In my last post, I wrote about how saying “no” to others is really saying “yes” to ourselves. But knowing when to say “no” and knowing how to say it are difficult - especially when someone puts you on the spot or is relentless in their request. Saying “no” in these situations can make us feel uncomfortable, uncaring, disinterested. But “no” is really none of those things; it’s simply a boundary we set that says, “this isn’t for me”. Personally, I find that practicing how to best say “no” is a valuable way to prepare me to do it gracefully when needed. I feel like I’ve finessed this process during my 9-5 and am able to confidently and kindly decline sales calls and offers kindly (even when they're rather persistent)...but I realized recently that I hadn't fully transferred this skill over to my personal life. When I thought about it, the tactics I use to say "no" in my professional life translate rather well to personal situations as well. Here are my best tips for helping yourself to say “no” gracefully:
Remember why you are saying “no”.
Our “no’s” are not meant to be vindictive or cruel. They are meant to help us create and hold the time and energy we need to say “yes” to those things that serve our greater purpose and help us to serve others. When you are able to align fully with what “no” means, it becomes easier to say. “No” does not mean, I don’t like you or I don’t support you - even though this is often what others hear. “No” means living with intentionality. Saying “no” is how we make room for more “yeses” in our own lives. Holding this thought in our mind can help us to keep a loving tone and energy in our response.
Say “no” without qualifications.
We - specifically women - have a tendency to qualify or explain ourselves when we share an idea or opinion; especially when we feel we are challenging or disappointing someone. When you’ve evaluated an ask or offer and find that it’s a “no”, simply lead with, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to help you with that;” there’s no need to offer further explanation.
Don’t let push-back shake you.
What happens when a simple “no” doesn’t always do the trick? This will happen...a lot; don’t let push-back or objection from others budge your position or disrupt your temper. Stand firm in your truth, you are saying “no” because the situation at hand doesn’t serve you. This should feel empowering, not confrontational. If you feel compelled to offer a brief explanation, “I have a lot on my plate right now and I’ve made the commitment to be more intentional/protective with my time. I’m sorry, but I’m not able to help with this one.” If you feel like the other person involved is trying to start a confrontation, here’s a statement I took from a friend, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to discontinue this conversation.” From here you can choose to redirect the conversation, or end it completely; whatever fits best in the moment. The goal of using this statement is to disengage from a conversation that is likely starting to test your patience.
Saying “no” doesn’t have to be harsh or abrasive, it can be an act of boundary-setting that can be handled gently and gracefully. I’m still working on these techniques, but it’s about practice, not perfection.