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The ability to say no — to refuse to do something you don’t want to do, clearly and without apologising — is an important skill.

Many people find it extremely difficult to say “no”. They are afraid that doing so will upset the other person, make it appear that they don't care or appear obstructive. After all, when you say “no” you are denying someone else something they want and it is possible they may be unhappy, angry or upset. However, sometimes, you just have to say no.

There are four steps to saying no clearly.

  1. Listen carefully to the request, both to show respect for the other person and find out exactly what you are being asked to do.
  2. Decline clearly to avoid building hopes or misleading the other person.
  3. Give a reason.
  4. Wherever possible, suggest an alternative.

You are likely, occasionally, to meet someone who simply won’t take no for an answer. There is a technique you can use to get your message across in this situation.

Sticking to ‘no’

  • State your position positively. Say what you can do. For example “I don’t have time today, I could look at it tomorrow”.
  • Don’t pick up on any side issues raised by the other person.
  • Rephrase your statement slightly, such as “Yes, I could look at that tomorrow, but I don’t have time today” but make sure it is essentially the same statement.
  • Use a calm unemotional tone, no matter what the other person says or does.
  • Don’t compromise unless you honestly change your opinion.
  • Don't fill any silences
  • Keep at it. If you repeat it often enough, the message will get through.

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