How to say No
Posted September 7, 2011on:
If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this: ‘No’ is not a naughty word. It’s not a ‘four letter word’ nor is it one to be ashamed of saying. People struggle with saying ‘no’ because of feelings of guilt. While it’s flattering to be offered opportunities – going on vacation together, being a God parent – they may not be what you want. If you put yourself first by saying ‘no’ to some requests you can serve your friends and family better in other ways.
Remember too, look at your reasons for saying ‘no.’ If you’re rejecting an opportunity to stretch yourself a bit – for example, refusing to speak at your best friend’s wedding because you doubt your abilities to do a good job – reconsider. Sometimes people say ‘no’ because they’re afraid to take themselves out of their comfort zones.
When you do say ‘no’ – mean it. Saying ‘no’ while nodding your head and smiling gives mixed messages. Speak like you mean what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean you have to be harsh – just clear, concise and committed to what you’re saying.
This blog addresses how to say No to common requests from good friends – not unreasonable, but ones which will cause you a great deal of time, anxiety etc, that you can’t afford, such as public speaking. We have chosen a few common situations to guide you through saying no.
1. Will you be my child’s godparent? Before saying ‘no’ allow the person making the offer to ask and define what being a God parent entails. What commitments are involved? Once you’ve given them time to speak tell them that while you’re flattered by their request and that you look forward to being part of the child’s life, you’re not in a position to accept the invitation. You don’t need to give further explanation (Not religious, can’t meet the expectations, etc) Show your appreciation in your tone of voice and body language. A flip ‘thanks but no thanks’ can come off a bit gruff.
2. Will you be best man/woman? (You hate public speaking,) If the only reason you say ‘no’ is because you hate public speaking, get over it. Before saying ‘no’ outright, find out what the job entails. If the expectations are beyond your capabilities , thank the person for the opportunity and suggest an alternative choice. If the person is a good enough friend, you can find the resources to accept the offer even if it takes up time.
3. Shall we all go on holiday together? (You want a relaxing time with your own family) Tell them exactly that. That another time you’d enjoy going on holiday together, this time you want to be relaxing alone with your family. You don’t need to say a lot to get your point across clearly and concisely.
4. Can I come and stay after a marital row? (You’re busy/don’t have room/ don’t want to take sides) Let her speak so she feels valued and cared for. Then tell her that while you care for her the best thing she can do is rely on herself to work out the problem. Unless your friend is in physical danger – in which case you definitely don’t take her in , referring her instead to an abuse agency (Refuge, for example)– you’re not doing her any favours by treating her like a helpless child.
5. Can I borrow some money? The answers below are perfectly acceptable reasons for saying ‘no’. The second response – don’t trust them to pay back – could sound a bit harsh. You could frame your response in terms of ‘I wouldn’t want to put you in the difficult position of having to pay me back.’ Even Shakespeare knew not to mix funds and friendship (‘Never a borrower nor a lender be’ – Hamlet)
(You don’t believe in mixing friends & cash/ don’t trust them to pay it back)
6. Can you have my (difficult) teenager to stay while we go away for the weekend? Express your happiness for them that they’re getting away together. Empathetically, tell them that you have plans for the w/e that and are not able to help them out this time. You don’t need to go into any great explanation. As my grandmother used to say, ‘never complain, never explain.’
(Too much responsibility & you don’t want to row with him/her about drinking, lifts, etc.)
For those for whom ‘being liked’ is important, it’s hard to say no because it feels/sounds/looks like rejection. If you change your viewpoint and see saying ‘no’ as a way of empowering others to come up with their own solutions without relying on others to solve their problems, you’re giving them a gift.
We find it hard to say ‘no’ because we’re taught to be nice to others, to behave in a generous manner, to serve others, and to pay back for favours done. We also find it hard to say ‘no’ when the person asking is similar to us – be it background, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviours, culture, religion, etc. Similarities create bonds. If you owe someone a favour it’s also hard to say no to them.
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