Top Tips on Tactfully Saying ‘No’: Assertiveness & Self Confidence Training – Manhattan, Chicago


Saying no without using negative words removes the sting from the refusal.

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Use tact when refusing to avoid conflicts

When a situation arises where there is a need to say “no”, most people either say “yes” or make excuses to avoid saying “no”. Both are weak responses and lead to negative feelings either within yourself or the other person. On the other hand, if you say “no” without using the word “no”, or without seeming to refuse a request, you get what you want while the other person does not feel offended by the refusal. Let us see what steps one must take to achieve this outcome.

Agree Before Disagreeing

Never refuse a request straightaway. Instead, agree to it in a manner that is noncommittal. For example, if a colleague has requested that you come over to a party and you do not want to go, you must begin the refusal by faintly agreeing to it. Open the refusal by telling your colleague that it would be a lot of fun and then move on to the refusal. Something like, “It would be fun! It has been a long time since we partied together, but Friday evening can be difficult. I have promised my kids I will be with them.”

Using a positive or appreciative first sentence takes away the negative impact of a refusal so that when the actual refusal follows, it does not seem blunt and offensive.

Never Say No

When actually rejecting a proposal, avoid using the word “no”. Don’t say “I cannot do it” or “No. That is not possible.” Instead, tone down the negative by tweaking the words. You may say, “I will try my best, but I cannot commit” or “Of course, I would love to. I hope my appointment gets cancelled for that day.” A refusal does not seem like a refusal if you do not use words that have negative connotations.

Use Humor

If you are good with humor, then you do not need to try too hard to weaken the impact of a “no”. Instead of actually refusing the person, you may turn the refusal into something humorous. Instead of saying, “My wife will be upset if I am not home”, use something like, “I will want my wife to be home when I get back.” Humor will take away the focus from the refusal and humor is never disliked by anybody.

Provide a Reason

When you follow a refusal with a reason, you are convincing the other person why it is not in your hands to accept the request. You may tell them the reason in a short sentence or explain it in detail, depending on your relationship with the other person and the situation. Make sure that the reason you give is believable. If not, you may risk offending the person.

Make It Up

Even if you cannot agree to a request and you believe it was important for the other person, you must try to follow up the refusal with gestures that will make the other person feel valued. Even if you initially face coldness, know that your effort in making it up to them is being registered in the mind. After you have made enough reconciliatory efforts that are reasonably expected from you, you may wait for reciprocation.

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