Feelings of rejection are the bane of every dancer’s existence.

Here's a clue.

Last week I explained how to change your experience of getting turned down. This week, you’ll learn how take the sting out of rejecting people.

We all get to be in the shoes of the rejector at least once in a while. Some reject very rarely. Others reject more often: People who are injured, high demand/low supply dancers, the shy or awkward, and so on.

If you’re a newer dancer you might think, “Oh, I’ll never reject anyone!”  or “No one cares if I say no.” Not true. The longer you are around, the more others will notice you and care what you think about them. One day you may be injured, or tired, or having a bad day. Best to learn how to gracefully say no to dance now.

There are 3 basic ways to reject someone gracefully:

  • Preemptive Techniques
  • Rejections With No Further Commitments
  • “Softening the Blow” Techniques

“No” is enough. You are not required to be responsible for others’ reactions, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Even so, graceful rejections have a lot of benefits.

Why Learn Graceful Rejections?

  1. It hurts to reject. Mirror neurons in our brains make us feel what the other person is feeling.
  2. Crummy dances suck for everyone. Do you give your friends crappy obligatory or guilt-forced dances? Then don’t do that to strangers, either.
  3. Treating others as equals levels the playing field for them AND you. Haven’t you had enough of power dynamics?
  4. It feels good to respect your own boundaries. Your yeses are more sincere. And when it’s safe to say no to things you don’t want, you can stretch your boundaries in a way that feels right to you.
  5. Reputation management. If people think you are shy, snobby, irritable, or awkward, you may be able to do something about that perception.

Limitations

It is virtuous to be considerate. On the flip side, you can’t control other people’s feelings. Even when you try your best to treat others respectfully, they may feel hurt anyways. There are no 100% effective methods for graceful rejections.

Some days you may not be emotionally available enough to be especially considerate. I call these my “down days” or “introverted days.” Or the other person may catch you off guard with an odd asking method. Again, all you can do is your best.

And FYI, there’s no way to pretend to be considerate. Never fake it.

Preemptive Techniques

These have limited usefulness and don’t work every time. They are good for nights when you are feeling introverted, stressed, or otherwise tapped out.

Avoid eye contact

Most people understand this most fundamental form of communication. Use it too much, however, and you can come across as icy, unapproachable, shy, or awkward (depending on the perspective of the rejectee).

Remove yourself from the dance space

This works well for times when you don’t feel like dancing, but you want to be around your friends.

Rejections With No Further Commitments

For when you’re not ready to commit to further contact with the other person. These are good for nights when you are tapped out socially/emotionally/physically, or when you don’t know the asker well. Make sure to deliver these rejections with eye contact.

“Actually, do you mind if I sit this one out?”

You might add, “I’m feeling really tired,” or “I’d like to watch for a little bit.” I’ve gotten good results every time I’ve said this. It sounds like you’re asking their permission to say no. Naturally no one ever argues.

The honest excuse

This is the hardest one. Most excuses come across as, well, excuses. However, there is a way to both treat someone as an equal and still say no. Body language is key: Make eye contact, lean toward your asker, and give your excuse. “You know, my feet are really killing me. Have you seen these ridiculous shoes I’m wearing?” Bonus points for making a small joke in hopes that they will laugh.

The self-deprecating excuse

“I’m a sweaty mess and badly need to change shirts,” or “I’m dancing terribly tonight, and I’m not going to inflict that on you,” or “I’m an idiot and hurt my back, so I’m trying to take it easy.”

NOTE: When you’re on the receiving end, don’t negotiate with their excuse. They are trying to politely say no and take the blame for it, too. So don’t say, “Oh I don’t mind sweat!” or, “I’m sure you’ll dance fine,” or, “I’ll be really careful!” In return for dismissing their initial excuse, you’ll either get a god-awful obligatory dance, or you’ll get a firm no that’s less polite.

“Softening the Blow” Techniques

These are my top-shelf techniques. They really communicate that you care about the other person. You’re saying yes to them as a human being, but no to this dance right now. I use these on nights when I’m feeling more social and less shy.

“Let’s catch a dance later.”

There are many variations on how to deliver this line. Assuming the timing is right later in the night, you will of course be happy to make good on your promise.

Start a conversation with the other person

You can use this in conjunction with most other techniques in this article. It works better later in the night when you’re winding down. Examples: “Are you having a good time tonight?” “What do you think of the band?”

And In Conclusion, Sometimes It STILL Doesn’t Go Well

Dancers frequently experience embarrassment, hurt, or anger when rejected. They might stand there awkwardly (my normal reaction), walk off in a huff, question your excuse, or heckle you to dance.

'Dance with me, ya jerk!' Photo credit: Kjunstorm

No More Dance Rejection tileThey’re not necessarily bad people, and they may well get over it. Try not to judge them OR yourself. Everyone is a work in progress.

For further help with getting your dance groove on, download the online course No More Dance Rejection!

What tips do you have for respectful rejections?