I don't know how to say no to peers and adults. My father beats me and molested me when I was
young and my boyfriend wants to have sex with me. I want a method of saying "no" to people.
My first response is in regards to you stating that you are being abused or have been. It is very important that you
let someone know what is happening, or did happen to get the help you need. Since you are a student, let your
teacher, counselor or school nurse know, now. Abuse is a crime and you need to be protected and the abuser needs
to be stopped and get help.
Your question about saying "no" is a very important one and many young people, both young men and women, are
asking about how to let someone know you like them and what is and is not okay. You have every right to make
your own decision of when and with whom you will have sex. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to making
Traditionally, young men may believe that when women say "no" they really mean "yes." Therefore, they are to
pursue more strongly and act in ways that go against that "no" they hear from you. Women have been encouraged
to be coy and play hard to get by saying "no" when they mean "yes." All of this makes it very difficult to know
when "no" means "no" or when "no" means "yes." However, having sex against someone's wishes is rape.
The most important guideline is to say "no" only when that is what you mean and listen to "no" believing that that
is what is meant. This way the risk of rape or being accused of rape is reduced.
Another factor that can lead to confusion is that communication has two main parts: body language and words.
Research finds that about 90% of our communication is our non-words and about 10% is our words. So, if one is
saying no in words and being affectionate, there may be confusion with thinking the non-words of affection are
saying yes while the words are saying no. Since the non-words are less clear, the guideline to follow that is the
safest, to take seriously the words in this situation and to state boundaries with examples like: "I'm okay with
kissing and hugging but that is all I want to do."
There are many ways to say No, and here are three:
- The Hole-Punch No! "No, I can't because...." This type of a No doesn't work very well because every time
you give a reason why you can't, your listener will find a reason why you can say Yes.
- Put Down No! "No way, and how dare you even ask me, you jerk!" The bottom line here is that we all
have the right to ask for whatever we want. When we put people down for asking for what they want, then we
take away this right. This No may work but you may never see them again.
- The Assertive No! "No" or "No, that won't work for me," or "No, I don't want to." This No is clear and
when stated in a calm and serious way consistently, it is the most powerful.
People who respect your right to boundaries are the people who indicate they are safe to be with. Anyone you
pressures you into doing something you don't want, or tries to convince you to do something you don't want to is
not ready for a serious relationship with you.
Good luck and let us know if this helps. There are many more ideas please let us hear some from you. Look for the
article in the trauma department on date rape.
Connie Saindon, M.A., MFT, has been a Licensed Marital and Family
Therapist since 1979. In addition to providing services for
Individuals, couples and families, Ms. Saindon is among the few
specialists in the field of violent death bereavement. Founder the
Survivors of Violent Death Program and volunteer faculty at the
University of California Medical School Department of Psychiatry, she
is author of The Journey, Violent Death Bereavement: Adult Survivors
Workbook and contributing author of Violent Death: Resilience and
Intervention beyond the Crisis. To reach her, please see this page.