There have been some people who have said no to me about various matters in hurtful and even degrading ways. There have been others who said no to me in such a way that it took me a minute to realize that they turned me down because of the way they delivered the response.
There is an adage or saying that “It is not what you say but how you say it.” This definitely applies when saying “no.” If we care about the feelings of others (and we should), there are some important points to remember when you must tell someone that you are unable to help them.
Make sure you understand exactly what the other person is asking of you. Sometimes we say no because we think the task is more involved that it really is. Be clear and concise; don’t give a long, drawn out explanation.
Be careful of your body language; especially facial expressions and hand gestures. Make sure to understand the importance of what you are being asked to do. If it is a life-threatening situation or one where the person seriously needs your assistance, more consideration should be given to assist.
When you say no, explain why. Perhaps you just don’t feel like it but there should still be a valid reason. Let the person know you are sorry that you can’t assist them.
Regardless of the person or the request being made, everyone deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. Remember how you would like to be treated when someone is telling you no and take the same approach.
Linda Williams, MEd. is a certified etiquette consultant.