One of the nicest things to say to people is ‘yes’, but as Robert Bolton PhD says in his book ‘People Skills’, saying ‘no’ is incredibly important when is comes to assertiveness, and being who you want to be. We’ve all found it difficult to say no at times, and some people can aggressively pursue a yes, whilst others can make you feel guilty if you refuse their requests. People may not want to hear ‘no’, but they respect it.
Saying no to things you really should say no to, is key not just in communication skills, but also across the board in terms of career, social life, and at home. ‘No’ is an authoritative word, but there are many ways of saying it.
For example, you can just casually say ‘no thanks’ and leave it at that. It’s clear and to the point, but in some situations can appear rude. If someone offers you a leaflet in the street, this is the one to use. If someone asks you to dinner, this probably isn’t the route to take.
The one sentence no is very versatile – it can be authoritative or conciliatory, but it is usually very to-the-point. ‘I’m sorry but no thanks’ is a good way of putting down an unwanted suitor – it doesn’t leave anything open, can’t be misinterpreted, and has the sincerity that ‘I’m sorry I’m busy, maybe next week?’ doesn’t have. The one sentence no is good to use with sales people, and doesn’t give them an in. If they keep up their attack, repeat the sentence word for word, with a bit of a harder tone.
An explanatory no can be very polite, and is necessary sometimes. ‘I can’t make it this week, but I would love to have come, how about next time?’ Notice there’s not a no in there, which makes the no a bit softer, but this isn’t critical, for example ‘No, I’m sorry, I’ve got to finish this report first’, or ‘Sorry no, I’ve got a boyfriend.’
Whatever you do with your no, don’t er or mmm, or say maybe. Those aggressively pursuing a yes will open you up like a can of worms. Remember, stick to your guns, make eye contact, and be polite for as long as you can.