How to Say “No”

Saying “no” is saying yes to you.

Listen to this interview with The Get it Done Guy, Stever Robbins.

Here are three examples >>

1. The boss asks that you skip some family time for work

S: Hi, Katie! I know it’s 3 o’clock Friday afternoon, but I just remembered I need the TPS report by Monday morning.
K: You know, actually, I’m unable to. I can’t. But I know there’s another way. Why don’t you call … so-and-so.
S: Oh, but Katie–I need YOU to do it.
K: You know, I hear that, and I’m unable to. Merry Christmas.
S: Surely, you could just do it tonight, after dinner.
K: You know, actually, I’m unable to. I can’t.
S: This is going to show up on your annual review.
K: I hear that, and I think that’s a very honest thing to do, because in reality, that’s correct.

2. A co-worker asks for a favor

S: …I have a hair appointment at lunch. Could you cover for me at the desk?
K: You know, actually, I’m unable to.
S: Oh, come on. I’ll cover for you next time.
K: You know, I really appreciate that. I’ll look forward to that for sure. And I’m unable to cover you on this one, but I know you’ll have a great time at the hair-dresser.
S: You’re not being a team player here!
K: You know, it really looks that way, doesn’t it? And of course, as we know, I am.

3. A teenager who wants the car

S: Hey Mom! Can I use your car to go to the movies?
K: No, actually, no.
S: All the other kids’ parents let them use the car.
K: Oh, my goodness, it’s true, isn’t it? You know, we really have different lives.
S: If you loved me, you’d let me use the car.
K: You know, it’s so interesting you would say that. You know, I love you with all my heart, and I’m not letting you use the car.
S: Mom, I hate you! I hate you! Everything in my life that’s wrong is wrong because of you.
K: Oh, honey. I’m so sorry you feel that way. I adore you.

Thank you, Stever.

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  1. I like to up the ante with these “clear no” exercises. What do you fear would happen if you say “no?” For instance, in the first one, the boss could say, “you’re fired.’ For most people, unless they hate their job and/or have a trust fund, that would be the greatest fear. So role-playing that – “You’re fired!” — how would a clear-mimded person? Perhap by doing some more work: if the Universe is friendly, why is it a good thing that I’m losing my job, at Christmas?

    With the other two examples, an underlying fear of saying “no” could be “They won’t like me,” or “If I say no to them they won’t do what I want when I need them to.”

    Re: the team player remark…”as we both know, I am” doesn’t sound yo me like something a team player would say. So how would a true team player react here? What would be the truly helpful, compassionate, collaborate, team-player response?

  2. Thank you so much for the interview, Katie! I discussed “An Honest No” today with a corporate client and sent them to the interview for examples. Not only are the examples you quote lots of fun, but the rest of the 26-minute interview was great, too 🙂


  3. I have concerns with the teenage conversation shown in this post. I have two teenage sons and am so happy to be their mom. NEVER have I experienced a conversation like the one in the dialogue shown here. If my son wants to use the car, I say yes. What is the problem? And if I have a problem or a concern about him using the car, I will be clear about what that is (the car battery is dead, the car isn’t safe in the snow because of old tires, he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet), etc. If my son wants to go with friends and I don’t want HIM driving, guess who drives then? ME 🙂 Leaving the conversation open to just a “no” takes us down the road to frustration and separation in my house. My sons are intelligent human beings who do not ask for too much and are open to knowing why I would say no to them driving.

    If I heard my son’s (or anyone) yelling that they hated me…I would know that I was off somewhere, not them.

  4. I would like to add to the “No” post comment. I am at this website, trying to forgive someone who “let me go” for this very thing. I’m sure this is no accident!

    I am a single Mother of two children who does not get any financial help from family or anyone else. I was fired for attending my daughter’s conference. I had said “no” to working over 11 hours a day earlier. I was very polite, just like your example.

    After 3 months of being off work, I barely survived losing housing and my car, heat, water — some I did lose temporarily. I was in this situation 10 years ago, picked myself up, shook myself off, got a degree and never looked back. Funny how only 3 months can seem to ruin 10 years of hard work!

    Please help me to forgive the folks who, in my mind, have turned their backs on my children. I’m just starting out here, and this is a tough one.

    I am skeptical that being in poverty is a good thing for any child. Whatever God’s will.

    Thank You.

  5. Saying no in this way is simple but truthful…whereas responding with, “I can’t,” is not truthful. The truth is we can…except maybe we’re bleeding to death.
    Just say, you know I’d like to do what you ask, but it just doesn’t work for me.

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