Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Image: ULine
Opinion/ColumnWalk the Talk with Paul Kearley

How to say “no”

by Paul Kearley

Paul Kearley

Kevin and I were talking about the PowerPoint presentation that we were preparing for the service when Greg stormed into the room.

“All the humour is gone from this,” he declared. “Everyone just waits until the last moment, and then they expect me to do a professional job.”

You could tell that he was not in a good mood.

“There is a solution, you know,” Kevin said. “All you have to do is say ‘no.’”

“Yes, I know,” said Greg, “but I couldn’t live with the guilt trip afterward.”

“And therein lies the problem,” Kevin said. “If you do say no, they may try to make you feel guilty, but if you refuse to, then you have the problem solved, and the guilt trip will only last a little while anyway.”

“I know, but I just can’t say ‘no,’” Greg replied.

I couldn’t help feeling a little bit bad for Greg, but I wholeheartedly agreed with Kevin. One of the things that I really enjoy about Kevin is that if he has something to say, he will say it. It may not be what you want to hear, and he will make it as gentle as possible, but he will still say what needs to be said. I really like that kind of confidence.

There was a time in my life that I couldn’t say “no” either. If someone wanted something done, it seemed like I was always the one that they asked because they knew that I wouldn’t say “no,” and then I’d go day and night to complete the job.

If someone didn’t want to do something, who did they call? Yup, you guessed it… me.

My life was a constant series of picking up for and after people. So weak was my confidence that while people would ask me to fill in for them or do things for them, I would never ask them for anything in return. As a result, I became very stressed. I became so stressed that I had to go on medication for the burning in my stomach that was my constant companion.

Can you believe it? As I look back, I feel a little foolish that I could have been so weak as to not be able to say that one simple word. I know that I am not alone because in my work, I hear it over and over again about how people are being taken advantage of because of this inability to say “no.”

Why is it so difficult to say no? I have often pondered over this very question. My conclusion is that we are trying so hard to be liked that we feel that if we are saying no to the other person, in one way or another, we are rejecting the other person, and to a people-pleaser, that is a cardinal sin.

People feel that if they say “no,” then the person will not like them or think less of them.

Hogwash! Where did these ideas come from? They come from the patterns that we have developed and nourished within ourselves over a period of years by avoiding conflict by submitting to the will of the other person. Okay, so if we recognize that pattern within ourselves, how do we eradicate it from our psyche?

First of all, it is important to give ourselves permission to say “no.”  Realize that it is perfectly okay to say no when we feel like someone is just using us. We have the right to say “no.” Remember that others may take us for granted and even lose respect for us if we don’t.

Be polite but firm in saying “no.” We only build false hopes with wishy-washy responses. For instance, the phrase “I’ll try to be there” in response to a party or dinner invitation is giving ourselves an excuse to avoid a commitment. It doesn’t do anyone any favors. The “I’ll try” excuse, to me, is one of the weakest responses that can be given.

If we choose to say “no” (yes, it is a choice that we can make), avoid over-explaining the reasons for saying it. I sometimes find that some people who over explain their answers somehow find themselves digging a hole that only causes more trouble and ultimately leads them to say “yes.”

When we must give a yes or no response to someone, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Express empathy and appreciation.
  • Start by acknowledging the request and showing gratitude for the person’s trust in you.
  • Express empathy for their needs or situation. This sets a positive tone and demonstrates that you value the relationship.
  • Provide a clear and honest explanation as to why you are saying no: Clearly and honestly explain why you need to say no. Be concise and specific but avoid over-explaining or making excuses. People appreciate honesty, and it helps them understand your perspective.
  • Offer an alternative or assistance: whenever possible, suggest an alternative solution or offer to help in a different way. This shows your willingness to support them despite saying no to the initial request.

Why not resolve to be a more confident and assertive person this week? Only we can decide for ourselves just who we will be and what we will do. By saying no to something that we don’t want to do, we are actually saying yes to creating more abundance in our lives.

Make an Impact!


Paul Kearley is a professional leadership, communications and sales coach for businesspeople who are taking command of their career and making an impact. He has worked as a business coach and trainer, Virtual Trainer, and speaker since 1985.

To see eBooks Paul has written, go here: https://payhip.com/PKWalktheTalk