Sometimes you really need to say NO to someone and you just don’t know how to do it (or make it stick). Maybe it’s your mother. Maybe it’s your boss. Or maybe there are certain times when you just feel too guilty, even though you know you shouldn’t.
Have you ever read someone’s advice on saying NO and said to yourself, “I could never say that!” That’s because, in the world of relationships, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. No one can tell you how to respond to a given situation. What you say and how you say it depends upon your values, your beliefs, your history and your relationships. You don’t need a formula or a system. What you need is to understand the dynamics of the situation you’re facing: what’s really happening and what possible responses you want to consider.
If you find yourself making excuses for your boundaries, then you’ll love The 4th Easy Way: No Excuses, No Justifications (which you can read in the excerpt). Here I take you through the process of saying NO without needing to convince others that it’s OK. If you need to explain yourself to someone, you’ve given them your power. That’s perfectly appropriate in some relationships, but dangerous in others. And it’s up to you to decide which relationships and circumstances deserve some of that power and which ones don’t.
The purpose of this concise but powerful guide is to help you get in touch with what’s important to you and act on it. Saying YES to something you don’t want means saying NO to something else. Often that “something else” is important to you. Assertiveness is not about being pushy, rude or inconsiderate. It’s not even about making yourself more important than everyone else. It’s about balancing your needs and theirs in a way that feels right to you. Assertiveness is really just about making and implementing the choices that most support your values.
You can’t wait until you feel good enough to stand up for yourself. Stand up for yourself (even a little bit), and you’ll start feeling good enough. This book will help you to do just that – one simple step at a time.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In my talks and workshops, the thing people asked for more than anything else was the right words. They wanted to know how to say NO without being rude or hurting someone’s feelings. They wanted to say NO without feeling guilty, and saying it gracefully was a big part of that. Since that’s what people wanted most, that’s what I put in my first book.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Actually, 7 Easy Ways doesn’t have many characters, although other books in the series do. The reader is the main character in this book.
The 4th Easy Way
No Excuses, No Justifications
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Some people will use anything you say against you. When you give them a reason, they’ll come up with a way to rearrange your life so that you can still accommodate them. (Of course, you’ll have little or no time left for yourself if you go along with this.) Or they’ll become indignant at the mere thought that something else (even one of your highest values) is more important than their needs. They’ll then let you know either directly or indirectly what a bad person you are to even consider refusing them.
Or perhaps they’ll simply keep reminding you of all the reasons that this is so important. Without saying so, they’ll be implying that this is more important than your other priorities. But because they’re not stating this directly, they don’t have to tell you which ones you should sacrifice for them. This strategy is quite effective with people who believe they must put others first; they simply give up what little time they have for themselves and do what everyone else wants.
Don’t Hand Over Your Power
So don’t say so much. Making excuses means handing your power to others; it suggests you must justify yourself to them. Unless you’re dealing with someone in authority, say as little as possible. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you’ll regret later.
Here are some ways to hold on to your power and just say no:
I can’t help you with that.
I won’t be there.
You’ll have to manage without me this time.
I’d really like to help you get that job. But I’m just not willing to recommend someone who doesn’t have the experience they require.
This may sound like an excuse, but it isn’t. It’s a clear statement of where your boundary lies. “I don’t really know him so well,” is an excuse – unless it’s the primary reason you’re uncomfortable with the request. In that case, consider a stronger statement:
I don’t know him well enough to contact him about this. It wouldn’t be appropriate. If the attempts continue, simply reiterate that it wouldn’t be appropriate.
I’m not taking on any more commitments for a couple of weeks. If you still need help after the 15th, talk to me then and I’ll see what I can do.
What if they insist?
“That’s all fine,” you’re thinking, “but what do I do when the arguments start? How do I manage to avoid excuses and justifications when someone demands them? Or just gives me that look?”
It’s actually easier than it sounds. Take a nice, deep breath and remind yourself of this simple truth:
Just because someone demands an explanation doesn’t mean you have to provide one.
Yes, I’m completely serious. Everyone wants what they want. But no one has the right to decide what’s private for you and what isn’t. Only you can decide how much information you share … and with whom. Sharing information whenever someone demands it puts that person in charge of the conversation (as well as whatever’s left of your privacy). And before you know it, you’re giving them whatever they want just to make that conversation end. Don’t let someone else control the conversation; they’ll end up controlling you.
When someone demands an explanation, there are a number of ways to let them know that you’re not going to provide one. Here are some options:
I can’t help you with that. “Why not?” I just can’t. “But why?” I’ve already told you – I just can’t.
I won’t be there. “But it won’t be the same without you! Why can’t you make it?” I just can’t. “Why can’t you talk to me about it?” I just don’t want to discuss it. But thanks for thinking of me. (This is a good time to change the subject or say a friendly goodbye.)
You’ll need to get someone else this time. “But I can’t. I need you. What’s so important that you can’t help me?” I’m not going into the details. “So you’re not even going to give me a chance?” Not this time, no. (That last sentence can be said with a smile – which can lighten the mood while still demonstrating that you’re not falling for their tricks – or with a steady, firm look that says you really mean it.)
You’ll have to manage without me this time. “But I need you! You can make time for me!” Actually I can’t. I have other priorities right now. “Other priorities? What’s more important than this?” My other priorities. Using the same words (“other priorities”) adds power to your message.
I’m not taking on any more commitments for a couple of weeks. If you still need help after the 15th, talk to me then and I’ll see what I can do. “But I can’t wait until the 15th. I need your help now!” I understand how you feel. But I’m not taking on anything else until after the 15th.
As these examples illustrate, you can choose to tell someone directly that you won’t be sharing your reasons, or you can simply restate your original response. Either way, you’re letting them know that it’s your decision. And it’s not negotiable.
But what about the look?
Instead of arguing, the other person may just look at you as if to say, “You don’t really mean that, do you? No decent person would refuse me!” What do you do then?
The answer is simple. Become comfortable with silence … and other people’s judgments (or opinions, or attitudes or whatever they are). Remember, what other people think of you is really none of your business!
If you’re not comfortable with silence, and you’re taking on the judgments that you imagine are behind that look, then you will naturally start making excuses in order to fill the silence – and make those awful feelings go away. Don’t do it!
“The look” (and the silence that goes with it) is only a useful weapon as long as you’re intimidated by it. My experience with clients and workshop participants tells me that it’s not the silence we’re uncomfortable with – it’s the difficult feelings about ourselves that it brings up. What comes up for you during that silence? Do you feel guilty? Do you want that person to approve of you, to tell you it’s OK? Or do you feel frightened? Perhaps saying no wasn’t safe when you were growing up. Did an angry parent physically or verbally abuse you when you said it?
Many people can become more comfortable with silence with some practice and perseverance. If you find that you can’t, or that the feelings it brings up are just too uncomfortable, then get some help with your emotions. It’s time to take back control of your life.
When someone gives you “the look,” you can choose to respond in a number of different ways. You can look straight back at them, firmly and comfortably – letting them know that you’re not intimidated. Stay with the silence for a bit, just to reinforce that “I’m not intimidated” message. Then change the subject or say goodbye.
Another option is to restate your decision, or wish the person the best of luck, and walk away. (Walking away is often a good option when you’re dealing with people who want to manipulate you.) This can be a good choice if you’re not comfortable with silence yet. I also like its simplicity and efficiency. Walking away puts an end to the unpleasantness – at least for now.
You can also call people on their behavior, which not only lets them know that “the look” isn’t working, but that it won’t work next time, either. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s our next tip….
Stand Your Ground
With a bit of practice, you’ll need excuses less and less. Excuses are another way of giving away your power. When the relationship doesn’t justify it, making excuses tells the other person that you want him to be satisfied with your decision; you need his approval – which he can (and often will) withhold.
Looking for agreement or approval opens the door to endless debate … the kind you’ll do just about anything to avoid. Learn to stand your ground without over-explaining yourself, and you’ll transform some of your most difficult relationships.
Stephanie Sterner wanted to write about human nature for years … but her practical, concise style doesn’t fill hundreds of pages. The popularity of the Kindle made it possible for her to write shorter books for an audience that would appreciate them.
Emotions and relationships are Stephanie’s passion. Rather than pursuing a degree in psychology, she has paid great attention to the lessons provided by the School of Life. Through years of study, research, and contemplation – as well as her work with clients and students – she has become an expert in human nature.
Stephanie is an expert on how to say “no”, and she is currently writing a series called “Set Your Boundaries Your Way.”. Once this is completed, she intends to broaden her scope to include our relationship with our emotions (which plays such an important role in setting and maintaining boundaries).
As an author, Stephanie expresses a profound understanding of human nature and relationships in ways that we can all understand. Rather than give you a system or a formula to follow, she prefers to share universal principles and examples that will help you to apply them. That way you can come to understand what’s best for you.
Stephanie’s core belief is that you must live your life according to your own highest values, not someone else’s. This can be challenging in today’s world, but she believes that it’s worth the effort.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!