As difficult as it can be to make requests of others, as I discussed in “New Year’s (Dispute) Resolution #3: Don’t be afraid to ask“, saying no to requests that others make of us can be just as hard.
Guilt can push us to say yes when all our instincts say no. Or we worry that “no” will harm a good relationship. Or we are convinced that saying no to them today will make them less willing to say yes to us tomorrow.
There’s an art in saying no well. And compelling reasons why no may be the best answer. According to negotiation expert William Ury‘s 2007 bestseller, The Power of a Positive No: How to Say NO and Still Get to Yes,
In saying No positively, we are giving ourselves a gift. We are creating time and space for what we want. We are protecting what we value. We are changing the situation for the better — and all the while keeping our friends, colleagues, and customers. In short, we are being true to ourselves…
No is no longer a negation but an affirmation of the honesty that good relationships depend upon:
Your No can be a gift to the other as well. “Tell me Yes, tell me No, but tell me now” is a refrain I have often heard from those on the receiving end. The other often much prefers a clear answer, even if it is No, than continued indecision and waffling. A No allows them to go ahead and make their own decisions.
Indeed, a Positive No can bring us closer to the other, into a more authentic relationship. If we do not speak our truth — our No — we may in fact distance ourselves from the other, as there will always be something important that lies unspoken between us.
We need to gain greater comfort in saying yes to No.