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How To Say No to Others, Better!

Last weeks post seemed to have hit a nerve.
Most of you seem to have opened it rather quickly.
And then a few of you, complained! Rather quickly.

“All this is well and good, but I want to say No, to other people!

Well, I can help you with that too!
Eric Barker, of Barking Up the Wrong Tree fame, has an excellent post on how to do just that!

This is how we do it.

1. Notice the no’s: Saying no rarely leads to vendettas or blood feuds. It’s more common and less risky than you think.
People say no to requests all the time and suffer no ill consequences. The sea doesn’t turn to blood and frogs don’t fall from the sky. The requester just shrugs and says, “Okay.”
But you forget those all too easily and train your attention on the 0.02% of the time when the other person blew up and stormed away, never to speak to you again.
So watch your interactions and the interactions of others more closely. Notice all the times “no” doesn’t cause any problems and try to develop a more realistic perspective.


2. Buy time: I’m not sure I can summarize this one right now. I’ll get back to you later.
When you feel pressured for a yes, don’t give the yes — relieve the pressure. Ask for time. This will allow you to calm down and properly evaluate whether you really want to agree or not.
Memorize two of these phrases and make them your default response to any request:

  • “I need to check my calendar; I’ll get back to you.”
  • “Let me check with my husband/wife/partner to see if we’re free that day.”
  • “I’ve got to think about that; I’ll let you know.”
  • “I’ll have to call you back in a few minutes.”

Don’t turn them into questions. They’re statements. And use a pleasant but assertive tone.


3. Have a “policy”: Sorry, but it’s my policy to never summarize the third point.
… suppose a friend asks for a loan you don’t want to extend. Utter the phrase “Sorry, I have a policy about not lending money,” and your refusal immediately sounds less personal. In all kinds of situations, invoking a policy adds weight and seriousness when you need to say no. It implies that you’ve given the matter considerable thought on a previous occasion and learned from experience that what the person is requesting is unwise. It can also convey that you’ve got a prior commitment you can’t break. When you turn down an invitation by saying, “Sorry, I can’t come—it’s our policy to have dinner together as a family every Friday night,” it lets the other person know that your family ritual is carved in stone.


4. Be a “broken record”: I can’t summarize this. I can’t summarize this. I can’t summarize this.
How do you deal with people who don’t take no for an answer?
First thing to do is say you can’t help them.
The second through seven-hundredth thing to do is repeat the first thing.


5. Use a “relational account”: If I summarized this for you I wouldn’t have time to summarize for others.
Your response should take the structure of: “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.”


6. Make a counteroffer: I can’t summarize this but I can link you to another blog that will.
What if you don’t want to give a flat no? You want to help but can’t commit to the specifics of what they’re asking for. Here’s what to do …
They want you to donate $487,000. Um, no way. But I can give you $10 …
“I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else.”
“This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful.”
You can make a counteroffer to almost any request by offering someone a different resource or the name of someone else who might help.

Like my summary of Eric’s summary?
You should go read his post. It has the why, and the how and tons of examples and references!

P.S. And if you’re reading this on my blog, you should subscribe to the newsletter!