How many times has this happened: we accept a proposal, agree to a venture or a project not because we really want to, but out of some incomprehensible sense of duty (out of courtesy?) and then regret that we didn't refuse. From an early age, many of us have been conditioned to associate everything we do for ourselves (and not for the sake of others) with being self-centered. As a result, we value the well-being of others above that of our own. The unspoken rules of social interaction based on conditional love imply that we end up owing something to the world when we refuse an unwanted proposal (acting self-centered), and on the contrary, when we behave altruistically and accept, it seems that world now owes us something. This sounds absurd, but it is the reason for many of our troubles.
Social tango provides an opportunity to reconsider this approach entirely. Even the person, who does not like to – or cannot – say "no", will have to learn to do this quite frequently at milongas, otherwise they won't last very long. But saying "no" is not easy. For many people this is a very sensitive topic, considering at least three factors.
First, when saying "no", we're afraid that other people will also notice this, and will stop inviting us. In my opinion, this point of view underestimates the people around us. A more empowering perspective is as follows: "when others notice that I say 'no' – that I am being selective – they will be even more interested in inviting me." Once, when I came to my favorite milonga, I saw a 'new girl' standing by the dance floor and quietly looking around. I wasn't sure, whether to invite her or not: I had not yet seen how she dances. My indecision was gone in a blink of an eye when I witnessed the following. When a tanda began, a young man approached this girl from the side – there were still only a few people around – stopped about two meters away from her and leaned forward in an overly obvious attempt to catch her gaze. The girl noticed this "cabeceo" with her peripheral vision and timely turned away to show that she's not interested. I conclude that – since she turned down this travesty of an invitation – it means that she's selective, which in turn means that she's a good dancer. Taking my time, I walk around the dance floor, properly cabeceo her from across the room, and praise my own intuition for two tandas in a row.
Second, we frequently attribute the meaning of a "no" to non-love, punishment or even disavowal. After all, refusal can be a powerful instrument in the hands of a manipulator. However, the upside is that my perception of a refusal is just a matter of perspective. A "no" has nothing to do with these sentiments, and can be looked at quite differently.
And third, we do not like to get a "no" from others. This, again, is a matter of perspective. A "no" can be considered as a gift, since its alternatives (to accept against one's genuine desire) are quite bleak. It follows then, that a refusal is a win-win, since both end up in a better situation than if the refuser had accepted.