Some people find it difficult to say no.  This often leads to them feeling as though they have no control over their life.  People who find it difficult to say no also spend a great deal of time doing things for others.  Things that they really do not want to do.  This can often lead to resentment and frustration building, which can potentially poison relationships.  Saying ‘no’ to others demands helps put us back into the drivers seat and means we have more control over our life and time.

If saying 'no' is, a good thing to do then why do so may people struggle with it?  There are a number of beliefs that suggest why people struggle to say no, such as

  • Saying ‘no’ is rude and aggressive
  • Saying ‘no’ is unkind, selfish and uncaring
  • Saying ‘no’ will hurt others
  • If I say ‘no’ to someone they will cease to like me, or
  • Saying ‘no’ over a little things is petty and small-minded.

The key is to challenge some of these beliefs, just because you say ‘no’ does not mean you are rejecting the person; you are refusing a request not the person.  Furthermore, other people have the right to ask, and you have the right to refuse. 

So what are some ways to say ‘No’?  I use several methods when I am working with people in becoming more assertive.  For example, you could try

  1. ‘Thank you’, then ‘no’eg: “thank you for thinking of me but I am unavailable”.
  2. Reflective listening, then ‘no’.  Reflect the content of the request and then state your ‘no’, eg: “I understand your are short of money at the moment, but I am unable to help you”.
  3. The reasoned ‘no’.  You can say ‘no’ and give a very clear explanation as to why, eg: “No, I’ve agreed to spend time with your father today”.
  4. The raincheck ‘no’.  You have to say ‘no’ but you may be able to help in the future, eg: “No, I can’t drive you to your friend’s house, but I will have time tomorrow”.
  5. The ‘no’ sandwich.  The first layer is a statement acknowledging what the other person wants from you.  The second layer (or the meat in the sandwich) is your refusal and the third layer is your reason, eg: “I understand you have a deadline, but I can’t help you today as I have already made commitments.
  6. The broken record ‘no’.  Constantly repeating the same statement regardless of their pleas, eg: “No, I am unable to help you”.
  7. The simple ‘No”.  Sometimes by offering no explanation, there is less opportunity for the person to persist.

By expressing our feelings openly and honestly and saying no to things we really do not want to do, actually allows others to know us and helps us feel better.  It also helps us to feel better about who we are.

At Relationships Australia, we can assist you in developing assertiveness and if you are in a drought declared area and affected by the drought, a fisherperson affected by the change in fishery laws or a sugar worker affected by changes to the industry our counselling services are free.  Call 1300 364 277 to find your nearest Relationships Australia branch.

This article was written and supplied by Relationships Australia Queensland. Any reproduction of this article is prohibited unless agreed upon by Relationships Australia Queensland.