Let’s talk about “no” in acro.
You’ve heard this refrain in our opening circle: “Anyone can turn you down at any time, for any reason, so don’t take it personally”. This is good advice for the giver of the “no”, but doesn’t help the receiver so much.
So, some things to keep in mind when you hear “no”:
First and foremost, treat “no” — and that can range from a hard-and fast “no!” to a reluctant “mmmm …” — as a hard-stop to whatever you were proposing to do. A great thing to reply with is simply a sunny “okay”, free from venom or disappointment or any other layers. If the “no” was to an invitation to play in the first place, please don’t try to push past that objection.
If the “no” regards a specific move within an acro session that’s otherwise going well, now is a great time to remind yourself that the most worthwhile part of right now is the connection and dialog between two people. The photo or video you were trying to get, or the transition you’re trying to nail from last week’s class … that stuff really is secondary. Make it clear the person you’re playing with is important, their input is important, and that pivoting to something else (or maybe being done for now) is completely okay.
If you’re a base and hear “no” from a flyer, keep in mind a disproportionate amount of the risk falls on their side of the fence. Pressuring past an objection and winding up with a hurt flyer is gonna suck all the way around. Make sure you’re willing to hear and honor and adapt to objections from someone who’s putting their body at more risk than you are.
Is the “no” your fault? Maybe. It’s quite possible that something you did directly led to this. Be willing to self-examine, during and after the fact. Don’t throw yourself under the bus, though. “I suck at life, I need to quit acro, etc.” doesn’t do any good. Learn and adjust and try again. We’re not born knowing how to do this perfectly, just like we’re not born knowing how to do side-star.
And it’s also quite possible that “no” has nothing whatsoever to do with you, and everything to do with where the partner is in that moment. Maybe they’re having a bad day, or are nursing an injury, or have had a bad experience recently or long ago, maybe with someone who you remind them of, through no fault of your own. Sometimes when you encounter strong reactions in others, it’s because you’ve touched some deeper, pre-existing pain-point.
Again, a sunny “okay” is generally best. A number of times after I’ve heard “no”, I’ve had that person come up to me later — could be that day, could be next week — and say, “That was nothing personal. I was just in a space where I needed something different right then. Wanna play?” If I’d slammed the door on them by being ungracious when they told me “no”, those follow-up connections wouldn’t have happened.
Hearing “no” isn’t easy, but it really is an opportunity to practice the sort of listening, patience, and adaptability that will make you someone people will seek out to play with.
Scott White is an AcroYoga Montreal-certified teacher and a founding director of Austin Acro Advocates. He teaches as part of Freeflow Acro and documents his adventures on his masked heavy metal parody YouTube channel, Evil Acro.