There are some people who really have problem saying no. Whether it be that they are more concerned with hurting someone else’s feelings than standing their ground or that they have never been much of an assertive person, saying no is not always the easiest thing to do.

Author of “The Power of a Positive No,” William Ury, Ph.D., offers these tips for those of you who have a hard time telling others no:

Find Your Yes
Before you can even think about getting good at saying no, get clear on what to say yes to in life. If your yes is more time with your family, that will mean turning down obligations that keep you away from home. If it’s yes to better health, you’ll need to say no to late nights at work that keep you from the gym. The firmer your foundation and connection to your yes, says Ury, the less difficult it will be to say no. After all, you’ll be answering to a higher cause.

Buy Some Time

Whenever possible, don’t respond to a request on the spot. This keeps you from saying yes under pressure (“Um … sure, I’ll host the baby shower”) or reacting emotionally to the request, especially when you’re feeling stressed out.

Deliver Your No with Grace and Resolve
The moment of truth can be the most difficult of all, particularly when you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Ury suggests a “yes-no-yes” approach: First, share what you’re currently saying yes to (“My mother and I always go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings”). Then say no (“So I won’t be able to help you set up for the brunch you’re hosting”).

But don’t stop there. After you’ve turned someone down, affirm your good intentions by closing with another yes — this time, to a mutually positive outcome (“But I’d be happy to help clean up after it’s over”). In so doing, you relieve some of the frustration wrought by closing a door, while sending the message that you respect the other person’s needs.

Have a Plan B
Even if the other person gets emotional or reactive after you’ve delivered your no, don’t yield under pressure — as difficult as this may seem. Instead, take a deep breath and listen attentively to his or her objections. Then, gently but firmly, underscore your no — and keep it simple and clean; no backpedaling or scrambling for defense.

Cut Yourself Some Slack
Even with practice, some will always find saying no a challenge. For the dyed-in-the-wool people pleaser, there may be a twinge of guilt — and, for the overly ambitious, regret. Realize that your perennial inclination to offer help is something to be lauded, not criticized.

4 Comments

  1. Please Excuse Me

    When I was younger I had this people pleaser attitude always saying yes when I meant to say no. Now that I am older and more mature I have learned to art of saying ‘no”.

  2. La, California Dreaming

    When I was younger, I had a hard time saying no to people because it was easier to give in than to deal with too much attention or the ridicule for telling someone more popular than you, “no”. At some point in time, I learned to tell people ‘no’ and haven’t had a problem since.

    Even in my jobs, I’ve been told that I need to be more graceful when I tell people ‘no’.

  3. I LOVE the yes-no-yes tip. I don’t really having a problem saying no but this might help to soften the blow ;)

  4. I had to tell a girlfriend the other night that no, I can not lend her $20, when she kept insisting, I finally said, ‘look, I need MY money more than you do.’ She was offended at first, but she got over it.

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