They Didn’t Like Your Answer… Now What?


It’s natural for people to feel disappointed if we decline their request. People may even be surprised at our no, especially if they’re used to us agreeing to what they ask. Most of the time when we say no firmly and kindly they’ll respect our decision, even if they wish we’d chosen otherwise.

Sometimes, however, the other person might push back. If they use anger or criticism or blame to pressure us to change our minds, it might mean their request was actually a demand.

It can be uncomfortable to see someone disappointed or upset as a result of your decision, but their reaction doesn’t necessarily mean that your answer was wrong.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when someone doesn’t like your response to their request…

You are only responsible for you.

How you speak and act is your responsibility. How another person responds to your words and actions, however, is not. Sometimes people’s interpretation of our response will be very different from what we intended. While it may be worth considering whether something we said was unclear, often the other person’s reaction has more to do with what is going on with them than it does with us.

Our responsibility for our words and actions doesn’t end with our original no. We are still responsible for how we respond to the other person’s reaction. You made your decision and chose to give your answer in a way that is firm but kind. You can continue to be firm and kind even in the face of a less than understanding response.

It is ultimately your decision.

If someone doesn’t like the answer we give them, they might push back in any number of ways to see if we really mean what we say or to try to make us change our mind. It’s normal to want validation for our decisions and it can feel really uncomfortable when someone thinks our decision is wrong. It is not our responsibility, however, to convince others to agree with us.

What we can do is stand by our decision. We’ve already thought through what we are choosing and what we want to say. We don’t need to add excuses or elaborate explanations. We also don’t need to go against ourselves so the other person can have their way. We may fear sounding a bit like a broken record, but standing firm in our decision and our intention shows the other person we mean what we say and builds our trust in ourselves.

Treat yourself with compassion.

We don’t like to disappoint or upset other people. When someone is unhappy with our decision, it can bring up feelings such as guilt and anxiety. These feelings are uncomfortable and it’s normal to want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

The fastest way to get rid of those uncomfortable feelings is to change our response and do what the other person wants. Unfortunately, while this may relieve us of our guilt, it is also likely to bring feelings of resentment in its place.

Reversing our decision teaches the other person that we can be pressured into compliance. It shows that we’re willing to sacrifice our needs in order to keep them happy. It also reinforces old habits of people-pleasing instead of developing new, more authentic ways of interacting.

Another way we try to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings is to blame the other person. It’s easier to feel anger toward someone else than to experience doubt about the decisions we made or fear about what the other person thinks of us in light of that decision. Making the other person wrong is more comfortable than sitting with our own feelings of guilt. The problem is, when we’re angry and blaming, we’re unlikely to stick with our intention of being kind.

So what can we do instead? Rather than trying to ignore or get rid of the feelings that are making us uncomfortable, what if we let ourselves feel them? What if we showed ourselves compassion and acknowledged that it’s really hard to stand by an answer that someone insists is wrong or selfish. Instead of criticizing ourselves for feeling a certain way, we can comfort ourselves in the midst of those painful emotions and remind ourselves why we chose the way we did and who we want to be in this situation.

I’d love to know…have you ever experienced push back after declining a request? How did it feel? How did you respond?