In my recently concluded 4-day programme on Emotional Intelligence for a major player in the power sector, a lady burst into tears because “I don’t know how to say No to requests, especially from loved ones and friends.”

Saying no is part of the communication options in a relationship. The problem is not really with saying no; as much as it is in the way, manner and time you say no. The fundamental and critical thing is that saying no should not damage or affect your relationships negatively. Once you understand the request and decide you want to say no, choose the kind of no that best suits the person and situation.
Here are some general rules to follow:
1.  You can say no, firmly and calmly, without feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t have to feel guilty that you are saying no to a request you know you cannot grant.
2. You can say no, followed by a straightforward explanation of what you are feeling or what you are willing not to do. Examples: “I’m uncomfortable doing that,” “No, I’m not willing to do that,” “No, I don’t want to do that, “No, I don’t like to do that.”
3. You can say no, and then give a choice, such as: “I don’t have time today, but I could help out the first thing tomorrow morning.” Or “Not now; however, I will when I get this done, which could be in an hour.”
4. You can say no, and then give an alternative or refer to the person making request to another person, such as, “You may wish to visit this website to get help” or “Have you approached the C to assist you?”
5. Say no, and then clarify your reasons. This does not include long-winded statements filled with excuses, justifications, and rationalizations. It’s enough that you do not want to say yes. Your clarification should only be given to provide the receiver more information so that they can better understand your position.
6. You can make an empathetic listening statement, then say no. You may paraphrase the content and feeling of the request, and then state your no. Example: “I know how important it is for you to do your industrial attachment in my office because of the experience it will offer you. However, we have filled all the available vacancies for such positions”
7. You can say yes, and then give your reasons for not doing it or your alternative solution. This approach is very interesting. You may want to use it in situations when you are willing to meet the request, but not at the time or in the way the other person wants it. For example: “I will be willing to give you my car to use, but it won’t be tomorrow that you are asking for” or “It will my pleasure to review your project, but I won’t be available till next month”
8. Use your natural no. You may have developed your own style of saying no based on your past experience and personality. If so, use it. But remember the golden rule. However, you say the no, it must not damage the relationship.

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