6 July 2016

Why is it so hard to say NO?

The ability to say NO effectively is a very powerful tool yet it is easier for some people and not so easy for others – why is that?

How come I can say NO to anyone (other than my cute three and a half year old grandson!) and leave the recipient in no doubt as to the clarity of my response, whereas a good friend of mine can say NO in a myriad of different ways and it always seems to come across as a ‘maybe yes’?

To be fair, with my working background in prisons, I have had plenty of practice in the art of saying NO clearly and articulately whilst not undermining the other person (or people).  BUT I wasn’t always able to do this – over the years through trial and error I have gained a clearer sense of self-awareness around where I choose to spend my time and energy, with whom and doing what.

If, like the ‘old’ me, in your head the answer is NO but when you open your mouth it becomes a ‘maybe’ – consider the following:

  1. Be aware of your audience – who are you saying NO to?  Tailor your response and approach accordingly.  If you feel the recipient needs extra care – be gentle, yet assertive.
  2. Plan your approach, your words and be confident. If you don’t feel it, fake it until you make it (practice with a mirror or a trusted friend!).
  3. Don’t be afraid to be selfish – if you already have commitments on your time, money or energy, give yourself permission to deliver to those commitments.
  4. Say ‘I don’t…’ instead of ‘I can’t…’ to empower yourself. In a social situation, saying ‘I don’t drink’ when you are up against a strong peer group is much more effective and powerful than saying ‘I can’t drink’ but the former provides a sense of finality (acknowledging that you may have to repeat it several times during the night!). ‘I don’t have time to do this for you’ is much more effective and powerful than ‘I can’t see where I can fit that in’.
  5. Speak firmly and assertively. Don’t say ‘I don’t think I can’ or ‘I’m not sure if I can’.
  6. Back up the word(s) with body language. Sit or stand tall, nod and look them in the eye if you can.  Saying NO is not at all effective if you are face to face and nodding your head and/or looking at the ground while you are saying it.
  7. Now, empower yourself and go practice with a small NO so the big ones become easier and more natural over time.