Do you struggle to say no to others? Here's what you must do

Learning to say no is as important as learning to agree

By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 7 Jul 2022, 11:05 PM

How to say no effectively? For some, it’s simple: Just say no. But then there would be no column this week! Therefore, I write this piece as a dedication to those who’ve struggled to use the word “no” effectively.

Think of the last time you were asked something that you wanted to decline, but eventually agreed to. Maybe it was guilt for letting them down, fear of looking bad or just your love/compassion for them that made you agree. Or did you get bullied into it? Whatever the reason, if you said yes and later felt miserable about it or said no and still felt miserable – either way, there’s something amiss.

Whether it is taking on things we can’t handle, or saying yes to something we have absolutely no interest in — most of us have struggled with saying ‘no’ at some point in our lives. But what makes it so hard to say this simple word? And how can we use this power word masterfully and tactfully?

Try these:

1. Establish your boundaries

Drawing personal boundaries demonstrate what you are willing and not willing to accept in a relationship and how you expect to be treated. These invisible power lines are seen and felt by the other person and they will know how much you are willing to be pushed. These are important for relationship dynamics and for your own mental well-being.

2. Straighten up

When you deliberate or waver too much, it gives the other person an opening to get in and convince you. People with delicate boundaries usually struggle with this and a strong-willed person can sniff it. Don’t delay or stall too much. Be upfront, give a brief explanation if needed, but don’t go into lengthy explanations.

3. Take charge with politeness

You can always say while being polite and firm. Use your words wisely, something like “I’m stretched too thin right now/ I am not able to do this right now, but if I can later, I will let you know”. Or “I won’t be able to do justice to the job at this point.” This puts the power back in your hands, and shows that you are not just dissing the person.

4. Be aware of the pushy ones

Sales people (and many non-sales people too!) are masters in manipulation, either knowingly or unknowingly. Learn to be aware of the times you may be manipulated into saying yes. “This offer is only for today” or “A and B are the most popular products... which one of them would you like to go for?”

5. Use body language

Most of our communication is done before any words are spoken. If your body language looks undecided, the other person will sense it, and use all their might to influence you. Start with using strong body language, back straight, chin up and a relaxed expression on your face can help you look more decisive in your response.

6. Ask the asker

Putting the question back to the asker is a good start to negotiating. This works well in a work situation. If you have been given more than you can handle, pose the question back to the person asking. You can try, “I’m happy to do X, Y and Z, but if you would like me to A, B and C, I will need two more weeks. How would you like to prioritise this?”

It is okay to say no, it is okay to put yourself first. We’ve somehow reached a mindset where we believe it is okay to put our mental health in the back burner, but this has to change. As Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand

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