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Seven ways to say no in a clear, but friendly way (keep it short and simple)

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It may seem like a contradiction: being friendly and kind, yet guarding your boundaries. But saying no and remaining friendly is perfectly possible. In fact, it's a way of practicing loving kindness. Towards yourself, and others.

Loving kindness doesn’t mean you have to be limitless in your efforts to help other people, or to be liked. Metta, the form of Buddhism in which loving kindness is key, means wishing another person to be happy, to find their way towards a lighter way of living. It’s an attitude that you can practice without saying things you don’t mean. 

The first part of the metta meditation is: ‘may I be happy, may I be well, may I be safe.’ In the second part, you wish the same to someone else. In the third part, you wish the same to everyone. That’s why metta is about wholeness and unity. You wish for the wellbeing of every living creature, including yourself. Loving kindness can be: no, I can’t help you right now, but I wish for you that your needs will be fulfilled.  

Seven ways to say no in a friendly way: 

1. Look the person in the eye, stand firmly and speak clearly. Make contact. 

2. If you know immediately that your answer will be ‘no’, act right away. By waiting and replying later, you leave them ‘hanging’ and you carry the decision with you. If you haven’t decided yet, ask for some time to think.

3. Don’t use words like ‘maybe’ or ‘later’ when all you want to say, is no. 

4. Oftentimes, you can phrase the reason for saying no in a positive way, by letting them know what you will be focusing your time and attention on. If you want, you can thank them for the trust they put in you by asking you this question. 

5. Give one reason for saying no, and stick with that. Keep it short and simple. 

6. If someone keeps pressing, explain to them in a friendly manner that this makes you feel uncomfortable. 

7. Leave room for this person’s possible disappointment, by acknowledging it and not judging – but don’t turn it into your problem. 

Photo: Dangtimô Thimô