How to Say No the Right Way

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“No, we’re full.”

how to say no

I hear those words often. Every afternoon, Heath and I begin researching campgrounds for a place to stay that night. Since we rarely know our schedule, we don’t often have the chance to make reservations ahead of time.

This means a lot of no’s.

Every once in a while, we get an “I’m sorry, but we are full.” Sometimes we just get a curt no and the sound of a corded phone slamming into the cradle (RV Parks aren’t always with the times).

I imagine being full is a great thing for an RV park. Every spot is taken. They are making the most money possible that night. They could be a little happier about it, but they aren’t trying to hurt me with their no’s. They are simply stating a fact.

But it never fails that hearing these repeated no’s will wear me down. As I continue to make calls, I begin to feel rejected and discouraged.

The same thing happens when we start calling businesses to find Heath a job. In Iowa, it took three days of calls before we finally heard a yes. But first we heard no after no after no after no thanks, but good luck.

Nobody likes being told no, just like people don’t like saying no. We like to please others. We like to hear yes. Yes makes people happy!

But I hear a lot of no’s.

There are abundant headlines telling people to say no or offering advice on how to say no. Say no to drugs (unless you live in Colorado, I suppose). Say no to overcommitting. Say no toxic relationships. Just say no.

I think this is horrible advice.

My old boss used to say the same thing to me every Thursday. Somehow he could weave it into any topic of conversation. “When you say no, always offer an alternative solution.” It was his token advice to solve every problem.

No, those dates won’t work? Here are some that will. No, that venue is too small? This one might be a better fit.

His advice sounded a little too simple for me, but he had one simple point:

“No” ruins relationships.

Say you want me to set up a blog for you. I could say “No way, I don’t have time for that” or “No, I don’t really do that sort of thing” and move on. You would think I’m pretty selfish and rude. You probably wouldn’t read my blog or talk to me ever again.

Or I could say “No, I can’t set up a blog for you, but I can show you this video that will teach you how.”

Sending an alternative option may take a little extra time and brainpower, but the flipside is losing or ruining a relationship or respect.

Maybe there is a situation where you need to say no. “No, I can’t join the PTA because I don’t have time.” But people can often take no’s a little personally (like me!). It’s in everyone’s best interest to say “No, I can’t join the PTA, but I know this woman who’s been dying to get more involved.”

Offering an alterative solution will take the pressure off of you to always say yes, and keep your relationships healthy.