Learning to Say No

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Learning to Say No
Some of us have no trouble at all saying “no.” For some of us, however, it’s a trickier concept, especially if you work with people who have a difficult time accepting your message. They may respond by deciding to negotiate, cajole, or give you a direct order.
In this lesson, you’ll learn the best ways to say “no” so that you can focus on your priorities.
Expressing Your No
Ways to Say No
Once you understand the request and decide you want to say no, choose the kind of no that best suits the person and situation. Below are some general rules to follow.
Say no firmly and calmly, without saying, “I’m sorry,” which weakens your position.
Say no, followed by a straightforward explanation of what you are feeling or what you are willing to do.

  • “I’m uncomfortable doing that.”
  • “I’m not willing to do that.”
  • “I don’t want to do that.”
  • “I don’t like to do that.”

Say no, and then give a choice or alternative.

  • “I can’t help you now, but I will when I get this done, which could be in an hour.”
  • “I don’t have time today, but I could help out the first thing tomorrow morning.”

Say no and then clarify your reasons. This does not include long-winded statements filled with excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. It’s enough that you do not want to say yes. Your clarification is given to provide the receiver with more information so they better understand your position.
Use your natural no. You may have developed your own style of saying no based on your past experience and personality. If so, use it.
Make an empathetic listening statement and then say no. You may paraphrase the content and feeling of the request, and then state your no.
Example: “I can see that it is important to you that one of my assistants gets your report done. I’d like to have someone do it, but my staff is already overburdened with high priority tasks to be completed by the end of the day.”
Say yes, and then give your reasons for not doing it or your alternative solution. This approach is very interesting. You may want to use it in situations when you are willing to meet the request, but not at the time or in the way the other person wants it.

  • “Yes, I would be willing to help you out, but I won’t have time until tomorrow afternoon.”
  • “Yes, I could have part of your report typed, but not all forty pages.”
  • “Yes, I’d be willing to go along with your second alternative, but not the third one you suggested.”

The Persistent Response
You can also use the persistent response. This method of saying no entails using a one-sentence refusal statement and persistently repeating it as often as necessary, no matter what the person says. This technique is useful when dealing with very aggressive or manipulative people who won’t take no for an answer. It is especially useful when you want to move from the passive mode to the assertive mode, as it gives you a specific format to follow. This is also useful for moving yourself away from the extreme aggressive end of the continuum if you are apt to lose control and become verbally abusive. The persistent response can be effective in maintaining your refusal while continuing to be in charge of your emotions.
Because this way of saying no is unusual and a bit complex, we will provide some detailed guidelines for applying it.
First, select a concise, one-sentence statement and repeat it no matter what the other person says or does. Examples:

  • “I understand how you feel, but I’m not willing…”
  • “I’m not interested…”
  • “I don’t want to…”’
  • “I’m uncomfortable doing that, so I don’t want to…”
  • “You might be right, but I’m not interested.”

After each statement by the other person, say your persistent response sentence. It’s important that you don’t get sidetracked by responding to any other issue the other person brings up.
Guidelines for Saying No
Say your statement firmly, calmly, and as unemotionally as possible.
Be aware of your nonverbal behavior, making sure you are coming across as neither passive nor aggressive. Use plenty of silence to your advantage. Your silence will project the message that the other’s statements and manipulation are futile.
Be persistent. Simply state your response one more time than the other person makes their request, question, or statement. If the other person makes six statements, you make seven. If the other person makes three statements, you make four. Most often, the other person will feel ill at ease and stop after three or four statements. Other times, your response will move the other person to offer options you are willing to go along with.