Just Say No

I’ve been working on a presentation I’m giving in Thompson, Manitoba tomorrow and one of the things I’m going to talk about is how to say “no” to people when they ask you to do something. 

I plan to provide a set of guidelines for helping people to learn to  say “NO”.

Guideline #1 —Wait for people to ask you to do something before you offer to do it. They may not really want your help because it implies you think they can’t manage on their own. If they truly want your help they will ask.  

Guideline #2— Don’t reply right away. Tell who ever is asking you to do something that you need a little time to think about their request and you will get back to them. This gives you the opportunity to weigh pros and cons and make a wise decision. 

Guideline #3 —Be sure your body sends the same message as your voice. Move away or turn away from the person asking you to do something if you feel you need to. Keep your head up. Look the person in the eye. Add a related hand gesture if you feel you need to. 

Guideline #4-You don’t need to rationalize your answer. Sometimes we make up a reason to say no  but that just opens us up to further badgering. If we make the excuse  “My calendar is full” the person requesting our help might respond “but this is more important than some of those things on your calendar like going to the gym or having breakfast with a friend.” If we make the excuse  “I’ve been tired and unwell” we might get the response ” This volunteer work is bound to energize you.”

Guideline #5 —Be prepared to state your “no” repeatedly. Be like a broken record repeating your message till the other person gets it. Telemarketers say they aren’t allowed to hang up till the person they are soliciting has said no three times.  You don’t need to rephrase your no each time- just restate it. 

Guideline #6—Be your own advocate. You don’t need to feel you need to help with a project a colleague or another family member has agreed to if you haven’t agreed to it as well. You are not responsible for helping them meet their own commitments. 

Guideline #7—The person asking you to do something may not like or appreciate your “no” but that’s their business, not yours. If they are angry they can deal with it. 

Guideline #8- Practice saying “NO”.  Actually stand in front of a mirror and rehearse your assertive “NO”.  If you realize ahead of time you may soon be in a situation where you might be tempted to agree to something you’d rather not do, get a friend to role play the scenario with you and practice saying no. 

What next?  I need to adhere to these guidelines myself so the next time I’d rather say “NO” but I feel compelled to say “YES”, I’ll be prepared. 

1 Comment

Filed under People, Reflections

One response to “Just Say No

  1. Lavina

    I realized years ago that my practice of staying busy (mostly in church related activities) rubbed off very well on my girls. Not all bad, but then I found myself wondering how to teach them to say “no” when the stress they experienced from being in post-secondary school and trying to get their homework done, and agreeing to certain “jobs” in the church all got to be too much. We were brought up to be active in the church……you can’t say “no” there, can you? I’ve learned better in the past few years. I realized that when I got stressed from taking on too much I took out my stress on my family……not fair to them! And so I find myself trying to instill a sense of wisely choosing what they say “yes” too without being overwhelmed with life! Thanks for this article Marylou……I will make sure both girls read it!


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