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How To Say No Without Hurting Someone’s Feelings

Sai Kardile May 14, 2020
Saying no without hurting someone's feelings is an art many of us would give anything to master. Despite being a two-lettered word, "NO" can be quite cumbersome and difficult to utter.
But there are ways of saying it politely and painlessly and most importantly, guiltlessly.
Are you a "yes person" who is considerate of others at the expense of your own comfort and convenience? We all obviously want to be friendly and nice and kind—nobody wants to be viewed as a grouch or party pooper who doesn't have much regard for others' feelings. But what about your own feelings?
In a bid to be good to others, we often end up saying yes when our inner voice is screaming a BIG LOUD WITH CAPS LOCK ON "NO".
Remember that time when you wanted to have an all kick-back-and-binge-watch Sunday by yourself but you didn't have the heart to refuse your overenthusiastic friends who wanted you to join them at your usual hangout?
Or how about that one time when a cousin called to ask if he could doss down at your place at the eleventh hour but instead of "no", you let slip "yes" without meaning to? It's because saying no is uncomfortable. It makes you feel uncomfortable for the fear that it will make the person asking a favor or making an offer uncomfortable hearing it.
But you know you can't go on like this and the good news is—you don't have to. With tact, diplomacy, and assertiveness—you can nail this seemingly impossible task of saying no. Let's get down to the brass tacks, people.
Assess the behavioural pattern of people
By this, we mean you need to ask yourself who are the people who are most likely to ask you for favors and render you helpless into saying yes. People have their own MO of making you cave in to their demands.
Some use honeyed words of flattery, some wield their daunting nature. Identify what it is and stick with us here and learn some easy ways to politely say no.
Don't beat around the bush
People can sense your inability to say no and will be persistent or use one of their 'ways' to get you to do what they want. So, your best way to this pickle would be to say a firm no and state your reason for declining the offer in a crisp and friendly way.
A tip here—always begin with "I don't" instead of "I can't" as the former indicates your assertiveness and resolution.  A clear, unhesitant jumping off point will help you be in control of the situation.  This is what you need—an uncomplicated way of saying no.
Time is of the essence
Most of us think that postponing giving an answer or sleeping on it solves the problem. But it doesn't. All it does is give the other person a chance or chances (depending on the time you take) to put pressure on you.
So, just appreciate the person for making an offer to you in the first place, politely give your reason for the turndown as we discussed earlier without leaving any room for "maybe" or any kind of ambiguity.
Keep your body language and tone positive
If you are going to refuse someone's offer/proposal in person, make sure your body language is in step with your tone. More often than not, people are tuned-in to the non-verbal cues we send out.
So, if your words and tone don't match your body language it could create misunderstandings, hurt the other person, or worse—get you in their bad books.
Offer an option, if possible
Remember this—by not being a part of someone's plans doesn't mean it leaves them in a cul-de-sac. They will always have an option, even when you say no. If you can offer a relevant alternative to the person, do that.
For example, say, a colleague asks your help for a presentation they are working on and you can't— refer them to someone who you think can.
You are turning down a request, not the person
This is what we need to tell ourselves first. The guilt we feel often springs from the place of social conditioning—we are taught to please others from an early age and expected to act in an "agreeable" way.
Even if that comes at great personal discomfort or resentment. A precisely explained, polite refusal will be seen for what it is and nothing more.
It's not your responsibility to make everyone happy
We all have our own personal preferences and values. And we shouldn't have to feel bad about denying a request which doesn't agree with us. It's as simple as that.
Pleasing everyone isn't our life's mission and that drawing healthy lines that clearly define for others what is and isn't okay with you—help you get your priorities right.
At the end of the day, here's what you need to know—people who really value your time and feelings will respect your decision. Practice makes a man perfect—so start slow; how about saying no to the salon manager who sweet talks you into buying products? Or why not say an emphatic no to your heart when it desires something unnecessary?