Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Should She Sit Out After Saying No?

Guys need to develop a thick skin if they social dance regularly. We shouldn't take things too personally, especially getting turned down. We even have to get over mentally calling her names when she turns us down and almost immediately dances with someone else. It's just life, and we should simply move on politely and say "next" as soon as possible.

I used to hate it when she danced the same song with another guy after telling me no. I wasn't thrilled being turned down if she sat the whole tune, but it just seemed worse when he had her dancing after my no.

Maybe she was very polite and said, "No thank-you," or worse, said, "I need a break," and then 30 seconds later she was on the floor. It seemed so rude to me.

Was it my age? My trailing-edge "fashion" (trendy 7 years ago)? The way my knuckles dragged on the ground when I walked? I often didn't take it well internally, but I generally just moved on and asked someone else.

Via: Wikimedia Commons
After social dancing a few years, I've changed my thinking.

It happened in reverse to me a few weeks ago. One of my favorite songs started, and I knew exactly who I wanted for that dance. I see her across the room and go get her, without asking or saying a word. She says, "I just turned a new guy down, so I can't..."

My selfish thought was simply, "Not my problem," and I gently lead her to the floor and started the dance. We had a great time. I was not a brute about it, but I was politely persistent at the start, and she just went with the flow. To say no to me at that point would have required her walking off the floor.

From a practical point of view, I didn't give her the option to say no, BUT not for the reasons you might think.

If her "turned down" guy saw it, he may think she's rude. She wasn't! (If anybody was rude, it was me.)

I was basically thinking: "Why should we sit that song out when I love the song, we have a history of regular dances, and I know she's a great dancer for that tune?"

What the guy didn't know is the following:

She and I have danced three to five times per month over the last few years. She's an amazing dancer who listens to the music and makes the most of it. We have a history of fun dances, although we are not social outside the clubs.

I often avoid dancing with her until I get one of my favorite, more interesting tunes. That strategy often doesn't work because by the time I realize it's a great tune and then find her, she's already dancing. Just as often I've already asked someone before a song starts, so that rules out dancing with her too. Many nights the logistics don't work and we don't dance.

In this case, I knew the song was extremely dynamic, and I wanted a follow who loves playing with the music. She fit the ticket, and she was still sitting when I got to her after the tune started. (I didn't see the turn down.)

The other guy was a new dancer. I wasn't going to allow her to sit it out unless she was already dancing with someone else. Just because she turned someone else down didn't mean much to me. I also know he could have asked someone else and was dancing that tune himself, with a different partner. Odds are good he didn't sit out the whole tune after being turned down.

The equation changes for dancers who have been in the scene for years.

She may never see that guy again as lots of guys "try it out" a few nights then go do something else. There were 400 people in the club that night. He could have asked 50 women instead of her, but she was the one he asked. Worse for him; he may put her on his "Do Not Ask" (DNA) list. If he does, he loses, not her.

This woman has plenty of experienced leads who ask her regularly; she only sits when she wants a break. It's also highly likely this guy asked another follow after being turned down by my partner. Leads often don't sit out the tune just because one follow said "no-thank you," why should the experienced follows?

As a rule us guys need to develop a thick skin. I get turned down all the time in new clubs (at first) and it's simply life. When you get turned down, just move on. If she dances with another, you never know their history, and whatever her reason, if you stay in the game, your time will come. Just don't let it ruin your day.

Let me know how you handle turn downs these days. (It's also interesting to know how long you've been dancing.)

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  1. "What the guy didn't know is the following...."

    Not relevant. She was rude.

    I fully agree with you that no one should let rudeness ruin her day; but the simple fact of the matter is that if woman dances on the song after turning me down, then she doesn't get asked again. Ever.

    Call me old fashioned if you must....

  2. DanceIf: You are free to handle it any way you see fit. If she hits your DNA list, that's up to you.

    The question is do you sit out if a follow turns you down? Most guys don't. And most guys (maybe not you) screen and look past plenty of women each night.

    I used to think it's rude too, but no longer. Just because she doesn't want to dance with me is no reason to sit if one of her favorites asks.

    I knew some guys won't like this idea, but I stand by it.

    BTW - This woman has so many great leads each night, she isn't going to be bothered if I never ask her again.

  3. Hi Don,
    Have to agree with you on this one. "Never say no" is a nice principle and one we should try to uphold - but it can't be an inviolable rule - for many good reasons, including the example you cite.

    The popular dancers will always have more people wanting to dance with them than there is time for. It's only reasonable for people who have put a lot of time and effort into learning to dance well to expect to enjoy their dancing with other similarly good dancers. The same thing would happen in a Tennis club. The good dancers already use various approaches to getting the good partners, including, as a last resort, saying "no" sometimes.

    Some people are generous, some people are rude - get used to it.

    Myself, I try very hard not to say "no" - although this can result in getting a lot of poor dances, so I don't enjoy the night, even if my partners probably do. Is that a good result?

    Like you say, we often "scan" the women carefully (and avoid eye contact) so as not to be forced into a dance we don't want. But then we get accused of being elitist, unfriendly and snobbish. You can't win.


  4. No never, I used to think so, but dancing is a social event. so she ( or he) has the right to enjoy it at her ( or his) own terms.........

  5. I understand that you were in an awkward situation, I've been in that spot too. She says "oh but I shouldn't because I just said no" and smiles real big and takes your hand, shit, what are you supposed to do? When this happens I feel good and like a bit of a heel all at the same time. Maybe that's what you're processing.

    I think the usual etiquette (say yes; if you can't say yes, say you're taking a break, and take one; if the guy asks more than once feel free to just say no) is the best advice for new follows.

    But as an experienced lead I dance with a few newbies a night but mostly dance with people who can dance; otherwise I'm going to be bored to tears. I suppose experienced follows aren't under an obligation to be more generous than I am.

    So to be fair I suppose better advice for experienced follows is to say yes at least twice a night to people whose only crime is being inexperienced leads.

    A few rules I NEVER break:

    1. If a woman asks ME for a change, I ALWAYS say yes, unless there is a very compelling reason or have already danced that night. Every time I see a guy turn down a gal who had the guts to ask for once I want to slug him. You're ruining it for the rest of us, dummy!

    2. If she turns out not to be as good as you hoped, never ever EVER abandon her on the floor. That's only acceptable if someone injures you or behaves in an obviously rude manner. Unfortunately I see this happen too.

    3. If you think the song is over but you're not super familiar with it... give it a moment. (: I've been busted by the salsera police a few times for "abandoning" a girl because I honestly thought the song was over!

  6. It depends. If it's someone I assume that it's a newbie dancer, it doesn't bother me. I do get a little annoyed if someone that I see on a regular basis. But I don't let it ruin my evening. I just move on and find someone else. I usually have enough women who enjoy dancing with me that I just brush it off and find someone else. I don't waste my time or energy on someone who doesn't want to dance with me.

  7. Hi Eric,

    I'm with you on this one.

    Note that in my case my follow really intended to take a break. She danced with me partly because of our history and the tune. I suspect if the "turn-down" guy asks again, she will happily dance with him.

    Sometimes the turn down is because she doesn't want to dance with me, sometimes it's because she wants/needs a break.

  8. No matter the reason, the way she handled it is rude.

    The polite way to handle these situations is: if there is a good reason to dance with the next person who asks, do it. But then follow up with the person you turned down, at a later time.

    People are free to do as they wish. But there are always consequences - one of which is to be thought of as a jerk.

    Turning someone down may not ruin their night. But that doesnt make it right.

  9. Anonymous,

    I admit I would have agreed with you during my first year or two of dancing. But not anymore. Of course I respect your POV, but if someone thinks of her as a jerk and don't ask her, they lose, not her...

    She is extremely nice and regularly dances with guys at all levels, including beginners. She has a great attitude about it. If someone ignores her because they feel she is rude I suspect it's their problem not hers.

    It's not like she spends her nights selectively turning guys down, then dancing with others. From what I can tell that would be special cases for her, but it can happen so guys should consider that before judging her as rude.

    I have some other thoughts I'll throw into another article.

    Thanks for the respectful feedback and again, I appreciate your POV!

  10. Thanks for the article, Unlikely. It sparked a nice discussion...

    As a follower, I usually try not to turn down beginners if at all possible. But after years of dancing, I also have a more rounded approach to the issue. There are some songs that I just can't dance with just anyone, or I won't enjoy it. I uesd to suffer through it, but now I am more willing to say no. But I have also learned to be more honest about my reasons, which usually means telling them I prefer to dance that particular song with certain people and asking them if we can dance to the next one (and then making an effort to do so). If I really don't want to dance with someone at all over the long term, I just say no and not give them an excuse that will keep them asking.

    In the dance culture of Argentine tango, we use the "cabeceo." Basically, it's a combination of eye contact and nodding between man and woman to signal an offer and acceptance of a dance. If the woman doesn't wish to accept, she avoids eye contact so the gentleman can move on and ask someone who is interested. That saves the man from having to walk all the way over to a woman's table only to lose face with a rejection. But it also gives the lady more freedom in choosing her dances and her partners. Better for both partners to know they are dancing with someone who is really into dancing with them at that particular moment.

    I think gentlemen who think harshly toward women who say no don't appreciate the freedom they have in selecting their partners and the lack of freedom that women sometimes have (or the consequences they have to deal with it if they exercise it). Sometimes it feels like a game of manipulation. If a man is going to act that way even if I am respectfully and politely exercising my freedom, then I would rather not dance with him anyway until he develops some maturity and confidence.

  11. Joy in Motion: It is interesting how it changes as you dance a while. And I totally agree. Most guys routinely exclude some women in a room, without thinking about it. They simply never ask and avoid eye contact with those follows. I suspect many guys don't realize how many ladies they skip, but it's just part of the social dancing scene.

  12. It's funny. This happened to me last night at the Granada. This woman said no to me, then said yes to another guy right in front of me. It bugged me for a minute, but then it freed me up to get a second dance with another partner that I had a lot more fun with.

  13. I am all about having fun on the dance floor. Sometimes you turn someone down, sometimes you dance with them. Maybe I am socially weird, but I have no rules, I don't worry if people think I am rude, I am just ready to get my dance on and assume that is what everyone else is up to as well. I never try to be rude, want to be rude, or want people to take it personally if I don't accept a dance. That is always the beauty of salsa dancing for me. It's the moment, the song, the person, the dance, it should always be good and juicy, and sometimes, when a guy approaches, for what ever reason either he looks like he's going to bring something fun and interesting to the dance - great! Or, he looks like he doesn't have anything going, on.... well, sorry, I'm not looking to have that type of dance.

    It's all about having fun. I think Eric is right, if someone turns you down, the next follow is probably better anyhow!

  14. Jenny: That totally works for me. I don't always like getting turned down, but that beats having someone say yes then not enjoy the dance for some reason.

    Over time it always works out if we keep our attitude straight.

  15. But, I do have to say, that I hardly EVER ask guys to dance! I am trying to get over that. I know that guys are under a LOT of pressure with the whole social aspect of approaching women and putting themselves in a position to be turned down. I totally get nervous going to ask guys to dance!
    I do make a huge effort to dance with everyone. I think of it as a personal challenge - to see if I can follow everyone's personal style or ability level. It's an interesting process. Sometimes I feel like if I accept a dance with someone who I think may not be that much fun, and I try to spice up the dance with a little improve style session, I often feel like the man gets annoyed with my taking the lead on adding fun and style and improve in, when he seems very focused on executing his moves that he is "working on" at that moment.
    I would love to hear some views on that aspect :)

  16. Don, you touched on a great subject. I think all dancers struggle with this at some point. My intentions are to always sit the entire song out if I turn someone down. Once every so often someone I want to dance with very much approaches and I will either ask him to come back on the next song or if the song is a great one I may break down and dance but that is a fairly rare occasion. I think it is important to be aware of other people's feelings on the dance floor and be as courteous and polite as possible. I have taught salsa for over 10 years and I can't tell you how many students gave up salsa dancing because of one rejection.

    Thanks for bringing up an important topic Don!

    Sharon Galor
    Toronto Dance Salsa

  17. Hi Sharon,

    I always appreciate your comments!

    I also have seen people quit after one rejection. After a few years I'm starting to believe those will quit even if they were not rejected.

    That said, I agree we want to be polite and courteous as possible, and encourage people to stay in the game.

    As an instructor, I suspect we should all be letting guys know that some potential partners will turn them down, and prepare them to simply move on without taking it personal.

    It happens to every guy at some point, and is actually more traumatic if they thought everybody would say yes (or they believe all potential partners will worry about their feelings...).

    I don't love getting turned down, and life isn't always fair to me. That said, the guys who take the turn downs gracefully often get great dances down the road if they keep their heads straight.

  18. I'm with Don and Joy on this. After a while, dancing 5 nights a week, I hardly notice getting turned down and rarely pay attention to whether the woman dances that song or not. It's like driving and learning not to get upset because someone cut you off or didn't signal; it becomes of no consequence.

    Anyway, if a woman I don't know turns me down, it could be because:
    1. She wants to dance with her friends. Someday maybe I'll be her friend.
    2. She wants to dance with the top dancers and I'm an unknown (or not good enough). She'll reconsider if she sees me dance, or maybe I'll improve.
    3. She wants to dance with a good-looking guy. Means she won't be around long anyway.

  19. "As an instructor, I suspect we should all be letting guys know that some potential partners will turn them down, and prepare them to simply move on without taking it personal."

    Did I mention I thought this was an excellent idea that should be adopted by all instructors everywhere?

  20. Don,

    I too have had to do some maturity when it comes to being rejected (check my blog post "Rules of Rejection on my page Overall, I agree w/ everything you said. Women shouldn't feel obligated to sit out a song no more than men, regardless of having turned someone down or not. However, we all have to consider how our actions effect others. It's one thing to say no and then dance with someone else; it's another to say "no, I'm tired/my feet hurt/I'm thirsty/I'm sitting this one out/etc" and then dance w/ someone else right after. IMHO, if you can't give a true excuse, don't give one at all. To do that makes you look shady. At any rate, it still does all boil down to the fact that you stated earlier: we just have to learn to have tough skin.

  21. About turning women down. I will do it fairly regularly, actually. But, I will always tell them exactly why (can't dance to this song, need something with more umph, etc). I will then try to seek them out later to make up for my bad manners.

    I think being honest and open is a good way to go. Then, when I say that, I start going through all the permutations of a woman saying that she is tired and then jumping on the floor with another bloke 10 seconds later. The intricacies of dance floor etiquette..

  22. Awesome blog Don, Loved it and you shed some new light to an old issue.
    Love what Joy says and SnowDancer especially

  23. This article was interesting. Many guys in the comments are saying it's rude if they ask a girl to dance and you politely say "no thank you" or "not this song". What I don't understand is, if you do not find it acceptable to get turned down, then why not ask? Why not just grab her by the hair to the dance floor and say "here, now we dance!". Sometimes, when an amazing song comes, you may not want to dance it with someone who isn't musically involved, or in other instances, you may not want to dace with the guy that you witnessed "muscling" previous partners around on the dance floor, there are many other scenarios to consider as well. The point is, if you do not find no to be an acceptable answer to a yes/no question, then you really should not ask the question.

    1. I'm with you on this! I've said it a hundred times: I don't like getting turned down, but so what?

      The longer I dance the more I see reasons ladies SHOULD turn down some guys. Some of those guys will never change their current dancing if everybody says yes, smiles and pretends they are loving the dance.

      No reason to be mean or rude with your turn down, but a polite "no thanks" is always a reasonable response.

  24. Hi!
    I've been dancing for 5 years now and, these days, when a girl turns me down (which in the past really hurt me), I just think "ok... she's obviously not in the mood to dance with me" but... "god! I really appreciate she's soooo honest!"

    Why? Well, in the past I've asked many girls who have agreed (in some cases after giving it a 5-10 second thought) and then the experience has been frustrating: right from the start, I could perfectly feel she really didn't feel dancing (or at least dancing with me) and that she's probably doing it out of politeness. And then I've found myself thinking (specially if I really liked the song) "omg, I wish she had turned me down".

    This has really helped me put things into perspective.


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero