Whether it’s a social invitation or a sales proposition, we are all faced with those situations when we need or want to say “no” but we don’t want to appear rude or hurt someone’s feelings. After all, we know what it feels like to be told no, and many times it does feel like rejection. But what happens when you say yes to an invitation or business proposal, while internally you know that you need or want to say no? It is likely you will later feel resentful, realizing that you have no one to blame but yourself. Or what happens when you string the other person along, never giving them a direct answer? It becomes frustrating for the other person, and uncomfortable for you. And neither of these two outcomes make you appear confident and gracious.
When you want or need to say ‘no’, the following communication strategies will help you feel confident and positive on the inside, while appearing respectful and gracious on the outside:
Be direct. If internally you know your answer is a ‘no’, then say it! Don’t be tempted to externally reply with, “let me think about it” or “let me get back with you.” By doing this, you are causing two things to happen: You give the other person false hope, AND you are indirectly inviting the other person to ask you again later, which just prolongs the uncomfortable situation.
Ponder, then initiate follow-up. If you truly are not sure of your answer and do want time to think about it, once you know your answer is no, take the initiative to communicate and let the person know rather than waiting for them to ask you again. By initiating the communication, you are showing the other person respect, and taking the burden off of them. Once you start doing this, you will be surprised at how many people will respond positively.
Assure them it’s not personal. Most of the time, our reason for saying no is about us rather than the other person and their request. It’s about our priorities, our limitations and boundaries, our interests, etc. It usually has nothing to do with the other person. Therefore, it is always gracious to assure them that it is nothing personal. And end the discussion with, “thank you for asking.” After all, you never know how much courage it may have taken for someone to ask you in the first place.