The Art of Fogging

The Art of Fogging

My mom died when she was 53—I was 25 years old at the time. It wasn’t her early departure from this earth that reminds me of how finite time is, it is her lasting wisdom. One lesson she instilled is that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you do or don’t want to do something. After all, it’s your time. To this day, the sage life advice she shared are some of my most vivid memories.

I remember being in high school when she was reading the book, “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty” by Manuel J. Smith. I recall being around the house one day with some of my friends when she said, “OK girls, I’m going to teach you how to fog.

When I Say No, I Feel GuiltyWhat???

My friends and I couldn’t begin to imagine what she was talking about. She continued, “It’s called fogging.”

Still totally clueless.

She then pulled out the self-help book she was reading and proceeded to inform us that “fogging” is essentially when you swallow up information from another person and instead of countering or giving an explanation, you acknowledge and move on. Consider how difficult it is to counter something if the other person isn’t attacking, but simply absorbing what you’re saying about them. I’ve adapted this over the years to fog a situation where I don’t feel I need to give an explanation. I come up with a short standard line and repeat it over and over until the person stops bugging me.

In my early 20’s I was on a date with a guy who had asked me out to dinner. I met him at the Chart House in Malibu. We had a lovely time. After dinner I said, “Thank you. I had a great time.” I then proceeded to approach my car to go home. He stopped me before I could get into my car and said, “Wait, my apartment is not far. Why don’t you come over for a drink?” Instantaneously, I knew I was going to need to pull out my “fogging” skills.

Me: “Thank you for dinner, I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”
Him: “Why don’t you come over for one drink?”
Me: “Thank you for dinner. I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”
Him: “What? Do you have to get up early? It’s not even 10.”
Me: “Thank you for dinner, I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”
Mr. Annoying: “Just give me one good reason why you can’t come over for a half an hour.”
Me: “Thank you for dinner, I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”
Mr. Pissed off and annoying: “I don’t get it. It’s just a half hour.”
Me: “Thank you for dinner, I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”
JackAss: “Yeah, I heard you the previous 20 times you said that. I can’t believe I bought you dinner and this is all I get.”
Me: WHATTTTT? I thought. All I said was, “Thank you for dinner, I had a great time. I’m going to go home now.”

I wonder why he never called for a second date? I had a really nice time.

I have used this scenario with so many of our student-athletes. The point is, you don’t owe anyone more of an explanation for why you do or don’t want to do something except, “I just don’t want to.” I hate it when someone asks me, “Are you free Saturday afternoon?” My first thought is, “I might be and I might not be.” If you want me to meet with Steven Spielberg about producing my Urban Nutcracker, “YES… I’m free the entire day/night whatever.” If you want me to go to dinner with a group of people I’m not interested in hanging out with then I’m busy. And my “busy” will actually be wanting to hang out at home with just my husband. Why do we feel compelled to have to give a “better” excuse. The best most honest excuse is usually, “Thank you for the invite, but I don’t want to.”

It’s your time, don’t be afraid or apologetic to own it.

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28 Comments on "The Art of Fogging"

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“You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you do or don’t want to do something.” Whoa, I needed to hear this one. This is a HUGE issue for me. I have a hard time saying no and I always feel like I have to make excuses. I am also completely unable to say no to people at work when they need me to “cover” something for them or help them with their work, even when I am overwhelmed with my *own* work. As a side note, I am sorry for the loss of your Mom, Miss Val. I lost… Read more »

I love this! I feel like it would sometimes get annoying to be the subject of someone’s elses fogging, but at the same time it would help someone learn that no means no ya know?


Oooohhhhhh how I needed to hear this! I am always so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that I give detailed explanations as to why I can’t. I stop just short of flow charts & sworn affidavits. Then comes the apologizing. The irony is that I would never expect someone to overexplain & apologize profusely to me so why do I expect it from myself?

I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother, Miss Val. You have my condolences. My own mother taught me a similar lesson when I was an adolescent trying to find her way. She taught me that I’m not being a witch (or another similar word) if I choose not to provide others with information that they are not entitled to. She taught me to politely but firmly decline to share things I didn’t want to share, and I am now so happy to have the confidence to make my own decisions about what I will share with… Read more »

I so need this! I am totally guilty of trying to either give more of an explanation than needed or just giving in to doing something that I don’t want and then being angry at myself. I glad that you stood up to that pushy guy. One of my pet peeves is men who expect women to go home with them just because they bought dinner. Just no.

Abby Laver

I absolutely love this! What’s important to you and how you spend your time is your choice. Thank you for your wonderful advice!

Jan Shuman

Val – This is sooooo good. Thank you!

Melissa Wilkinson

Love this–this is such sage advice!!


Wow. That is a powerful lesson. Fogging reminds me of an idea I think of often. Once a moment is gone, it can not be gotten back. So it is best to use your time wisely.

A Renee

Once again you have provided excellent advice and I admire your candor. I’m sorry for the loss of your mother at such a young age. It sounds like she taught you wonderful lessons and I’m so happy you’re passing them along. I look forward to seeing your next musing.