How to say no safely Copy

How to say no

The main reason for feeling guilty when saying ’no’, is that many of us feel we are rejecting the person, rather than their proposal or request.

Often, instead of saying “no” we make excuses. Rather than just saying “no” it is usually easier to focus on what we can do – rather than what we can’t.

Being assertive includes being concerned about other people’s feelings. One does not need to be abrasive.

Some golden rules when saying “no” 

  • Never say yes when you really do not want to
  • Stay resolved & do not let yourself be pushed over.
  • Use an empathetic response.
  • Do not feel shy. Most people hesitate to say NO. It actually shows that you are genuinely thinking about the answer
  • Ask time to “ Think it over”
  • Assess the reasonableness of the request before giving a response.
  • Assert your right to ask for more information or clarification.
  • Keep the “no” short and simple. Do not get into an argument.
  • One good reason is more credible than many weak excuses, each of which could easily be squashed.
  • Say “no” and name the things you have been asked to do in the same sentence so that it does not seem as if you are saying “no” to the person.
  • Don’t over – apologise – your discomfort could be used against you and you could be manipulated.
Disagreeing Gracefully

Occasionally there will be disagreements – Acquiescing or, the opposite, attacking, are not constructive responses.

Following a simple step-by-step process will help you put your case without getting emotional, losing your integrity or losing your respect for the other person.

The Process

1. Affirmative Statement

2. Softening Statement

3. Indicate Process

4. State Reasons

5. Disagree

6. Offer a compromise*

  *The compromise is optional and it is for you to decide whether or not to make a concession.

Affirmative Statement

This is simply saying ‘YES’. It might sound strange saying this when you are disagreeing. But if you say ‘NO’ the other person immediately goes into argument mode and is less likely to listen. You are using ‘yes’ to prepare them for what you are going to say, not to indicate that you agree with them 

Yes, (pause) however ……………………….

Yes, (pause) I can see why you might ask that ……………………….                                   

Yes, (pause) although in this case ……………………….

Yes, (pause) I’m not sure that would ……………………….

Softening Statement

Most people’s views are influenced by their background, experience or profession. You can show that you recognize this within the context of a softening statement. Here are some examples:-

● ‘As an engineer I can understand why you take such a position’

● ‘As someone much older than myself, and probably with different values, I can understand where you come from’

Grab your note book and think of a softening statement you might use. Get help with a trusted person and come up with a few statements. These will come in very handy in the work place – even socially for that matter.

Indicate Process

This explains to the person the process you will use to outline your position or your reasons for the stance that you have taken. Here are some examples:

● ‘If I may, I would like to say something about that …’

● ‘Let me give you my reasons’

What are some that you could use?


State Reasons

Here you simply give the reasons or justification for your position. This can either be done in a straightforward way, or you can give a balanced view of pros and cons, explaining why you have come down on the side that you have.

What could you say?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Do not apologize or use tentative language here. Use the strongest language that you can, but with the right tonality and body language so you are assertive, but not aggressive. Here are some examples:

● ‘Sorry Im not sure I can agree with you’

● ‘Sorry I must disagree’      With a SMILE on your face & open body language

● ‘Sorry I think you might be mistaken

What could you say?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Offer a Compromise

In order to offer a compromise we first need to weigh up the effect. If there are no negative consequenses, then this may be an option. However by diluting both your and their results may cause more disruption and problems.

Think of a time where a compromise would have been a good option. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Disagree Gracefully an example

Context: I don’t think you should go out tonight

1. Affirmative ‘Yes’

2. Softening                ‘I can quite understand why you would like me to stay in and keep you company as I have done the last three Saturdays’

3. Indicate                   ‘Let me explain why tonight is so important to me’

4. State                     ‘I particularly want to see this visiting speaker because they have had excellent reviews and if I don’t see it tonight I will miss it’

5. Disagree  ‘Sorry I have already paid for it so have decided that I am going to go out’

6. Compromise           ‘But I am more than happy to keep you company tomorrow.’

Think of a time where you wanted to disagree, but found it difficult. Review the situation and write a set of these process statements that might have worked for you.

Recapping the main elements of assertiveness

  • Listen actively
  • Demonstrate that you understand
  • Say what you think and feel (about what’s relevant) 
  • Remember you are negotiating as equals
  • Be specific
  • Keep your self-respect 
  • Have respect for others
  • Aim for a win-win situation  

Assertiveness does not guarantee you will get your own way, however, it offers you the best opportunity to ensure a positive outcome in many difficult situations

Remember it is not what you say, but how you say it.

An example of saying no with perfect results.