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How to say "no" without saying "no"

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Do you need to draw a distinction between how you say something in person and in a love letter? It is worth considering. What you say aloud may fade into invisibility over time, which is good if you have shot from the hip and leveled a clumsy reaction. What you put to paper, date and sign will last for generations (yes, those letters will most likely show up in some attic long after you are gone), so you want it to reflect your best self.

Saying “no” is an art form all itself and worth perfecting before you pick up that pen, say, to respond to a written romantic invitation. How you do it is your choice, and you can, of course, opt for anything from kind to snide, depending on what how you want your message to be seen for the next four generations.

How to say “no” without saying “no” was, at the suggestion of Haute Hatties’JR Neurge, a recent luncheon topic. The first suggestion, somewhat comically offered, had to be in person because it was wordless, but the look, mouth clamped shut and brows furrowed in disbelief, was a definite, “Are you nuts!?”

There was a loudly delivered, “When hell freezes over,” and a muttered, “When pigs fly!” both of which may or may not be harsh in person depending on the accompanying look, but on paper will most likely be a permanent record of your contemptuous side. If you know that is the mood you want to strike in a letter, feel free, of course, but, if it is a love letter you want to send, remember that anything scornfully or meanly stated will not count as a love letter.

“That sounds wonderful, I wish I could say yes,” may be the most tactful way of saying “no.” For the sake of sparing someone’s feelings, it is worth it to take the time to list all the ways you can refuse an offer in the least heartless way. Then choose the one that will reflect your kindest side, write it, stamp it, mail it and rest assured you have done your best.

From me to you with love in the air,
Janet

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