How to Say No

In a previous post, we looked at techniques to help us learn to say no when we haven't felt comfortable telling others no. One of the main points from that post is that it sometimes feels uncomfortable when we start to become assertive and tell others no. Today, we are going to look at some great techniques to actually say no to others, especially if the requester is not someone who easily takes no for an answer.

Broken Record Technique. Although record players are not common household items anymore, most of us can relate to the sound of a record or recording skipping over the same section over and over again. This is the essence of the broken record technique. When someone asks us for something or to do something, we say no and then we keep saying no without giving explanation as to why we are saying no so as not to invite argument. It goes something like this:

“Can I borrow $20 until payday?”


“Why not?”


“I'll pay you back on Friday.”


“It's just $20!”


Where there is no room for argument there is no argument. Eventually the person asking realizes you aren't going to budge. It only takes a few times of using this technique with a person for them to stop asking you for things and move on to someone else.

Offer what you are willing to do. Sometimes we are uncomfortable giving someone something they are asking for because of past experiences or because we don't feel like we have a relationship that warrants us giving in to their request. But we sometimes also want to help in some way. In those instances, we can politely yet firmly say no to the request but offer what we are willing to do. For example, we might not be willing to let someone borrow our car to go to the store, but we can offer to let him or her tag along when we are going to the store. Or we might not feel comfortable loaning someone money, but we can offer an alternative that helps them free up their own money like inviting them over for dinner one night.

The key to this technique is only to offer what you are willing and able to do without feeling pressured into doing so.

Practice. If there are certain situations in which you seem to have difficulty saying no, then practice saying no in other situations which aren't as difficult. All changes come with feelings of discomfort as we step out of our set routines and responses. But at one time, our current responses were uncomfortable as well. The more we are able to push past our discomfort at saying no, the easier it becomes.

Looking for more information on techniques to say no? We recommend The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say No and Mean It and Quit People-Pleasing Forever by Susan Newman