Cathy: So how do you increase the chances of getting yeses from people? This is Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: This is Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo.

Cathy: And we have a lot of people writing in about wanting to improve their chances of connecting with people and we were talking in the car earlier about how people can actually improve their chances of getting a yes without being manipulative or creepy. And in fact, helping people feel safe so that they feel comfortable saying yes more often.

Liz: Absolutely. And I think for me, my yes opens up a lot when I see someone accepts my no in a really healthy way. Like the more that someone is encouraging on my no and like I have some partners who will actively seek my no. They’ll see me looking a little ambivalent or uncomfortable and they will say, “Hey, are you sure you’re yes to this?” That right there makes me feel so much safer exploring anything with them.

Cathy: But that’s the opposite of what most of us think.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: If we’re starving for connection or we haven’t like I run cuddle parties and people come and they’re like, “I haven’t cuddled in so long.” And if someone says no, it lands directly. They feel like they’re being rejected as a human. So they’re trying to kind of force that yes.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And if someone says no, the disappointment or the kind of well, what can I – there’s not that safe energy of saying no. And I have a lot of compassion because I do understand what it’s like to be really hungry if you haven’t found people that you connect with that way.

Liz: And I think our culture in a lot of very subtle ways teaches us to coerce each other rather than to honor consent.

Cathy: Oh my god! Watch a sitcom on TV and you’ll see it left and right married couples that are manipulating each other all the time.

Liz: Right. And we don’t – even in like our friendships, one of our friends would be like, “Oh, I don’t feel like going out tonight.” Your next response for most people, “Oh come on! We’re going to have fun. It will be great.” And there’s a time and a place for that.

But I think that most of us have not learned how to take a no really well and respect it and make people feel safe with that no.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: And when you don’t feel safe with your no, you’re not going to feel safe with your yes.

Cathy: One of the things that I like to encourage people to do at the cuddle parties is say, “I hear your no. Thank you so much for telling me or sharing who you are and taking care of yourself. Is there any room for negotiation around that?” And being totally – if they say no then just drop it and walk away.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: But that …

Liz: Thank you. And then leave.

Cathy: Yeah. Thanks so much. Because it does – some people are like no and – because we teach at cuddle parties, no is a complete sentence. But it might be that maybe they don’t want to cuddle but they’re willing to – the shoulder massage might be great.

So ask – I feel like it’s respectful to say, “I get it and that’s totally fine. Is there anything around there that might be interesting to you?”

Liz: Yeah. And read the no. Like if someone’s no is a really a firm no, I wouldn’t ask – personally, ask for negotiation.

Cathy: Yeah, don’t push it.

Liz: But if someone who is really like, “Hmmm, no.” Well, is there any room for negotiation?

Cathy: Yeah. And realized that a lot of people use maybe or soft nos to kind of cushion it.

Liz: Yeah. And I don’t think that’s the most successful strategy. If you’re a no, you should say no. But saying a straight up no is very challenging for a lot of people. And I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of folks who are – who talked a really great consent game, pretend that they don’t hear those soft nos as nos because they just expect everyone to say what they mean. And don’t be that person either. If you feel like someone might be telling you no, ask them and reinforce that.

The same way that some of my partners will say to me, “Are you sure you’re a yes to this? Are you sure that this is actually what you want to do?” You’re going to have so much better luck over the long run when you’re good at taking at those no’s and walking away from the things that are a no than if you get a reputation as someone who keeps pushing those boundaries.

Cathy: Yeah. Learning how to self-sooth yourself if you get a disappointment like we do have feelings. If someone tells us no, we can have feelings.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: If we can tune into the fact that they’re being honest with us, that’s really powerful because vulnerability and honesty are really valuable in my world. But we actually do have feelings sometimes and we have disappointments. If we can have our feelings without putting them all over the other person, it’s such a subtle art but if you can do that like, “Oh, thank you for taking care of yourself. I’m going to go take care of my feelings” rather than, “Oh, really? You’re a no? Oh!”

Liz: I have a violent reaction to that.

Cathy: Sorry!

Liz: No, it’s OK.

Cathy: I’m trying to model for you like if you pour it on that other person, that can feel manipulative and not cool.

Liz: Yeah. And if you think about it, like how many of you had a breakup or as soon as you broke up with that person, they wanted you to process all their feelings with them? That doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel clean. It doesn’t feel done.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: It’s the same thing with a no on a smaller scale.

Cathy: Yeah. So if you can, learn how to take care of yourself. If you receive a no and I have some videos worth reading. We can maybe do one here too. Like what do you do when you’re feeling disappointed that lets you take care of yourself and feel comforted without kind of pouring it on that person?

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a feeling like that.

Liz: No, not at all.

Cathy: “I’m really disappointed but I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself,” might be more authentic for you.

Liz: The thing I tell people is that there’s no such thing as a wrong feeling. You can’t feel wrong.

Cathy: But you can act in ways that make other people feel uncomfortable.

Liz: Right. You have to make decisions about what you do with those feelings. You can have all the feelings in the world. They’re giving you great information about something. But it’s not anyone else’s responsibility to help you cope with those feelings or to push you through those feelings.

Cathy: I think that if you can have a lot of courage because it does take courage to ask, and as a person of size, I kind of watch people, if you don’t fit the conventional norms, you may have to do more asking. That’s just our society.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And it sucks and no one is going to change it for us.

Liz: No.

Cathy: So if you can have the courage to take care of yourself and sooth yourself and to ask – you may have to ask more people than someone who is conventionally pretty.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: Or conventionally attractive.

Liz: And those standards shift everywhere. I’m someone who is kind of in the middle, between conventionally attractive and bigger. And if I’m at like a strong conventional swingers event, I am definitely on the big side versus at other parties, I’m on the smaller side. And so, building those skills is good for everyone even if you’re someone who is conventionally attractive, even if you’re someone who doesn’t tend to get a lot of nos. It can actually be harder for those folks to hear a no than for folk who more used to receiving it.

Cathy: Yeah. So if you can be gentle with yourself and you don’t have – it doesn’t mean you have to get all your requests in one night. You can spread it out like, “Wow! I just got 15 nos. I think I’m done for tonight. I’m going to go do something that’s a yes for me.”

Liz: Right.

Cathy: And just realized that it’s OK to be gentle and it’s OK to go through this process and have your feelings but we don’t have to dump them on each other.

Liz: Yeah. It’s totally OK to be hurt and disappointed. It’s totally OK to have a hard time. It’s not OK to put that on someone else.

Cathy: Yeah. We’d love to know what you think. Would you write down below how do you handle this and what do you think about them?