How can we say “no” with respect and dignity?
There will be occasions during the course of our business, whether we are dealing with staff, customers or third-parties, when we find that the most appropriate answer to a request, is to simply say “no”. However, in today’s society where the majority of people expect and often demand a “yes” response, in can be a challenging prospect to stand up and to say “no”; especially as we may not wish to cause offence by our response. So how should we approach such a situation so that our “no” is communicated with class and respect?
1. Be Courageous
Some people feel afraid to say “no.” They may either expect a hostile reaction or they want to be helpful. As a result, they end up inconveniencing both themselves and other people.
Recognize that it is fine to say “no.” Most people would rather receive a solid “NO” than an insincere “yes.”
2. Decline Early
You will save time, energy, and stress by declining offers as soon as you realize that you do not want them. Unanswered questions follow us like hungry animals, crying for our attention. And our stress increases as their numbers grow. Rescue yourself from this dilemma by making choices. Of course, agree if that is what you want. Otherwise, decline. This frees you to move on with other choices and it frees your mind to consider other possibilities.
3. Take an Active Role
Some people attempt to say “no” by ignoring the other person. While this may be an acceptable way to deal with junk mail and cold calls, it is a terrible strategy when you know the other person. This includes situations where you have asked someone to do something, such as send information, prepare a proposal, or call you.
This particular strategy is important because failure to follow it can often result in a breakdown in your relationship with the person you are declining. This may have a knock-on effect if that person is in a position to influence others:
a) The other person has no way of knowing what you are doing. At first, they may assume that you are unable to reply because you are travelling, are on holiday, recovering from illness, or using a defective message system. Eventually, they will conclude that you are being rude.
b) Ignoring someone is both mean and unprofessional. It hurts the other person and that creates feelings of resentment toward you and your company. Remember that the people you ignore could also be your customers or able to influence customers.
c) This wastes your time and energy. You (or your staff) have to delete messages, throw out mail, and shove aside the other person’s attempts to reach you.
Take charge of the situation and tell the person “no.” For example, you can say, “I’m calling to tell you that I have no interest in your offer. Please remove my name from your list. Thank you.”
If you want to avoid talking to the person, call when you expect the person will be away from the phone (e.g., during lunch, late evening, early morning, or on a weekend) and leave a message. Use the reply above.
Otherwise, you can send e-mail, a fax, or a note by regular mail.
In all cases, keep the message brief, avoiding explanations or apologies. Just say “no” and move on.
The key point is that once you start a dialogue, you are obligated to end it, rather than let it starve by neglect.
4. Use the Magic Phrase
Sometimes the other person wants to argue with you. Perhaps the caller is uncommonly persistent in demanding an explanation. Or maybe you want a gentle way to decline a request from a good friend. In these cases, use the magic phrase that ends the discussion. It is: “I wish I could.”
The complete reply includes 1) an acknowledgment of the offer, 2) the magic phrase, and 3) a request or an alternative possibility.
Here’s an example of how this might work in a sales situation. “I understand that you want me to buy your new gizmo. I wish I could. Please take my name off of your list.”
And if the caller asks for an explanation, say, “As I said, I wish I could buy this. I have no need for (or no interest in) a gizmo. Please take my name off of your list.”
And if the caller persists, say, “I said I have no need for this. You will make better use of your time if you call someone else.”
You can also use this in personal situations. For example, you could say, “I understand you want me to take care of your six children and five dogs next week while you go on holiday. I wish I could. Perhaps you can take the children with you and put the dogs in a kennel.”
And if they reply with, “We can’t take the children with us. That’s why we’re asking you to take them.” You can say, “I wish I could. Maybe someone else can help.”
And if they persist, say, “I understand what you want. And I wish I could help. Excuse me, I have to go now.”
5. An Added Thought
Some people will push very hard to get what they want. They will use insults, guilt, and threats. Wave all of these gimmicks away with replies like these:
“I am still unable to accept your offer.”
“Let’s leave this on a positive note. I wish I could help. Thank you for asking.”
“That sounds like an insult. I said that I have no need for this. Goodbye.”
“I find that offensive.”
“I disagree with that.”
You may notice that all of these are polite replies to being attacked. It is always preferable to respond, even to rudeness, by being polite because you always want to be the most mature person in any such conversations. That way, you won’t have to call back with an apology.
Notice that rejection involves treating the other person with respect and dignity. Tell people “no” early and politely. And then move on.