The entitlement loop got a couple of questions. Some people ask, “Shouldn’t you say yes to others unless you have a really good reason not to dance with them?”
The thinking goes that always saying yes creates an environment of warmth and acceptance. Beginners will feel less nervous. If no one ever suffers rejection, the scene will grow faster. These are admirable goals. I, too, want a warm and inviting dance scene where we suffer less from rejection. I also want the scene to keep growing (otherwise I won’t have my dance world takeover).
I have a different way of getting to the same ends, one with fewer unintended side effects. My way is more individually empowering. Rather than changing the whole community, you can change your own personal experience right now by fully understanding:
You are not entitled to dance with anyone.
What Entitlement Sounds Like
“He always turns me down. He’s an elitist.”
“She won’t dance with anyone but her friends. What a bitch.”
“People should want to dance with me! I’m fun!”
“He didn’t even give me a chance.”
Any time you set up an expectation about who others “should” dance with (or should want to dance with), you’re creating a sense of entitlement.
What Entitlement Really Means (Spoiler: It’s not good)
When you are entitled to something, that means you are owed it. Some things you are entitled to. Life, safety. Social security, if you paid into the system long enough (at least in the U.S). You’re entitled to your feelings and your opinions. Things like that.
However, you’re not entitled to dance with anyone.
Let’s get a handle on what this means. It does not mean it’s okay for anyone to insult you, condescend you, or put you down. You don’t have to put up with that crap.
It does mean that anyone can turn you down for any reason. Even bad reasons, like your weight, color of skin, or sexual orientation.
That’s a really outlandish thing to say, isn’t it? Those are some pretty shitty reasons. However, it is every person’s individual right to decide who they want to put their hands on them, even when their reasoning is totally stupid and offensive.
Yes, I support the rights of stupid people too!
By the way, I dearly hope you are not turning people down based on weight, skin color, or gayness. You are not going to find yourself very welcome in the dance community. Best get over it.
The “Is It Bad Enough?” Game
If rejection bothers you, most likely you’re playing a mental game of trying to figure out the other person’s reasoning. Once you “figure it out,” you decide whether it’s a good reason or a bad reason. If it’s a bad enough reason, you lay blame on your rejector for being a bad person.
Let’s take an example out of Rebecca’s Book of Shame:
One upon a time, I asked a well-known lindy hopper to dance. He said no and gave some lame excuse like, “I’m tired.” I thought to myself, “But he was dancing just a minute ago! It’s because I’m not a good enough dancer. It’s not fair! I can follow anything. He thinks he’s above me. What a jerk.”
Who was this guy? He is every dancer above my level who ever said no to me in my first few years of dancing. I took his relatively polite “no” and turned him into a stuck-up jerk. (P.S. I’m sorry.)
You see the problem here? I thought I was looking at the “evidence” (he was just dancing a minute ago, and I’m a really good dancer). But really I was just letting my anxiety and embarrassment get the better of me.
Stop judging other people’s reasons for rejecting you.
How It Feels On the Other Side
Sometimes an entitled person comes across as indignant (you’re an elitist for not dancing with them). Sometimes they come across as fragile and easily hurt (you’re a jerk for rejecting someone so tender).
Either way, I’m more likely to reject someone if I sense they feel entitled to dance with me. Why?
Dancing is a gift. When someone turns a gift into a debt that I owe them, that ruins the dance. It stops being a mutual experience, an exchange between two equals. Introducing a sense of entitlement creates a power dynamic most dancers don’t enjoy.
Entitlement is also creepy as hell for women. Yeah, we’re going to talk about that for a minute.
Here’s the deal: Women (like men) are allowed to choose who they date, talk to, and yes—even who they dance with! Women (like men) do not owe anyone a reason for rejecting someone they don’t want to spend time with. Wowzers, it’s almost as though men and women have the same rights or something.
Men: A lot of your social conditioning is wrong. Read this link and the above link if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
“But I still feel bad!”
Yes, rejection feels bad. You dwell on it. You watch other others having fun, wishing it were you. You get angry. You go home and cry.
Let me ask you this: Would you rather be single or be in a crappy relationship? Because it’s a pretty crappy dance relationship with a person who says yes when they mean no. They smile their fake smile. They struggle to hide their discomfort. And maybe you don’t even notice they’re not having fun. Eventually when you do catch on, you feel like a dunce.
Or maybe you blame them for not “trying harder,” but we both know that’s unfair. Really they just should’ve said no, right? If you’re not going to have fun, then don’t dance with me!
How I Handle Rejection Now
Firstly, I ask people who are most likely to say yes: My friends, those I’ve danced with before, or anyone who will hold my eye contact for a few seconds without looking away.
Secondly, I ignore the negative thoughts that usually pop into my head after rejection. These are like “negative ads.” You want to give them as little air time as possible.
Thirdly, I immediately distract myself. I go talk to a friend or find someone else who’s always fun to dance with. These are like “positive ads.” This way, I don’t give myself a chance to dwell on rejection.
The curse of the entitled dancer is this:
A sense of entitlement will get you more rejections. People would rather give gifts than pay debts.
The answer to, “Shouldn’t you say yes to others unless you have a really good reason not to dance with them?” is, “If you want to, sure!” If you want to adopt this way of working, go for it. Just remember, it doesn’t make you better than others who choose a different way.
Let others make their own decisions about who to dance with, and we’ll finally have that warm accepting community we all want.
Check out the whole course! Click here to download No More Dance Rejection (An 8-Part Course).