Six ways of saying “No”

The psychologist Trevor Powell describes six ways of saying no – you choose which one to use depending on the situation:

1. The direct “no”
When you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do or you can’t do you just say “no” e.g. “I can’t do that.” The aim is to say “no” without feeling that you have to apologize. It’s the other person’s responsibility so don’t feel like you have to take responsibility for it.

2. The reflecting “no”
This is when you acknowledge the content and sentiments of the request and then assertively refuse at the end.

==>> “I understand that you want me to be there but I can’t attend.”

3, The reasoned “no”
This is where you provide a brief but honest reason for your answer.

==>> “I can’t attend the meeting because I have lots of deadlines this week so I have no time.”

4. The raincheck “no”
This is not an absolute “no” – it’s a way of saying no to the request currently but means you can say yes in the future. You should only use this if you want to genuinely meet the request.

==>> “I don’t have time today but I could make sometime next week.”

5. The enquiring “no”
This is again not an absolute “no”. In this technique you open up the request to see if there is an alternative.

==>> “My schedule is full for today, maybe there’s someone else in the team that could help?”

6. The broken record “no”
If the person initially does not accept your “No”, then keep repeating yourself. It can be used in a wide range of situations and it is especially useful for persistent requests.

==>> Requester: “Could you please take my place in the meeting today?”
==>> You: “Unfortunately I can’t attend the meeting because I’ve got lots of work to get through today, perhaps there’s someone else you can ask.”
==>> Requester: “I’ve asked a few people already, maybe you could just go for the first half an hour?”
==>> You: “I know that it’s important but I won’t be able to go this time as I really need to finish this work today and I don’t have any spare time.”
==>> Requester: “Not even for 15 minutes?”
==>> You: “I need all my time to focus on this work.”

Remember that you have the right to voice your opinions and if you really struggle to say “no” it’s likely that you’re overestimating the difficulty the other person will have in accepting your refusal.

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