Sunday, March 4, 2012

How to (Properly) Say No

By Audrey Maslim, Ph.D.

"No" may be a two-letter word, but don't let its size fool you. Some people find it more difficult to utter this word than a word twice its size. The cause for this challenge may vary from one person to the next, but there are some frequent reasons. One of the more common ones is some variation of this line of thinking: "I don't want to hurt Megan's feelings by turning her down."

It is good to consider another person in your decision making. This shows that you are neither selfish, nor self-centered. Often times, however, the price for your inability to appropriately reject a request is steep-so steep, in fact, that you might end up with a bigger problem on your hands.

Instead of inconveniencing the person (whose request you should have turned down), your failure to say no will likely sacrifice those closest to you, if not yourself. Indeed, you might have run across a scenario like this.

Maybe you've agreed to babysit Megan's kids this weekend because she asked you to. However, this move might have also caused your significant other to be upset at you, because you're already too busy as it is, so why should you add one more thing to your plate? At the end of the day, not turning down Megan's request might result in a fight between you and your partner.

Do you always have to say no? Of course not. Some requests need to be answered affirmatively. When doing so is detrimental to you, however, you need to learn how to politely, but firmly, say no. Here are 3 thoughts to help get you started.

1. Realize that you are not in control of anybody else's feelings.

This means that even if you said no to Megan, she has the choice to remain calm or to curse you out. Just because she might choose the second option does not mean that you have to accommodate her request. In fact, even if you bent over backward to please her, Megan would still retain the power to choose whether to like or hate you. Why base your decisions on something that is ultimately out of your control?

2. Realize that there is likely something else underneath your inability to say no.

Fear of rejection may just be the hidden motive behind your reluctance to deny a request. Another way of saying the same thing is that your need for approval and acceptance is what is stopping you from saying no. Guess what-there will always be some people who would not accept you, no matter what you do. Sacrificing yourself just to please others is a risky investment!

3. Realize that you can't help everyone every time.

Yes, even you-the multi-tasking, talented, kindhearted and considerate you, have limits! Like everyone else, you are only given 24 hours a day. In addition, you only possess a certain amount of energy on any given day. This means that for every request you grant, you will have to utilize a nonrefundable portion of your time, energy and possibly money. Choose how you want to invest your resources wisely.

C 2012 Audrey Maslim, Ph.D.

Dr. Audrey Maslim is a licensed psychologist in California (PSY 22815). Her PhD is in Clinical Psychology. Dr. Maslim provides individual and couples psychotherapy to adults from the Southern California area. Visit her at, write her at, and follow her on Twitter at @DrAudreyMaslim.

Article Source:,_Ph.D.
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