Say No Politely

Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria

As much as we don't like to hear or say it, sometimes our answer has to be no. It's impossible for us to be everywhere at once and to honor every request made of us; it would take a superhuman to do that, and even then, we'd still probably feel overextended. But is there a nice way to refuse someone? Is there a way to say no that feels bad to the other person? Well, of course there is! While you can't control how the other person reacts to your refusal, you can at least cushion the blow.

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Why is it So Hard to Say No?

We don't like to hear it or say it, that's a fact, but why is it that we have such trouble saying no? It really just comes down to social conditioning and human empathy.

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    Fear of conflict
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    No one enjoys conflict, so we try to avoid it. It's a natural thing to do because we don't want people to dislike us, be angry at us, or criticize us.
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  2. 2
    Fear of disappointing someone
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    We all try to avoid disappointing those we care about. We want them to be happy and when we can't meet their expectations, we feel guilty about it.
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  3. 3
    Social conditioning regarding authority figures
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    Saying no to someone who is in a position of authority over us is very difficult to do because of everything we have learned about getting along in the world tells us it's wrong. We're supposed to fall in line and do what we are told when our parents, boss, or coach tells us to.
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  4. 4
    The desire to fit in
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    Humans are social creatures and we want to feel like we are part of the group. For this reason peer pressure plays a huge role in encouraging us to say yes, even when we know we should say no.
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  5. 5
    We genuinely want to help
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    When someone makes a request for help, we generally want to do it. It's a natural empathic response that most people have.
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  6. 6
    We hate rejection ourselves
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    The Golden Rule states that you shouldn't do something to someone that you wouldn't want them to do to you. We know what it's like to be on the receiving end of hearing no, and we know it makes us feel bad, so we would rather not make someone else feel that way.
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Good Reasons for Saying No

Whether you refuse to date someone, loan money to a friend, or pitch in at church for another weekend, you have your reasons. They are your reasons and they are valid, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Before you can feel okay about saying no, you have to come to terms with this. You have to come to terms with the fact that, try as you might, you may offend somebody, and that's okay. As long as you aren't being a jerk about it, they will get over it. Here are some reasons for saying no that you should not feel guilty about.

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  1. 1
    You're busy doing something else
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    Even if your plans are to just spend the day relaxing at home with a good book, it's okay to refuse to invite someone in or to forgo an outing, or whatever someone else wants you to do. Outside of work or obligations you have already made, your schedule is your own to command.
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  2. 2
    You don't want to overcommit
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    It's always better to say no than to promise something to someone when you know that what they're asking is impossible for you to do right now. Saying no is a way of staying honest with them and yourself and causes less stress in the long run.
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  3. 3
    You've been asked to do something that goes against your morals or convictions
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    Although it's different for everyone, we all have a line that we will not cross. If someone asks you to do so, you are well within your rights to refuse.
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  4. 4
    You'd rather just...not
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    Maybe your reason is that you just don't want to do what has been asked of you. That's a valid reason, even if the other person doesn't agree.
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  5. 5
    You'd rather spend the time doing something else
    .
    It can be anything from spending time with your family to lying on the beach working on your tan.
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How To Say No Politely

Yes, you can say no without being a jerk. Also, just because you say no doesn't automatically throw you in the jerk trash can. To refuse someone politely requires only that you be considerate of the other person and that, if you can, you try to accommodate them in some other way.

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  1. 1
    Be honest
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    Give the person a short reason why you can't do what they are asking of you. It doesn't matter if you think that your reason is silly, it's a reason for saying no, and although the other person may not like it, they will respect your honesty.
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  • 2
    Suggest alternatives
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    Make it clear that you aren't closing the door on their request completely, if that's the case. Suggest alternative arrangements that would fit your schedule better and iron it out with the other person. If you don't know when you'll have time, say so, and tell them that you'll give them a call when your schedule clears up.
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    Set clear boundaries
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    Every relationship is about give and take. Part of maintaining a healthy balance between the two is about setting boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not. Often, people fall into problems because either their boundaries too blurry or they didn't set any at all. For instance, if your significant other asks you to do something that you aren't comfortable with, you may feel angry with them for even asking, but the situation could have been avoided if you'd told them what is and isn't acceptable for you in the first place.
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    Show gratitude
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    Thank them for their offer and for considering you. By thanking them you are indicating that you value and respect them, and for a lot of people, that's all they need to hear. For instance, if a friend asks you to help them with a project they're working on, but you don't have the time, tell them that you appreciate the thought that your assistance would be valuable, but that your schedule doesn't permit helping them right now.
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    Offer an alternative way to help
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    You might not be able to contribute in the way that they've asked, but perhaps there is another way you could help that fits into your schedule or that you would be comfortable with doing. For instance, if you don't have time, perhaps you could contribute money, or vice versa.
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  • 6
    Be humble
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    Sometimes people ask us to do things that we know we wouldn't any good at, or that we don't have the necessary time to devote to doing it well. In these instances, tell them that you 're flattered by the offer but that you really don't have necessary skills, of if you do, you don't have the time to do their request justice.
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    Acknowledge their point of view
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    Tell them that you totally get where they're coming from, but that you can't honor their request. Even just letting them know that you understand their situation can help smooth down their ruffled feathers.
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  • 8
    Praise them before saying no
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    Tell them that they did an awesome job and that you're happy that they brought their request to you, but that you can't take it on board right now.
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    Give them the name of someone else who you think can help them
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    Be careful not to volunteer the other person's time, but you can say something like "Thank you for asking me, but I can't take on any more responsibilities right now. How about asking Bob? He's got the skills and he might have the time to help you."
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    It's my policy
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    Make it clear that you're just saying no to them. Tell them that you can't honor their request because it's something you don't do in general. For instance, if a friend asks you for a loan, you can say that you never loan money to friends because it might damage the relationship.
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  • If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.

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    Article Info

    Categories : Relationships

    Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw

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