How to Say “No” When It Matters

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Yesterday, a cousin of mine requested me to be the emcee of the renewal of their vows this coming December. I used to say yes to these type of requests due to the sense of obligation.

This morning, I did something different. I said no. I knew I had to, but being the polite introvert that I am, it was difficult to muster the words to say. So I stuck with a method that I knew would work for me: I searched Google for ways to how to say no. And here’s what I’ve found from Quora that worked for me:

How to Say No to a Hard Request by Linda Gray:

“People think refusing will make the other people feel hurt or angry and it will be the end of their friendship or job. But it doesn’t - it does the opposite,” she says. So drop the apologies and follow this script instead.

  • Positive Note: “You’re a really good friend/I really value working here.” Start on a positive note that shows you appreciate the relationship.
  • Say no: “But I have given it some thought and decided that I can’t help.” No need to spell out why you won’t lend money or work weekends. Avoid saying anything that invites a reply, like “I’ve got a lot on at the moment”
  • Emphatize: “I know you’ll be disappointed.” Empathy shows that you’re aware of the other person’s feelings and is vital.
  • Benefits: “I hope you understand as our friendship is important to me/I’ll be able to focus on my job, which will be better for us all.” Close with an upbeat ending that stresses the benefits to both of you.

Part of what helped me convince myself to say is no is that given some thought, you know that saying no when you really need to is ultimately good for both the requester and you. Saying “no” in difficult situations helps you to focus on things that you can do. In fact, you can be in a worse position by saying “yes” and then failing to meet everyone’s expectations.

After a few hours of worrying about my cousin’s reply, here’s what she had to say: “No worries Ren1, I understand. 😊”

  1. Ren is one of my many nicknames.