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How to Learn to Say "No"

The trick to saying "no" is to do it in a way that doesn't invite discussion. These strategies will head off any arguments.


  • Step 1: Just say "no" Just say "no" – don't offer any reasons for your refusal. Simply say, "I'm so sorry, but I can't." Then change the subject. Otherwise, you invite the person to challenge your excuse.
  • TIP: Make sure your body language conveys "no" by standing up straight and looking the asker in the eye.
  • Step 2: Sandwich it If you can't be that abrupt, slip your "no" between two positive statements. For example, "I'm so flattered you asked! Unfortunately, I can't do it. But aren't you nice to think of me!"
  • Step 3: Offer an alternative Offer an alternative if you can, such as, "Why not ask Susie? I'm sure she'd love to." This is especially satisfying if you know Susie will dread the request.
  • Step 4: Compromise If you feel guilty about declining, make the person a counteroffer. Say, "I can't do that, but here's what I can do."
  • Step 5: Compliment them End on a positive note by complimenting the person. It will take the sting out of your rejection. We're all suckers for a compliment, even if we suspect it's insincere.
  • FACT: Eighty-two percent of women surveyed say they have trouble saying "no" to people.

You Will Need

  • A simple "no"
  • Some positive statements
  • An alternative
  • A compromise
  • A compliment
  • Confident body language (optional)

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