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More PsychNotes: Communication

March 4, 2016       

Assertion 101: Just Say “No”
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

While teaching a class on assertion, I paired up the attendees with someone they didn't know and told them to make a simple request such as “Please get me a cup of water” and the other to respond with a “no” without elaboration. Not a single person in the class could just say “no” even though this was a pretend situation. And one person even got up to fetch a glass of water!

This class happened to be all women because women tend to have more problems asserting themselves. Typically, when saying “no” women want to provide an explanation to soften the response. However, the problem with explanations is that it often leads to the other person finding a loophole: “No, I'm not available that day” leads to “How about a different day?” Or, “I don't have time to help with that” is countered with “Oh, then how about something that won't take as much time?” or “When will you have the time?”

If you don't want to do something, the best response is “no.” Sure, it might be difficult initially, but in the long run it becomes the simpler response because you don't have to deal with the counter-requests.

If necessary, you can add a few words to it so it doesn't seem as harsh: “No, thank you” or “No, I'm not interested.” But don't provide an explanation. Good sales people are always taught how to turn an explanation into a sale. Without the explanation it becomes more difficult for others to continue requesting.

With someone who is persistent, use the broken-record technique and continue saying “no.” Keep in mind that you are not being rude for saying “no”--they are being rude by continuing to pursue the issue when you have made yourself clear. You have the right to say “no” without providing explanations.

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Dr. Monica Frank

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