How to Tell Someone "NO!"
The demand on our time has never been more overwhelming than in today’s world. It is impossible to say yes to everything that is asked of us, even if we wanted to. Learning to say no appropriately and effectively is a vital skill for healthy relationships and a healthy career. Unfortunately, few master the delicate art of declining respectfully.
Telling Someone “No”
Use a direct “No.” When you are talking to a family member or a peer, it is often best to give a direct “no.” Sometimes this can be accompanied by an explanation of why you feel you cannot or will not meet the request, but it does not have to be. The key to a successful “no” in this situation is to make sure that your whole body says “no” and not just your mouth. Look the person directly in the eye and say no clearly and firmly without hesitation.
- If you do not look them in the eye and appear to hesitate, it gives the impression that you are not sure of your no. This might lead someone to think that they can change your mind.
- Special care should be taken in declining requests in romantic relationships. It is okay to say no, but is usually best to be open with your partner about why their request has been declined. Obliging to things you are uncomfortable with is not healthy, but neither is leaving your partner feeling rejected and confused.
Use an indirect “No.” Saying no to a boss or customer can sometimes warrant a less direct approach. Steer the conversation in a way that allows you to show them why this request is not a good match for you (you’re too busy, someone else is better skilled in the area, etc.).
- A good example is when you are asked to do something that you simply do not have time to do. In this situation, instead of saying no to your boss you can accept the request, but also ask for some assistance evaluating the priority level of the new task. This will allow your boss to revisit your workload and better decide if that task should be delegated elsewhere, or if some of your other work should be moved to allow you to do the new job.
Express encouragement to the other person.This goes back to remembering that the request is probably important to the person asking you for help. When you decline to help, regardless of your reasoning, it can help to convey that you wish them well. Sometimes this can be as simple as saying “I hope it works out for you,” and other times you might be able to offer some sound advice such as “I know a person who would love to help with this.”
Remain firm under pressure.Not all “no’s” will be received well. The person requesting help might continue to push the issue by making you feel guilty, harassing you, or intimidating you. Offering an excuse will generally open a dialogue that they can manipulate to reinforce that their request should be the most important thing at this moment. If you say no, mean no.
Leave the door open for future requests.If a person is polite, or if you have a standing relationship with that person, make it clear that they can come to you with future requests. For example, the fact that you cannot help your coworker meet a last minute deadline that they forgot does not mean that you can’t work together another time.
Understanding the Request Being Made
Listen carefully to what the other person is asking of you.One of the most unpleasant parts about being told no can be feeling that you or your request was not important to someone you trusted to ask. You can avoid making a person feel this by actively listening to what they have to say. You should know exactly what you are declining.
Analyze the request being made.Once you have listened to the request intentfully, you should quickly consider the consequences of accepting or declining the request. Decide if the request is something that you would be okay with doing, and then decide if it is something that you want to do. If the answer to either of these is no, explain that you probably aren’t the best person to help them.
Acknowledge the needs of the other person.Asking something of someone else is often a difficult thing to do. You should never assume that a request is being made lightly. The other person clearly considers you to be capable of helping them in some way. This does not mean you should do it, but you should keep in mind that the other person is human and deserves to be told no respectfully.
Consider why this request is being made specifically to you.Some requests, like petitions, aim to gain as much support as possible from anyone willing to participate. Other requests are more intimate, such as asking for advice in a relationship. Knowing why you are being asked can help you say no in an appropriate way (e.g. "I don’t feel comfortable giving you advice about your ex because they are very different from my ex").
Responding Appropriately to Requests in Dangerous Situations
Evaluate your surroundings.There are some situations when simply saying “no” might put you in danger. This can include being mugged or held hostage, being alone with someone who is heavily intoxicated, or being in a romantic situation that becomes aggressive. Many of the same principles of saying “no” respectfully still apply. For example you should understand what the other person wants and why they want it. This might help you reason with them.
De-escalate the situation.De-escalation is not about being right or wrong. It is about being in control by staying calm and creating a calmness in the other person. Do not criticize or berate them, but talk calmly. One way to bring most people down is to ask them to help you understand how they feel. Allow them to work through “how” and “why” they feel that way while you listen attentively, without interrupting or challenging them.
- Note that you will most likely not be calm. Breath slowly and steadily to help keep yourself calm.
Draw attention to yourself.You are much less likely to be in danger if you are in a crowd of people. If you feel threatened, try to move to a more crowded area. If you cannot move the interaction easily, shout and flail to draw attention to yourself if you must.
Run if you can get away.If de-escalation isn’t working and you feel like you can get away, run! Do not try to fight if you can avoid it. This keeps you in a dangerous situation longer and can really anger the other person.
Fight back only if you must.If no other option exists and you are in danger, you will have to fight back. It is important to remember the goal is not to win the fight, but to get away. Go for vulnerable areas such as the nose, throat, and groin. If you do manage to hurt an assailant, get away as fast as you can. Go straight to the police.
- In romantic situations where a clear no is being ignored and you cannot walk away, use the open palm of your hand to hit the offender in the nose with an upward motion. Do not use a fist - an open hand is more effective. Regardless of what Hollywood would have you think, this will not kill them. It will give them a bloody (and possibly broken) nose. Do not resort to violence unless it is absolutely necessary.
QuestionA girl at school keeps trying to "help" me, but I don't want her help. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe best would be direct, but if that's a problem for you. It sounds like you need to talk to her about the bigger issue here, why she want's to "help" you and how it makes you feel. Come up with alternative ways she can support you in other things If you want to preserve the relationship. If you want her to leave you alone, just tell her you're not interested and don't like it.Thanks!
QuestionSomeone at school keeps asking for my supplies, and it's annoying me. What should I do in this situation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you're pretty sure this person is just being irresponsible and forgetting their own stuff, tell them, politely but firmly, that you're not going to give them your stuff anymore, because you need it for yourself. If you think perhaps this person doesn't have supplies because their family can't afford to buy them, mention this privately to a teacher.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if the person that I want to say "NO!" to has a strong boundary issue with me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf they are not respecting your boundaries, that is all the more reason to say "NO!" Tell them that they're intruding on your boundaries and ask them to stop. If they continue what they're doing, say "NO!" If they still do not stop, get an authority figure involved - a teacher, a parent, your boss, a police officer, etc.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I say "no" in Spanish?Community Answer"No" in Spanish is the same as it is in English, "no".Thanks!
- You do not have to offer an explanation, but it is often a reasonable courtesy to consider.
- Always attempt to decline politely.
- Remember to say yes sometimes. This is especially true when dealing with family and friends.
- If you find you are engaged in a serious physical struggle and you fear that you will be injured seriously or raped, as odd as it seems, there are some over-the-top things you can try, which certainly couldn't hurt: try acting crazy (shouting weird, nonsensical phrases, foaming at the mouth or drooling), throwing up if you can, pee your pants, etc. It sounds bizarre, but if you can do something disgusting, it may shut down the physical struggle and give you time to escape. All's fair in situations like this.
- Always follow through with your convictions. If you sayno,then the answer isno, and must remainnountil something changes.
- When you saynoyou have to mean it. Make sure that your verbal and nonverbal signals are clear and precise. Some think that saying "no" with a smile means something other than a clear "no."
- Trust your instincts. If you feel like something is a bad idea, assume that it is.
- It is better to avoid dangerous situations than to respond to them. Avoid dates in secluded places, try not to walk alone at night, and remain aware of your surroundings.
Video: How to Say No Politely | Good Manners
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