How to Say “No” and Mean It

It may be hard enough to say no to a request but really meaning it can be even harder. Many of us are already perpetual suckers who find themselves challenged to even considering answering no to a request. Those of us who are able to say no, at least initially, often end up giving in and conceding to the request because the one in need was able to see that our answer wasn’t firm and persisted until we gave up and surrendered to their request. A few tips for how to say no and mean it include using a firm voice and not offering apologies for your answer, offering a valid reason for your refusal and consistently answering no if the request is repeated.

A firm and determined tone in your voice is the first step to being able to really say no and mean it. If you allow your tone to be light the person making the request of you will probably sense that your refusal is not firm. If your voice does not sound definitive, the other person may make the assumption that your answer is not definitive either and will take another opportunity to repeat their request either immediately or at another time. A firm voice however, makes it clear that you are not interested in answering yes to this request and that future attempts to get you to acquiesce will be futile. The tone of voice you use is important when saying no because it conveys the message that you really mean no.

It is also important to not offer apology when you say no. Doing so may lead to the person making the request believing that you don’t really mean no. While it is acceptable to say that you are sorry you won’t be able to help out, offering you apology simply for saying no is not appropriate. If you apologize for your answer, the person making the request will sense that you can be convinced to change your answer. Apologizing for a refusal conveys a sense of guilt and many people will prey on that vulnerability to get you to change your mind.

Another way to convey the message when you say no is to offer valid reasons for your refusal. This is extremely effective because it lets the person no that your refusal is not based on whim and that you truly have a legitimate reason for not being able to offer your assistance. You may be too busy to help or have other previous commitments and it is acceptable to offer these excuses to justify your refusal. If the person making the request understands that you would like to help them but that it’s simply not possibly, they will be less likely to repeat their request. Offering valid excuses for answering no to a request proves that you really mean no and that future attempts to get you to agree are not reasonable.

Saying no to a request initially sometimes is not enough to prove that you really mean no. While you may answer firmly and without apology and offer valid excuses for your refusal, there are some persistent people who may continue to repeat their request in the hopes of receiving a positive answer. In this scenario it is imperative that you be consistent and answer no every time the request is made. In doing this you will affirm that your answer is no. A lack of consistency may result in the other person realizing that you can be worn down over time and that if they continue to repeat their request they will eventually get the answer they are seeking from you.

Saying no can be incredibly difficult but really meaning no and being firm in your answer can be even harder. In order to be able to say no and really mean it you have to ensure that your tone of voice is firm and that your answer does not offer apologies. You also have to be sure that you offer valid reasons for your answer and that your answer remains consistent no matter how many times the request is made. All of this can be difficult especially if you are truly interested in helping others but you also need to realize that you have a right to say no for any reason and that your answer should be respected.


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