Saying yes, while shaking no…

Welcome to Wicked Writer Wednesday.

Have you ever watched someone on TV, in the movies or just on the news, shake their head “No” when they are saying something positive?

I watched a news anchor talk about the pilots who got shot down over Libya (this was a month or so ago). She was saying that they were safe and back with the US forces. All the while she was saying this good news she was shaking her head “No”. So which is it? Good news or bad news with a sugar-coating?

Or how about in the movies when an actor, talking with another actor, says “Want to come over for dinner?” The actor asking the questions is shaking his head “No” while smiling pleasantly. So do you want me to come over for dinner or are you trying to subtly influence me into saying “No, I can’t”. Or are they saying ” I am asking you to dinner as a courtesy but, I really want you to say No.”

This action of saying the positive but motioning the negative happens more than you think. Examples are: customer “Where is the leaf lettuce?” employee smiling broadly (and shaking his head no), “It’s over by the iceberg” . Or medical assistant ” I need to draw some blood” patient “Is this going to hurt?” medical assistant (shaking head no) “I am good at this, you won’t feel it”.

Human nature is funny. We are more likely to be influenced by an action than by a comment. Next time you’re people watching, don’t just listen to the words, watch the action that accompanies the words and see which would influence you more.

Have you had this experience with “no meaning yes”? Or “yes meaning no”? Has someone’s body language changed what you thought was a positive experience to a negative one?

Thanks for stopping by…and yes, I really mean it!


About Shellie Sakai

Reading is a passion. Storytelling is an obsession. Writing is inevitable.
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9 Responses to Saying yes, while shaking no…

  1. I can’t honestly think of an example like you give but there is one thing some people do that I have learned to watch for and that is the ones who soften you up with charm and humor.

    They usually want something and they want you to give it willingly with a happy heart. Sometimes what they want is not in your best interests. Most of the time you meet them at sales or political meetings but they can be at your workplace, too.

    This type of manipulation is the worst because when it can cause distrust where there should be trust.

  2. I just experienced this first hand! We had dinner w/friends this past weekend…and one couple consisted of a guy I absolutely adore, and his wife (my guy’s ex). After a bottle of sake, she asked me to go see Bridesmaids with her this weekend…My mouth said “YES,” and my brain said, “Are you freaking crazy?” No more sake for me!

  3. In my day job I learn a lot about gesture over words, since many of the visitors to my store don’t have English as their first language. Plus, it’s a law of nature that anyone asking for anything in a home improvement/hardware store will make a twisting motion with both hands while saying “It’s a …er…a…you know…uh….”. Yesterday I had a lady ask me for “a drain…a shower cover…drain cover…to stop the water…”. My brain had jammed (I was still jetlagged) and we stared at each other for a minute. Eventually I managed “Do you mean a plug?” and she was delighted! But most people coming into the store just want a smile from me. Funny, how it really helps to smile at people on the days when I don’t feel like smiling. Their reaction is a tonic.

  4. S-ro says:

    I just saw 2 people do this on television. Someone asked them a question and they said “absolutely!” while shaking their head “no”. I was wondering if this was common because it really bothered me and I found your blog. Thanks for making me feel less weird about noticing things like this!

  5. mydahling1 says:

    I have noticed and questioned this for years. First I noticed with singing–not just people but me too.

  6. I can think two instances where I have witnessed this “saying yes meaning no” behaviour.

    One of them was during a music rehearsal in my church. I asked the pianist if she wouldn’t mind me playing the song intro with the the Guitar, and she promptly said “Yes, play it” but shaking her head in the negative direction. After seeing that I put my guitar aside saying the Guitar didn’t fit with this song. In the end the pianist was very happy for being as allowed to play the song alone, just the piano and the singer voice. I bet this was her wish since the begining.

    Another example of this was when I talked with the father of a girl I am interested in. This guy said to me that “You can ask her, you have my permission”, but his head shaked in the negative direction while he said so. I think it’s better for me to find another girl, because this man is not being very receptive towards me. I know this is something the girl should decide by saying yes or no, but it sucks having to do wonders to please a woman family as if it the processo you have to pay to get her. No way. It’s much best if I can find a good girl who has a good family also.

  7. I arrived at this page after a quick search because I was increasingly disturbed by The Flash/Barry Allen/Grant Gustin, amongst others, who constantly shakes his head no whilst supposedly saying something good to Iris West/Candice Patton… does he secretly hate her? Is this taught at American drama schools? Not the first one, just currently the most consistently noticeable culprit.

  8. TrevorRace says:

    I’m surprised nobody else has mentioned this one, but what about when someone is expressing how good the food is by shaking their head “no” while saying “oh, it’s SO good!”

  9. confused says:

    A coworker told me I am ‘great’ at what I’m doing at work all the while shaking her head repeatedly. I found the whole thing perplexing. I felt like her head shaking nullified the compliment so I left feeling ambivalent.

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