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Learning To Say No: Stop Being A Passive Piece Of @#$%

People-pleasers are always nice to be around, right?  They always want to make everybody happy all of the time.

Problem is, they’re too busy keeping everybody else happy instead of taking care of themselves.  They're "nice guys."

Sound like you?  Do you find yourself putting others needs ahead of yours all of the time? 

Guess what - it's time to grow one of those things called a backbone. Your backbone consists of your goals, your values, and most definitely your priorities.

Saying yes to everything might make people like us, but it will definitely make people lose respect for us.  We may even start to look bad when we call or text the night before saying we can’t make it because of another commitment - usually something else we said yes to.

By saying yes to so many different things, our path becomes cloudy and uncertain, and sometimes causes us to fall off of it completely.

Think you're a "yes man"?  Don't worry - there are ways to break the cycle of "Yes!", and there are certainly ways to say no without coming off as a complete jerk.

Don’t Get Personal When You Decline

There’s no need to get personal with the person you’re saying no to. Maybe explain that you have a conflict during that time, or sticking with those personal rules we all try to follow.

For example, say something along the lines of “I can’t come tonight because we’re having a family dinner at home”, or “I don’t go to functions that serve alcohol”. Those can both serve as no’s without getting even remotely personal, or that are not about the people asking.

Tell Them That You Wish You Could Say Yes

Giving them a no this way won’t be as bad, but make sure that the reason is something that is out of your control. This lets them down easier because it turns into one of those “shoulda, woulda, coulda” situations.

By saying “I wish I could go, but I have a paper to write tonight”, or “I would’ve given you this project, but my boss decided to go with somebody else," you are expressing a (hopefully genuine) desire to help them out, but also clearly saying you can't.

Think About It Before You Say No

Before giving them a flat no answer, make sure to think about it first, and tell them about the thought you put into it too.

For instance, you could say “I really liked how your operation works and you do great work too. But I am really looking for opportunities within my own field.” By saying this, you show that you’ve put some critical thinking and time into your decision.

The Consolation Prize

Sometimes when people say no, they feel like doing something else or something instead of giving them a yes. This is where a consolation prize works, when you give something instead of a yes. It could be any form too.

“I can’t volunteer at the game this weekend, but I will sign up for next weekend”, or “I can’t go on this trip, but here’s some money, so go buy yourselves drinks on me”, will certainly work as consolation prizes.

Make sure to follow through on your consolation, though.

Making That No Seem Like Their Best Interest

These aren’t excuses. If you’re going with this route to say no, make sure it’s actually the case.

By saying something like “Even if I went to your function, I would be half-asleep because it’s so early in the morning”, or “If I go, I might be cranky because I really don’t like being in the woods”, you’re letting them know about possible repercussions that might happen if you did go. It’s not rude if it’s the truth.

Get That Person To Say No Themselves

Certain people are just stuck in their same routines and ways in life, even though it might be completely ridiculous to you. People in the creative industries are more prone to getting these kinds of people because of some of the requests they receive from people they work with.

The best thing to do if you think whatever it is you’re working on is going to be terrible, start asking them questions, and showing them what they could have. Put thoughts like “If you’re going for simple and informative for your website, you might like these examples of projects we’ve worked on” will get them reconsidering their original requests that probably would’ve turned out terrible in the end.

The Road To A Yes Is Within Reach

Instead of saying no, you could give them the roadmap to your yes by offering them what would get you to say yes for the next time. “I can’t go to your party this time, but make sure to let me know when it is a week or 2 in advance so I can put it on my calendar” would do just fine.

Expose The Holes Via Your Questions

Reacting negatively to something that was brought to you for your approval is never a good thing to do, even though there is no way that you think they’re going to be successful with whatever it is they want to do.

By asking questions, they should be able to expose the holes in their plan themselves without having to personally deliver to them the bad news.

“So how are you going to get there?”, or “That sounds really fun, but who do you want to be included?” will do the job of exposing those holes.

Just Give Them A Flat Out No

This one should be the last effort when saying no to someone. By saying the no directly, it probably means, and will definitely come off that you don’t respect the person, or the person doesn’t necessarily care for you too much either. There’s no point to softening up your no when you want to send that negative message to them already.

Having said no in a polite and gentle way, while staying firm and true to yourself and your time is the best-case scenario. Take caution though, that some people will give you the guilt trip and make you start thinking of your answer.

There’s no good feeling when you say yes to something that you originally wanted to say no to. Sometimes you have to think about and put yourself first, instead of everybody else. Just by saying no to somebody doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for doing it. Stay firm in your no’s, and deliver them with confidence.


Do you have any creative ways to say "No" that I missed?  Drop a comment below and enlighten us!

About the author

Chris Arechaederra

Chris is a writer from San Diego, California who hopes to make a difference in this world. Love is a constant theme he lives by every day and he tries to spread it to whoever he can. He's a writer at heart who's grateful for the opportunity to have been published in newspapers, magazines, journals, and of course, the Internet. He's working on a fictional novel that's due out in summer 2015. When not writing, he enjoys reading, relaxing, and traveling to every corner of the world he can get to. You can find more writing from Chris on Glipho and his personal blog.

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