How Do You Say "No?"

Note: I am thinking about a specific client in this post; they could heed my advice. Enjoy. As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at
"No" is such a simple word....only two letters. Yet saying "No" out loud is harder for most people than saying, "I'll be glad to..." or "When do you need me to..."

Most of us said, "No!" quite well when we were two. After all, it's the two-year-old's job to say "No." The authority figures in our lives at the time, our parents, expect us to say "No." And it is because of "No" that the year is known as the Terrible Two's.

Many of us grow up to be people pleaser's. The word "No" drops out of our vocabulary, and we substitute lots of ways to be agreeable and keep the other person happy. Saying "No" to authority figures is not expected. And underneath it all we believe that saying "No" can cost us a lot in our adult life.

The unassertive "No" is accompanied by weak excuses and rationalizations. If you lack confidence when you say "No" you may think that you need to support your "No." This can backfire if the lie is exposed and again, you will sound ineffective because you need to have an excuse to support your stand.

The aggressive "No" is done with contempt. "Are you kidding? Me, get your mail while you're out of town?" Sometimes the aggressive "No" includes an attack on the person making the request. "You must be crazy. I couldn't take on another project."

The assertive "No" is simple and direct. "No, I won't be able to help with that." If you would like to offer an explanation, make it short and simple. "No, I won't be able to help with that. I already have another commitment this afternoon."

Strategies to make the assertive "No" easier.

Let's look at some daily ways you can practice saying, "No," so that it comes more naturally to you. Paulette Dale in her book, 'Did You Say Something, Susan?' suggests some simple ways to practice saying, "No." Here are some of her suggestions:

Say "No:"

1. to the clerk who wants to write your phone number down
2. when you return something to the store;
3. to the telemarketer who disturbs your dinner;
4. to the product demonstrator at the department store;
5. to your friend's when they jump on you;
6. to the secretary who answers the phone and asks if you mind if she puts you on hold.

Make it a project to say, "No," to something every day.

When you do, notice it and give yourself credit for practicing saying such an important two letter word. You will also have taken the first step in creating personal power.

Next week: Creating personal power!