It’s ok to say no without giving an explanation

outcasticonoclast asked realsocialskills:
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.

realsocialskills said:

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.