Say No Politely
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
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.
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.
- 1No 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.Fear of conflict.
- 2We 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.Fear of disappointing someone.
- 3Saying 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.Social conditioning regarding authority figures.
- 4Humans 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.The desire to fit in.
- 5When someone makes a request for help, we generally want to do it. It's a natural empathic response that most people have.We genuinely want to help.
- 6The 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.We hate rejection ourselves.
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.
- 1Even 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.You're busy doing something else.
- 2It'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.You don't want to overcommit.
- 3Although 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.You've been asked to do something that goes against your morals or convictions.
- 4Maybe 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.You'd rather just...not.
- 5It can be anything from spending time with your family to lying on the beach working on your tan.You'd rather spend the time doing something else.
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.
- 1Give 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.Be honest.