covering the shift that went to 2 a.m.). Saying no was met with, “you mean you aren’t up to it?” or “are you saying you are over your head? Then we’ll have to give your job to so-and-so.”
I had a very wonderful colleague who never said no, but who never said yes. She never said anything. But we would be in a meeting where the big boss would be detailing some hare-brained plan that required three times the personnel and she would snap her pencil in half. Message delivered.
All that said, I am working with a guy who (was assigned to me, not my choice) I have come to realize is not all that competent. I ask for precisions about the work, and he ALWAYS says yes. But he doesn’t deliver. He is passive-aggressive, saying “I’m on it,” but then he blows it off. Our collective boss has noticed, but hasn’t come down on him. If it were up to me, he would be unemployed.

Leslie in Oregon

I’m with you, basically straightforward (and forthcoming), but also trying not to unnecessarily hurt anyone’s feelings. While women of my generation (and my mother’s) were acculturated (in the U.S.) to be “nice” no matter what, that is no longer the case…most (or at least many) of us have broken free of the “code of nice” to a norm that encourages or at least allows a much more honest presence.

Lesley Hughes

As we get older we see the value in politely saying “NO” – life gets too short to pussy foot around but it is still not easy. Learning to be true to yourself takes effort.
Best wishes

Anita Rivera

I have to say that with the kids in my classrooms, when I say “NO” I truly mean it! One kid kept asking me over and over if he could do something. I kept saying “NO” until he got under my skin. I said, “Go get a dictionary and look up the word NO.” He said, “Why Madame?” I replied, “BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE WORD MEANS!”

I do however believe that many people (including myself at times) often don’t say what we mean in circumstances where our social standing could be compromised. But I do try to gently refuse something I don’t want or need and then move on. One could get into a lot of trouble if NO is not made clear on the spot!

It’s so important to be honest up front, then move on.


Hmm, must have been the moon this weekend. I tolerated an ‘incident’ as well and since then have rolled it around in my thoughts. I ruled (as I often do) by the thought that the battle just might not been worth it. But it has taken up too much time in my mind to leave it alone and in a soon to happen calm, quiet moment it will be on the table. I tend to swallow the distaste rather than spew it out. Maybe a few too many ‘I was just kidding around’ replies to serious conversations around the idea of NO, has made me not bother objecting.
I’m going to steal a page from Rita C’s book – ‘people may hear your words, but they feel your attitude’. It’s right up there with my battle cry of ‘I can’t hear what you are saying because your attitude is so loud’.
No pleading or soft ‘if you don’t mind’ kinda of lingo. NO is NO. And that means I have to listen to the ‘NO’ clearly and be respectful as well.

Shari Forcina

Who said that being “direct” was unattractive? That sounds like a man’s words, belittling a woman for having her own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. For a woman, it is critical to her safety and well-being to be able to speak and conduct herself in a direct manner in a variety of situations, be it a medical exam or unwanted sexual contact. Empower women to have a variety of communication techniques, and to have the courage and self-worth to say “no” when she means “no.”


These days No means No, but it took me decades to be able to get to this point. Have lost a lot of relationships because I decided to get a backbone and not be “used” anymore or rather I started voicing my real opinions. I don’t people please any more, either. I was always told I was thought of by others as being ” so sweet” “timid” and everyone would actually dump everything on me…. funny how a lot of people take advantage of really nice hearted people. I think I woke up one day and realised I was so tired of not speaking my truth. I think not living your authentic self is detrimental to one’s health.


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