Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Parties & festivals

YNIDK on the dance floor

The first step in Yes No I Don’t Know is recognising that there is a shared decision in play.

Shared decisions involve someone else and require both people’s agreement.


Key points

  • Parties, festivals and nightclubs combine friends and strangers, noise, darkness, dancing and alcohol: they basically put YNIDK on hard mode.
  • There are all sorts of ways people try to communicate on crowded dance floors, with different levels of risk and respect.
  • The safest way to begin is through shared eye contact.
  • The touch-and-wave is a polite and vulnerable way to get someone’s attention.
  • The dance-up can be unintentionally invasive.
  • The grab-and-dance is almost always unwelcome.


YNIDK on hard mode

A group of people dancing in a formal, vintage ball setting.


Parties, festivals, and especially nightclubs, are petri dishes of complex Yes No I Don’t Know interactions:

  • You have friends and strangers, all with different interests and agendas, all crammed together.
  • Some people only want to hang out with their friends, others are interested in meeting new people.
  • Some people are shy, some are super forward.
  • Some have been drinking, some are completely sober.
  • The environment can be dark and noisy, making normal communication difficult.


So, people try to negotiate YNIDK on the question of “Do you want to dance with me?”

The meaningful look

  • The safest and most popular way to start is with eye contact, either shared glances or sustained meaningful looks. 
  • If all’s going well, both people keep making eye contact, and then move closer and figure out how they want to dance together. 
  • If either person changes their mind, they look away and stop returning eye contact, and usually the other person gets the message, but they can also get confused.
  • But looks can be subtle and there can be lots of missed connections: for example, you look over but they don’t see, then they look over but you don’t see, so you pass by each other without realising you are both into each other.
  • At its worst, one person keeps trying to make eye contact that isn’t returned, so they wind up doing a long, desperate, creepy stare, which isn’t great for anyone.


Two well-dressed couples slow dance.


The touch and wave

  • Since it’s easy to miss a meaningful look in a dark and crowded nightclub, some people go for the more direct touch on the shoulder, arm or back, and wave.
  • The key with this strategy is the first person is asking for permission, rather than just jumping in. This makes them vulnerable to direct rejection, so it’s actually a pretty brave thing to do. 
  • This approach gives the other person a moment to look at the first person, read their vibe, and then decide how they want to respond.
  • If both people wind up smiling, nodding, dancing, then it’s all good. 
  • But if the other person turns away, shakes their head, puts up their hands, then the first person tries to back away gracefully with their dignity intact. (And the other person might initially smile and dance to be polite, but then turn away.)
  • At its worst, the person being rejected becomes more insistent and tries to escalate rather than just quickly moving on.


The dance up

  • The dance up is where one person just dances up to the other person and tries to get them dancing in sync.
  • It’s got the directness of the tap and wave, with less of the vulnerability.
  • If the other person is happy to be approached, then they’ll start dancing and take it from there.
  • But even people who aren’t happy to be approached might start dancing, just to be polite or because they’re swept up in the first person’s momentum.
  • And some people really hate the dance up and will do a hard turn away or push back on the other person. 
  • The thing to realise is the dance up is actually quite invasive because the initiating person is using their whole body and closing off the other person.
  • At its worst, the dance up can feel like one person is cornering and dominating the other.


The grab and dance

  • The grab-and-dance is where one person doesn’t worry about eye contact or permission or anything like that—they just grab the other person’s butt or hips and start dancing with them.
  • This is a common line move on dance floors, and almost always unwelcome, especially if coming from a complete stranger.
  • Sometimes the other person might go along with it because they’re being socially compliant, but they’re not actually into it.
  • Worst-case scenario, the other person feels assaulted and harassed, and has to get the first person to back off—pushing them away, swearing at them, smacking their hands, or getting friends or bystanders to intervene.
  • If there’s a bad reaction, ideally the first person backs down and de-escalates quickly, but amazingly you’ll sometimes see people who think persistence is a virtue and they’ll keep pushing, which can then turn into a really nasty confrontation.


Playing it safe, and respectful

  • Parties, festivals and nightclubs are challenging because you can see all this and more, in different combinations and intensities, happening all at once—it can be a hot mess.
  • You can see lots of different ways that people approach each other and dance with each other, and sometimes it can look like the normal social rules have gone out the window.
  • But the Field Model still applies: everyone’s different, with different experiences, perceptions and desires—some people are open, some are closed, some like to be direct, some like to be indirect.
  • But overall everyone likes to be treated with respect and kindness.
  • If you want to engage with someone, then you need to find ways to Stop Ask Listen and negotiate Yes No I Don’t Know that can work in this environment.
  • The best approaches are repeated eye-contact or the tap and wave, both of which allow you to check each other out and show your interest (or lack of it).


Several people sit at a table, with one standing up. A seated person is dancing in his chair.