Learn the art of saying no. Don’t lie. Don’t make excuses. Don’t over-explain yourself. Just simply decline.
I’ve been invited to attend an event that I don’t want to attend. How does one say “no” without complicating matters? Without sounding ungrateful? And without having to give a reason why?
We are allowed to turn down invitations, of course. We don’t need to suffer from a fear of missing out (FOMO). I know the event will be spectacular, but I just can’t sit through it.
How have you said no? Did the inviter understand? Or ask for a reason why you said no? If I’m the inviter and my invitation is turned down, I’d hope that my guest would at least be gracious in saying no. And I’d likely be disappointed and then move on.
Etiquette teaches us several things. For instance, don’t tell them that you’ll get back to them just to put off saying “no.” If you’re considering saying “yes” but you need to check on something first, tell them that and let them know when they can expect your answer. Replying with a firm answer is optimal.
Be true to yourself, your convictions, and your priorities. We may feel guilty saying “no” when we don’t have a firm grasp on our priorities and convictions. If you have a commitment on Thursday evenings, and you’re being asked to do something Tuesday evenings, you need to say “no” if your commitment is to spend weeknights at home with your family.
Do you write down the three things you need to do today so that, at the end of the day, you can look back and know “I accomplished what I needed to do”? Be sure to stick to your list. Keeping promises to yourself is something you need to do. It’s usually as important as keeping the ones we make to others.
As someone once said, “If you’re on good terms with yourself, you’re on good terms with others.” That’s one reason it’s important to stay true to our convictions. There is a fine line between following our convictions and using them as an excuse to be self-focused to the point of being no earthly good. Don’t turn down every request or opportunity.
A lot is gained by saying “yes.” You meet new people, you expand your skills, you stretch yourself, and you give your “nice” muscles a good workout. Also, if someone needs help, true help, you’ll want to be the type of person others can count on.
Keep your answers short and sweet. Saying “no” makes a lot of us nervous, and when we’re nervous, we keep talking, and talking, and talking–which only makes it worse. If you can give the real reason you’re unable to help (and if it won’t hurt their feelings), it’s kind to let them know.
I found a simple five-part formula to help you say “no.”
- Start with a compliment, if one fits the situation.
- Give your answer.
- Say thank you.
- Encourage the person.
- Change the subject or excuse yourself.
All the way through these steps above, keep your demeanor light, and, of course, smile. A smile says “No hard feelings.”
The Manners Mentor blog gives several examples of situations that might require a “no” answer (for example, someone asking for free advice, a friend showing up at your doorstep expecting to be invited in, a request to buy a school fundraising item, and others). None of the examples given by this writer included an apology. Because there’s no reason to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.
What if the person won’t take no for an answer? Let’s be nice and just call them bullies. Anyone who doesn’t respect your “yes” or your “no” to the point where they threaten, cajole, twist your arm, or make you feel guilty is a bully. We’re not doormats. We don’t tolerate bullies. They’re rude.