10 ways to say “no”

10 ways to say no.

10 ways to say no


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35 thoughts on “10 ways to say “no”

  1. Aggressive salespeople are trained with scripts to respond to every possible excuse you can come up with (see Comcast), although I’ve found “Because Lord Xenudo has proclaimed [insert product here] unclean and all heathens must be eschewed. Would you like to hear about Lord Xenudo’s plan for you?” usually sends them scurrying away. That’s fun.

    People don’t have to be in sales to be manipulative, even if they are your friends. Especially if they are your friends. Frankly, the more a person knows you, the easier it is for them to get you to do things you’d rather not. Any response containing more information than “No,” gives the other person an insight into your motives. Once they understand your motives, they understand your weak spots, too. They’ve got a place to drive a wedge (usually guilt) in between you and your best interests.

    So, here’s the above list though the lens of a person who’s studied the manipulative mind. (Hi, Mom.)

    1. No.

    Perfect. Don’t smile too much when you say it, either. Be neutral, civil, and turn your body away slightly to indicate that this conversation has been completed and you are now turning your attention to something else.

    2. I can’t give you an answer right now, will you check back with me?

    I hope you like this person because they will “check back” forever to see just how many requests it takes you break you down and make you feel guilty. I mean, what kind of selfish troll turns down twenty-two requests in a row?

    3. I’m not able to commit to that right now.

    Ditto. They’ll just keep trying. An aggressive type will ask you point blank WHY you can’t commit right now and then argue with you about the validity and importance of your reasons. If you’re too nice to set boundaries and you start debating your own life with them, they’ve already won and they know it. Plus, they know what to use on you in the future to save time.

    4. I really appreciate you asking me, but I can’t do it.

    Now they know you respond to positive attention, that you appreciate being chosen. They will pour on the charm and compliments to see just how needy for attention you are. Chances are good, once they’ve buttered you up enough, you’ll feel guilty turning down their one little piddling request. (Then, when you cave and say Yes, they’ll feed you a ton of positive reinforcement. Good doggie.) Also, if you usually use hyperbole like “so sorry,” “really appreciate,” and “very nice” you give yourself away as the type who works hard to soothe other people’s feelings. It’s another indicator that guilt will probably work on you because you take responsibility for other peoples emotions.

    5. I understand you really need my help, but I’m just not able to say yes to that.

    Again with the hyperbole and again, too much information. Now they know you’re understanding, perceptive, and aware of social proprieties. You can be worked on through guilt and shame, the Codependent Combo. I know what I’m saying may sound harsh but never underestimate the subtle manipulator when it comes to them getting what they want. Because doormat.

    6. I’m going to say no for now. I’ll let you know if something changes.

    You just said Maybe, which is just this side of a Yes to a manipulator. See #2. They’ll just put your number on speed dial and keep hitting the button.

    7. I’m honored that you would ask me, but my answer is no.

    This is just #4 in a classy outfit.

    8. No, I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do.

    Only use this line if you ACTUALLY WANT TO DO that extra stuff you just promised them in lieu of their request. Really. Because if you don’t follow through, no one will care why, they’ll just brand you as a flake. If you sincerely don’t want to do anything, go all Nancy Reagan on them and Just Say No. People like a giver but they respect the one whose dance card is full.

    9. I don’t have that to give right now.

    Never, never use the phrase “right now.” It signals that things could change at any time and the person should keep badgering you until you cave. “Right now” equals Maybe. Also, the word “give” indicates a person who places a high value on giving, pure and simple. Manipulators can work on you with guilt to get you to do more of that giving that they enjoy so much. Remember, they don’t care WHY you give, this is not about you at all, this is about them getting what they want today.

    10. Under different circumstances, I’d love to, but right now I can’t.

    Again with the “right now.” Also, you’ve indicated that there are mysterious circumstances that could be changed with the right wedge argument and “love” is another one of those hyperboles. Now they have a conversational wedge and they know how to proceed with you: down guilt road.

    If a flat “No, thank you” feels too cold, then a good response is to indicate that you are already booked. You don’t need to tell them what you have booked, that’s none of their business. If it’s a close friend, tell them it’s something personal that they can’t verify later, like dealing with family issues or coming to another friend’s rescue. You won’t actually be lying if you phrase it right. For instance, I regularly say, “I have a client booked at that time,” or “I’m helping out a friend” when what I’m really doing is going on a walk in the woods to meditate on important issues. The client/friend is me. I’ve dropped unsavory clients by citing “health reasons that prevent me from continuing.” It’s true because being around them made me want to vomit.

    If it’s not a close friend you need to blow off, tell them about Xenudo. Good luck.

        • PS: I just remembered a great phrase that is neutral, clear, and maintains your integrity: “For reasons that are my own.” When you say No and they don’t respect your word as final (which is incredibly disrespectful, when you think about it), you can respond with “For reasons that are my own.” It gives no extra information for anyone to turn into a wedge argument and makes you sound a little bit badass when delivered firmly.

          If you are prevented from walking away for any reason from a manipulator, here is how to use that phrase.

          “We would love it if you would volunteer at our 5K for breast cancer awareness this Thursday.”
          “No, thank you.”
          “You don’t have to spend all day, just a few hours would really help. We have an hour time slot open at 6 PM. Most people are off work by then.”
          (They are baiting you, seeing if you give them any information about your work situation that they can argue about.)
          “No, thank you.”
          “Well, then how about a small donation?”
          “No, thank you.”
          “Don’t you want to help spread awareness?”
          (They are baiting you again, this time with guilt. They are not respecting your word and they are clearly a manipulator. Time to end this.)
          “No, thank you, for reasons of my own,” and do not smile. This is crucial.

          A normal adult hears this as the conclusion of the discussion. A manipulator might keep trying. Even if it makes no sense to the flow of the conversation, just keep repeating, “No, thank you, for reasons of my own,” like a broken record until they think you are nuts and walk away. It’s the conversational equivalent of pleading the fifth.

          Spend zero time worrying about what they think of you for being so selfish. Remember, their own selfish ass was invading your space and disrespecting you just a few minutes ago. Go home and celebrate.

          • I’m a Zumba instructor with PCOS, and there was one time I was asked to replace an instructor who nobody, not even my ally at the gym, liked in order to pay for a life coach I wanted. I knew this life coach–she was my boss for about a year–and I know that she would never take a dishonest dollar. I felt that what my gym ally was asking of me was wrong. When asked if I was going to replace her, I replied, “No, it is unprofessional for me to get involved. You need to figure this out yourself. And besides, this life coach does NOT take dirty money!”

          • Contrary to what we have been BRAINWASHED to believe, saying no is not selfish. Keep reminding yourself. I keep a note taped to my mirror and say out loud “It’s OK for ME to say NO. That does not make me a selfish person.”

            The Broken Record Technique works great. Remember, fellow recovering DM’s, we do NOT OWE anyone an explanation. Don’t let their repeated attempts suck you into playing their game and exposing your vulnerabilities. If this happens on the phone, I just hang up; face to face, I walk away. Someone who disrespects me is not worth any more of my time. It’s going to feel awkward and even scary the first few times, but with practice, it does get easier.

      • Takes a genius to recognize one.

        I tell you, it’s like Wild Kingdom out there but with more carnage. How you get as good as me, see, is first you get born into a completely fucked up family that lives out in the middle of Nowhere so that the kids have to figure out how to survive mentally, emotionally, and physically on their own.

        I’ll let you know when that kicks in.

  2. These are helpful Rose, thank you for sharing! I do appreciate you deeply and also your pages! 💜

  3. Pingback: Are You a People-Pleasing Doormat? | Self-Care Haven

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  5. When I need to cancel a credit card or bank account, and they ask me why, I say “no reason.” I don’t think this is totally civil though, so I don’t use it with friends. If they follow up with an argument anyway, I respond with, “can I cancel it or not?” When asked if I want to add a dollar to my bill to help save a homeless animal, I say to the cashier, “No, I do not want to help save a homeless animal” and then I laugh, because of course that is absurd. They have to ask, they do not mind if I say no, and if they do, then they have a problem.

    • Thanks for shouting out today Cris. Yes there are many ways to say ‘no’. The important thing is that we do say ‘no’ when necessary. ❤

  6. I think this may be my new favourite blog. It is definitely my new favourite post. I really needed to read something like this tonight. I can never seem to say no and I do believe that it is slowly killing my spirit, or what is left of it. Thank you for posting this. x

  7. I needed to hear this. Thank you so much! ❤ Just a plain "no" or "for reasons of my own". Perfect!! I am gonna take this advice for some test drives! 😉

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