I've yet to meet a single person who enjoys being told "no." When I was a little girl I would dance around the question with my parents rather than ask them straight out whatever it was that I was after. This was my way to hopefully avoid hearing the dreaded "no." As I grew up, hearing it didn't get any easier. Perhaps it is because of my own aversion to the word that I'm hyper sensitive about doling it out. Which got me thinking, are more people having a difficult time accepting the word as a complete sentence these days? Or, am I "growing up" and finally becoming more confident in using it?
I've noticed a trend happening in some of my friendships recently: People who don't accept "no" as a complete answer. I understand that for the most part if somebody is asking a person to do something either with them, or for them, it is because they genuinely want them to take part in whatever the request might be. What I don't get is when you reply to a request with the answer; "No, thank you," why some people are pushing that response. As a person who dislikes being told "no," I don't give that as an answer lightly. If I say "no" to something it's because I truly am unable to say yes, or to be frank, I simply don't want to say yes.
Life is busy for all of us. Whether or not you have children, there is no shortage of commitments, activities, and responsibilities that most of us are juggling on a daily basis. It is at times like these, when one already has way too much to manage in their lives that a lovely, casual invite can seem like a lot to deal with. Never mind when you add in the dynamics of whether the invite is coming from a friend who is easily disappointed, and saying "no" to them will only create a new opportunity for them to be annoyed with you, or they might even be the sort of person who would not extend an invite in the future.
Depending on which friend the request is coming from will also have an impact on your stress levels. I have a couple of friends that saying "no" to takes me a few days, and many glasses of wine before working up the nerve to decline an invite from them. Such are the dynamics of some relationships.
So how do you handle saying "no"? Better yet, how do you handle telling a person who you know doesn't accept "no" as a complete answer?
I have a few suggestions on ensuring your "no" is heard.
1) When telling somebody anything they don't want to hear, I find it is always ideal to be able to do this through direct communication. Meaning you will have more success with a person accepting "no" as your final answer if they can look you in the eyes and see that you mean business. Or if they can hear it in your voice that you're very serious about saying "no." With email and text, I find it too easy for the non-accepting no person to turn my words against me, or even worse act like they didn't get my message about responding to their request with my "NO!"
2) I used to do this with my girls when they were younger, in fact I still do it with them now that they're 28, 26 and 20. If I can't find three strong reasons as to why I'm saying "no" in the first place, then I rethink my attitude about why I'm saying "no." Maybe there are things on your schedule that can be adjusted so that you might be able to attend the event. If there really is no wiggle room in your "no" then see above and ensure that you stand your ground, and are firm with saying no.
3) Finally, if you have a super difficult person who seems to be always passively aggressively manipulating you into a "yes" even when you've told them "no" countless times, perhaps it is a good opportunity for you to go for a coffee and express how their inability to accept "no" as a complete answer makes you feel.
It is important to remember that you need to feel good about the relationships you're in, you need to be free to say "no" when you mean it and have your "no" not only heard, but honored. NO, my friends, is a complete sentence. Don't ever forget that.
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