By Dr. Loral Lee Portenier 

How To Say No Without Being Rude

“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.”

~ Edith Eva Eger

Albert Ellis Being Assertive Quote
Loral Lee Portenier

One of my clients described herself as “just a marshmallow” when it came to saying no. Does that resonate with you? I must admit that I certainly know that feeling myself.

So how do you go from being a marshmallow to being someone who can say no effectively? 

I would suggest that there is no one right way to say no. It depends on such things as culture, personality, values, goals, and situation.

So, to start out, take a look at your values and goals in relation to the different roles you play in life (e.g., parent, partner, colleague, neighbor, friend, family member.) 

  • What are your values and goals for yourself in each role? That is, what type of person are you trying to become within the confines of that role? 
  • What sort of things do you need to say yes to (or no to) in order to honor your values and meet your goals?

Look at the type of requests that are made of you throughout the course of a day. 

Use your values to determine whether your response should be yay or nay. 

An author whose name I don’t recall put it rather graphically. He said, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no!” 

The second step involves emulation. 

We learn much by modeling others and this skill is no different. Make a point of observing how other people say no and the results they get. Look at people you know, at political figures, at television and movie characters, etc. They all have their own ways of saying no, with varying results. 

Now start trying out a variety of approaches. 

Don’t expect to feel comfortable right away. And don’t expect excellent results immediately, either, because people are going to resist. Many of them will want you to remain your old marshmallow self, not someone who exudes self-confidence and self-respect.

But keep at it until you’re good at several styles. Honoring your personal values will help you know when to say, in so many words, “Hell yes” or “Hell no!”

Dr. Loral Lee Portenier –

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