Saying No

By Susan Deitz

November 16, 2016 3 min read

It's one of the hardest things to do. For me, it still requires double doses of intestinal fortitude. And most of my friends say it's the same for them. The women, that is; men don't seem to have as much trouble with the word "no." It just could be they've got an extra "no" gene. Whatever the gene pool, most of us could use some tips on the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Take phone calls, for instance. How many times have you been involuntarily glued to your phone — pressed by a zillion other things you should be doing — all because you couldn't conclude a conversation? How many times have you let a friendship — or a romance — linger far too long because you just couldn't muster the nerve to call it quits?

Consider this: It's so much easier to effect an ending if you've brought about the beginning, because the power already resides with you. That goes for social interactions, as well as phone calls.

Be kind, but be frank. Don't apologize or lie or give extraneous excuses. If you have to go, you have to go. Be steadfast.

Don't worry about making the other person feel rejected. If the conclusion is handled with sincerity, you won't hurt the person's feelings. You may even move up a notch or two in his or her respect for you (and, not incidentally, in your respect for yourself).

Regard saying goodbye as another form of initiation — because once again, you're in charge of what happens to you. Taking the reins of your life is so much better than letting someone else call the shots that it just might become a habit. Hope so.

Practice complaining. It's in the same ballpark as refusing. It's not easy for most of us, though men seem less distressed by it for some reason. Tell the counterman at your local coffee shop that your coffee needs refreshing because it's gotten cold. Say you'd like another half-cup on the house. The more you do things like this the easier it gets. Speak up in your most dulcet tones. Don't hold it in. You're going to feel pretty good about yourself. And it'll be a more comfortable world to live in. Don't suffer in silence! Get used to having things your way — within reason, of course. Mention your new project to friends. I bet they'll like it and follow your lead. Agreed? Write and tell me how it's going.

Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected]

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