What is the issue at stake that keeps many of us from saying the word “no” to a request? In most cases there is a complex number of variables such as the value of the relationship, the expectancy of a future outcome or our need to be liked. Each of these would have to be teased apart and examined for independent study, but let’s suffice to say that one or more of them is being over-emphasized such that it is interfering with our ability to communicate the entirety of our message. If we were to imagine ourselves in a state of freedom to articulate a point solely on what’s important to us alone, how would we respond to requests that we didn’t have time for or outside of the things we valued? Our message would be clear, direct, and absolute. This gives the requester the message that they have less opportunity to dispute. Though they may finagle a way of engaging your warmer emotions, your repeated response does not give them much breathing room for it to take life.
There are ways to say “no” in those terms without harming the relationship. Here are a series of techniques to practice as you prepare for your next “no” statement:
- Ask for clarification of the request to ensure you understand what it entails
- First and foremost, know here you stand on the issue
- Be as brief as possible without an elaborate explanation
- Actually use the word “no” in your response
- Match your non-verbal gestures with your verbal statements
- Say “I won’t” or “I’ve decided not to” rather than “I can’t”
- Repeating the your decline several times may be important before you are actually heard
- Use silence after your statement or change the topic of conversation immediately to send the message of how absolute you are of your answer.
Like any assertive skill, it takes practice to ensure others appreciate how this is becoming a professional characteristic that defines you. Respecting your time and the quality of your work is an important quality to observe in yourself. Enabling others to respect you for the same is doable once you ease it into your comfort zone