How to Say No With Dignity and Class


"Keep in mind that you are always saying 'no' to something. If it isn't to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the more fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your unique contributions, if you let it."

- Steven Covey The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

"No" is one of the most feared words in our culture.It has so much meaning: rejection, isolation, disappointment, disapproval, opportunities lost, and doors firmly closed.And that's just hearing a "no". Saying it is a whole other kettle of fish.One of the most important aspects of my personal development has been learning when and how to say N-O. Before I started consciously examining this, saying no was a real challenge; it still is sometimes. The important thing is to stay conscious of how we feel about any given situation so that we don't get caught out and end up agreeing to something that isn't true to our needs in the moment.

Why it's hard to say no

Fear of rejection: Because if we say no to someone they'll think we're an asshole and never talk to us again, right? A great way to overcome this particular fear is to turn it around and ask yourself: "How would I feel and respond if someone said "No" to me about this?" Chances are, it's probably not a relationship-ending deal breaker.Fear of causing trouble/appearing unreasonable: The fear of being "unreasonable" is one of my biggest obstacles to saying "no". Here's the thing: saying no isn't selfish, it's healthy. What I'm currently working on is turning this fear around and asking myself "What does it say about the other person if they think about me like that because I said 'No'"? and, more bluntly, "So what?"Fear of missing out: If we say no, will we miss out on important events, experiences, and information? One way of turning this fear around is to zoom out and view the bigger picture. Perhaps we will miss out on certain events, experiences, and information but is this really the end of the world? Equally, it's important to examine our reasons for saying no: if it's because the situations or people involved aren't aligned with our values or goals then that's important.

How to know when to say no

Use the 'best friend' test: If my best friend were telling me about this situation, what would I advise them to do?What is my internal dialogue saying? If you can hear a little voice saying "no", then hear what that voice has to say before deciding either way.Does this jibe with my current needs? Even if something sounds good in theory, it might not fit with your current needs and goals. In this case, you might be offering  a 'let's wait and see' no rather than a hard

How to say "No"

The Learning Process1. Think of it as learning a new skill. If you want to become a black-belt ninja in saying "No", that's what this is: a learning process.2. Practise when the stakes are low.3. Get support4. Accept there will be set-backsThe Six "No" Situations(This section refers to those times when we really do want to say no, not when we actually want to say yes but we're paralysed by fear, self-sabotaging, or anything else - those situation deserve a blog post of their own)In case you missed Something for the Weekend last week, take a look at Alexandra Franzen's guide to "How to Say No to Anything Ever". It's a simple yet effective framework that will help you stay on track when you feel your 'no' getting wobbly.How you say no will vary depending on the situation.1. Someone requests that you start doing something or take on an extra commitment"I'd like to think about it first, I'll get back to you in X amount of time" (only say this if you do actually want to think about it)"I'm not in a position to do this right now.""I appreciate the offer, I have other priorities that are really important to me right now so I won't be able to take you up on it.""I can't do this, but [insert name here] might be able to help.""I have a lot of commitments so I can't take anything else on right now."2. Someone requests that you stop doing something"X really meets my needs, so I'm not willing to stop doing it right now. I do want to find a middle ground where we're both happy though.""I'm not sure why it's important to you why I stop doing X, so I'm not willing to stop doing it right now. Let's talk about it.""I'm not comfortable stopping X right now, but let's revisit this in [insert time period here]."3. Someone tries to sell you something"No, thank you.""Thanks for your offer, I'm not looking for something like that now so I'll pass.""I'm not interested right now, thanks for asking."4. Someone you don't know or don't like wants to socialise or deepen your relationship"I appreciate the offer, I have a lot of other commitments that are taking up my time right now.""I don't have a lot of time to do X right now, but let's reconnect in a couple of months.""Thanks for asking, I'm happy with my current circle of friends and I'm not looking to deepen my relationships with anyone else right now.""Thanks, I'll have a think about it and get back to you." (only use this if you are actually going to think about it and get back to them)5. Someone offers a solution to a current problem (and the solution doesn't work for you)"Thanks for your feedback, that doesn't fit with what I need right now.""I appreciate your suggestion, I'm looking for something a little [cheaper/detailed/informal/other adjective] right now.""That doesn't fit with what I want in the long term, but thanks for your suggestion."6. Someone won't take 'no' for an answer"I've said before that I'm not interested/willing to do X, that's my final answer.""I've told you two times now that I'm not interested in doing X, please stop asking.""My answer is no and I'm not willing to discuss this anymore."How do you say no? Leave a comment and let us know.  Photo Credits: hoyasmeg and Pinterest