Saying no - How is it easier?

Maybe you think: Saying no is not that difficult? But if you are honest, you can certainly think of many situations in which you have said "yes" against your better judgement, although you actually wanted to say "no". And you were annoyed afterwards. Often it is not easy to feel what I really want and need and... fluggs... you are taken over by your counterpart and made to do something that you did not want at all.

It is helpful to recognise the strategies used to get you to do something, because only then can you defend yourself in time.

That can be:

  • Blackmail

  • Pressure

  • Taking people by surprise

  • Manipulation

  • Flattery

  • Sympathy tour

  • Guilt

A clear NO is the best cornerstone for an honest YES.

Here are three tips that can help in everyday life:

Tip 1: First gain time!

Take it easy! When a request or plea comes your way, you don't have to say "yes" right away. Ask for a little respite: "I need to think about this for a moment. I'll come to you in a minute and give an answer!" Often we say "yes" hastily because we are caught off guard. These are the requests that are just thrown at us between door and door. Usually they have a "once in a while" in the sentence, such as: "Can you do the dishes quickly? Can you answer the e-mails quickly? Or: "Be so kind ..." Means something like: If you refuse, you are NOT nice. And then you commit yourself again and again to things that cost you unnecessary time, are no fun or cause an unpleasant rumbling in your stomach. It's OK to protect yourself here! By postponing, you gain time for yourself to realise what the consequences of a commitment are.

Tip 2: Self-analysis:

Why is it so hard to say "no"? Realise what it costs you to say YES too often. This can give you motivation and incentive to decide for a refusal, a no, from now on.

Most of the time, however, there is fear behind it. Consider to what extent these fears apply to you and think about strategies to deal with them.

  • Fear of destroying harmony - Sometimes clarity can strengthen the connection.

  • Fear of rejection, of not being liked - Whether you are liked does not necessarily depend on your willingness to always say YES. There are other aspects that make you likeable.

  • Fear of other people getting a bad image of us - you have little influence on what people think of you.

  • Fear of being seen as selfish - sometimes it is better to think of yourself

  • Fear of not being needed - the world turns even if you don't turn it!

  • Fear of missing out - if you do something you have neither the strength nor the desire to do, then you miss out on yourself.

  • Fear of negative consequences - things usually turn out differently than you think. And being angry when you have agreed to something you didn't want, or when you feel you are being taken advantage of, also annoys you.

Empower yourself to take good care of yourself!

Sometimes it can be useful to get such permission in writing.

Don't wait for the permission of others, they are often not interested!

Tip 3: Formulate the NO.

The most important thing is to be honest, clear and unambiguous.

Sometimes you want to say NO and hope that the other person will recognise from your facial expressions or gestures that you don't want this or that. How often do you give in, mumble a "well..." and silently hope that the other person will withdraw their request of their own accord? But that rarely happens; so you sit in the pit you have dug for yourself. If you think, "You think that I think...", you are going down a blind alley from which it will be very difficult to get out. It is also possible that you say NO too drastically and that exactly what you feared happens: the other person feels hurt.

This does not mean justifying oneself. It is about building a bridge for the other person so that the rejection is acceptable.

  • Refuse the request and not the person ("I would like to help you, but right now I can't because of...").

  • Saying no as clearly and distinctly, but at the same time as gently and respectfully as possible.

  • Give reasons for the no

  • Understand the person asking ("I understand that you have a lot on your plate right now...").

  • Thanking the person for the request ("thank you for trusting me to do this...").

  • Offer an alternative that is easier to fulfil.

  • Find other words for the NO: Stop! , however, I could now..., If I do, give, make this now, then ...,

  • Deny a part ("I can't do it for you today, but if it helps you, I'll do it tomorrow...").

  • Pack the no humorously, be creative

  • Being consistent and naming consequences ("if I do this now, then we can't do it later....")

  • Be aware of boundaries

  • Use body language.

Cross your arms and shake your head slowly from right to left. What happens? The movement signals to the brain that you are allowing yourself a friendly defence.

  • If you let yourself be taken by surprise and have already nodded in agreement, you can always renegotiate. It is important that you are aware of your motives - YOU do not need to justify yourself!

  • Beware of white lies and excuses! They can be exposed and make the situation worse. It is better to say no honestly!

What to do if the other person insists and persists in asking?

  • Sometimes a clear word is needed here. Here, too, you can address the strategy used, such as "You obviously want to get me to say "yes" by all means now - I'm really sorry, but that won't work this time."

  • "You seem very keen to change my mind. But unfortunately I can only repeat once again that it won't work today."

Finally, ask yourself these questions: How do you handle it when you get a no?

  • Can you take no for an answer?

  • Do you feel rejected, offended or hurt when someone does not comply with your request?

  • How do you deal with disappointment?

  • Do you get angry? How do you deal with anger?

  • Can you give the other person a "no"?

  • If you can allow others to say no without feeling devalued, then you will find it easy to set yourself apart.

You can learn to say no. It makes life easier for yourself and your fellow human beings!

Friederike Hepner-Ramm

About the author

Friederike Hepner-Ramm has worked for many years as a coach and mediator as well as a burn-out and resilience trainer and offers team days for social institutions. She gives lectures and seminars on various topics.

Her colourful and multi-layered life has taught her above all that every person is different and has individual needs. It is a great pleasure for her to respond to this.