It can be hard to say “no” and to do your own thing. We expect disapproval or rejection by our friends. So how do you say “no” in a respectful way when you can’t, or you don’t want to, say “yes” to them?
1. Listen with respect to what the person has to say. Don’t interrupt when they’re talking, act flustered or annoyed. It’s fine for them to ask – at this stage, it’s just a question.
2. Simply say “no” in a calm and an even voice. Don’t sound like you’re upset, or start to whine or raise your voice. Just say “no” in a calm and a confident way. Also, you’ll respect yourself more if you speak up for yourself.
3. Transfer the reason and the blame to something else. For example, say something like “I’m really sorry but my calendar is full”. This focuses annoyance on your calendar – not you. (But don’t be tempted to lie or to come up with excuses as you may be found out later – and you’ll really feel bad then!)
4. Don’t react or be confrontational. They can ask what they want, and have the right to make requests – and you have the right to accept or decline. Say: “I’d love to say yes, but ..(and then turn them down)” as this helps build a bridge, and conveys empathy.
5. Don’t feel you have to give an explanation when you answer. You don’t have to give a reason or explain yourself to others. Say: “I’m sorry, I can’t make it” – then politely change the subject.
6. If you want to give a reason then keep it short and simple. Don’t justify yourself or start to argue your case. True friends accept your answer and respect your boundaries.
7. Stand firm in your decision. If the person starts to pressure you, just tell them you’ve decided, and nothing they can say is going to make you change your mind.