Saying “Yes” to the person while saying “No” to the request

When we have to turn down a request, this is the guideline and mindset I offer.

There are many reasons why we have to say “No” but there are usually just a few reasons why we feel uncomfortable saying “No”. An often cited reason by my clients (across countries and cultures) is that we are afraid to anger or disappoint the person who has made the request. 

This fear leads some of us to delay by not replying, not delivering the message fully, sugarcoating and even creating false expectations; which ends up with more confusion, misunderstandings, and as expected, harms the relationship further.

In saying “Yes” to the person while saying “No” to the request, my clients are asked to practice engaging with the person and really being present to what s/he is going through. Active listening, being curious, showing effort and looking at alternate solutions (if any) and just the willingness to know more results in the person feeling seen and heard. 

When turning down the request, keep it concise and clear that it’s a “No”. If you can share what effort you have put in and the reasons for the refusal, do so succinctly. Refrain from making up excuses or white lies as these often catch up with you. Your tone and choice of words should reflect that it’s the request and not the person that you can’t agree with. Look towards what you can both agree on and continue the conversation positively.

A note added by my 12 year old daughter – if someone is asking you do to do something and you don’t want to do it, avoid putting it off. A delayed response will often create future problems for you as later on you might have to do it, or, if you don’t, the person might ask why you said that you would do it. Be straightforward and kind, and don’t make it look like you are in two minds or they might keep pushing. I have learnt this from school.

Empowering Youth: A Workshop on Emotional Intelligence