April 1st, 2014

How To Say ‘No,’ Nicely

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo courtesy of ShutterStock.com/Andresr

Photo courtesy of ShutterStock.com/Andresr

The other day a young boy knocked on my front door. He looked to be about 14 years old and was dressed in a white, button-down shirt, a pair of blue jeans and sneakers.

He introduced himself and told me that he was trying to win a trip to Disney World. His goal was to sell enough candy bars to earn the trip. Since I didn’t need the extra calories, I gave him a small donation instead.

A majority of us are people pleasers by nature and can’t stop ourselves from accepting every request for help – whether it’s volunteering for the neighborhood association picnic, serving on a committee, or buying candy bars or Girl Scout cookies.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, people will say “yes” to a request simply because saying “no” makes them even more uncomfortable. This is especially true when people have to give their answer face to face, rather than by email.

So why is one tiny word is so hard to say? It’s because one of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong. We worry that saying “no” will change the way the other person views us.

In the case of the candy bar peddler, I said ‘no’ and gave a donation instead. It was the least I could do to help this young man out without disappointing him or jeopardizing my waistline. To avoid the guilt, here are my five top tips on how to say ‘no,’ nicely.

Plan ahead. Rehearse saying ‘no’ ahead of time, just in case you think you might be asked to participate or purchase something.

Delay your response. If a request takes you by surprise, reply by saying, “Allow me to check my schedule” or “Let me think about it.” If you delay your answer, the person asking the favor is more likely to ask someone else.

Start with a positive statement. Always preface your answer by saying something like, “I’m honored that you would ask. However I have another commitment on that day.”

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Resist the temptation to add, “Maybe next time,” unless you mean it.

Stand firm. If a person refuses to take “no” for an answer, stand your ground. Repeat your polite refusal as often as necessary.

Click here to watch my interview on HLN Weekend Express on “How To Say ‘No’ Nicely.”

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