stockxpertcom_id687483_jpg_92025529b0f99d527d6a16b0016f1225One of the more difficult communication techniques people can struggle with is the ability to say no and mean it, particularly when people won’t take no for an answer.  Whether we are in a leadership role, dealing with colleagues or clients or even in our personal relationships, no can be one of the most powerful words we use.   It helps to strengthen relationships and establish healthy boundaries, as well as teach people how to use assertive communication.

Lets look at 3 simple techniques that make saying ‘No’ a lot easier.

1. Using 3 Part Statements

  1. ‘NO’ Statement up front
  2. Give a Reason
  3. The possible Options or Alternatives

The psychology behind this is quite simple.   Many people procrastinate when they need to deliver bad news and may stall hoping to soften the blow.  This has the reverse effect and can build up anticipation in the other party, as well as stir up unnecessary emotional reactions.  This is born out of most people’s desire not to enter into confrontation and saying ‘NO’ to someone can present that possibility.

So by making your ‘No’ statement up front, it gets straight to the matter and allows you to build on the other 2 parts of the 3 part statement.  I will give you some examples a little further on.

The Reason is important because human beings always want to know why.  Tell a child to stop a certain behaviour and if they are old enough to talk, they will generally respond with “why?”

I believe this comes from a natural and healthy curiosity we humans have to understand the world we live in and how we operate and interact within it.  If you tell a child to stop jumping on the furniture and they respond with “ Why?”, providing them with your reason will always work better than a throw away statement like “Because I told you so.”  or no explanation at all.  When we give people a reason it helps them to understand why they have been told ‘No.’

Using possible alternatives gives people something positive to finish your no statement with.   Even if there isn’t any or they seem impossible right now, it is all about using the psychology that people need hope.

An example of a 3 Part Statement in this response below:

“I am going to have to say ‘No’ on this occasion because we need to see more regular payments before we give you an extension.  If you can make 2 more payments on time, then we will have more flexibility next time you may request an extension”

As you can see it contains a ‘No’ statement, a reason and then hope.   This is just a simple example that you can relate to your own situation, whether that be professional or even in your personal relationships.

Other examples of ‘No’ statements may be:

“I am unable to do that this time“

“I’m going to say no and I will give my reasons why”

“I will have to turn down your request”

2. The Reinforcement Technique

Is the concept of repeating the same information in different ways.  If you like, it is using a form of assertive reinforcement that people cannot get past.  By remaining calm and consistent, the other party will soon come to the realization that you mean no and and that any effort to influence you otherwise would be futile.

I appreciate that this can take a certain internal fortitude under the threat of fire, but given a calm and firm composure it also can be very effective.

Following are some opening phrases that may be useful in reengineering what you have previously said;

“Let me put it to in this light”

“Try looking at it from this perspective”

“Lets look at this from this point of view”

“Can I explain this to you coming at it from a different angle?”

“Let me put a different way, it is like…” ( Sometimes using more visual words or painting a picture helps)

3. Using Diffusing Phrases:

Diffusing phrases can be very useful when dealing with people who are being more difficult or are reacting with strong negative emotions, being aggressive or are attempting to make you feel guilty about your decision.

Here are some examples:

  • You’re right
  • I see your point
  • I can appreciate your frustration
  • I hear you and I agree with you so what is an appropriate solution given we are unable to say yes on this occasion?
  • Help me understand what you mean a little further

Other tips:

  • Try not using terms like “I’m sorry.”  This is a loosely used term and can sound like lip service as opposed to how a genuine apology would sound.
  • Try to avoid words like, but or however, as it disqualifies the preceding statement.

For example I really appreciate your frustration however….   Using however in this context undermines the expression of empathy you are trying to convey. It can also sound dismissive or patronizing.

Bonus Tips:

  • Speak at a Moderate Pace it Conveys Confidence
  • Use a Calm and Positive Tone
  • Be Direct Open and Honest, don’t beat around the bush.

If you haven’t caught up with the other posts in this series click the links below:

Do You Want to be More Assertive (Part 1)

Do You Want to be More Assertive (Part 2) Pushy or Influential?

If you have found this helpful drop me a line or comment on this post.  I love to hear your thoughts and I hope you have gained some value from this assertiveness training.

Wishing you all the best success for the next time you have to say ‘No.’


Warmest regards,

David Patmore

‘Leading the Way in Communication and Performance Coaching.’

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P.S.  If you experienced some great results using these techniques drop me a line I love to hear your feedback and it can encourage and make a difference to others.  Just leave your feedback at the bottom of this post in the comments section.

Influencing Skills