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  • Writer's pictureKel Galavan

Finding Your Voice: The Artful Way to Say No

We all know that we should say no to the things that don't serve us and yes to the things that do. But the yes/no conundrum can sometimes be tough to break free of.

Sometimes we feel like the only possible answer is to say yes when the pressure is on to attend, give or spend time that you may not want or be free to give without causing something else to suffer.

Finding  your voice the artful way to say No
Credit: Canva

However, we feel that if we don't give in, we'll damage the relationship and hurt another's feelings.

But it does not have to be that way.

Here's the great part, saying no can often have the exact opposite effect.

Saying no could be the one thing that strengthens a relationship.

Better still, there are many ways to say no without having to use the word.

If you are curious to learn how that is possible, then you are in the right place.

If you want to read more about why it is hard to say no, then check out this post: 'No More Guilt: Mastering The Yes-No Balance for a Happier You.'

Importance of saying No

Saying no allows you to take ownership back of your time. It puts you in a position of confidence, sets down boundaries and gives you the headspace to do what you want.

We all know we should prioritise our time and focus on what truly matters, but when it comes to uttering that little word. The one word that will give us just that we freeze like deer in headlights.

And hey, we don't want to be seen as heartless monsters or uncooperative sloths, do we? So, here is a process to follow that lets you decline gracefully without torching all our bridges and rarely actually using the word no at all!

The beauty of this is that the times when you do say yes, you mean it. You are present in mind, body and spirit, enjoying the moment, not grumbling, wasting time and energy resenting the experience.

When you practice this method at first, it can seem hard for the first few times. However, I can assure you it does get easier, and you will feel better about it.

The Art of the Graceful No

The big thing to remember here is that no doesn't have to be an outright, foot-down bridge burning no. It can flow on a sliding scale and allow you to say no in most situations without saying no.

Enter Chris Voss, the master of negotiation and author of "Never Split the Difference." According to this former FBI negotiator, there are four stages to indirectly expressing your 'no' without actually saying it.

And the secret weapon? Asking "how" questions like a true curious detective.

Stage 1: "How am I supposed to do that?"

Drop this bombshell question, and pause. It's a subtle way to make them see things from your perspective, questioning whether they genuinely need everything they request.

You're inviting them to step into your shoes and figure out if there's a more realistic solution. It's a first stage that might make them rethink their request and understand your situation.

This is a great empathy exercise that many of us would be well served to think about even outside this scenario.

Stage 2: "Your offer is generous, but it doesn't work for me."

If your counterpart is persistent and pushes for their original request, it's time to whip out some empathy. Use an apologetic tone and gracefully deliver your 'no.'

Acknowledge their generosity, no matter what it is to be invited to or included in things, even if you ultimately be in attendance. Throw in an "I do apologise" to soften the blow and foster shared understanding.

This apology is genuine; most of us feel guilty for not giving in and saying yes. Even more of us feel a deeper guilt for putting ourselves first. This approach plants the seed for alternative solutions to better meet your needs.

Stage 3: "I'm sorry, but I can't do that."

If their newer offer or response is still far from what you need, it's time to kick things up a notch. Express your inability to fulfil their request with a touch of directness. It's like a friendly nudge that forces them to reassess their proposals and make adjustments that align with reality. You're teaching them a valuable lesson in compromise, my friend.

Stage 4: "I'm sorry, no."

If things keep getting pushed and you must draw the line, drop these three words with finesse. Be firm, respectful and calm—no need for unnecessary harshness or negativity. That doesn't help anyone. Your goal is to make your position crystal clear while keeping that positive rapport intact.

After hearing this, don't be surprised if they turn to you for further suggestions. It's your time to shine, guide them, and point them in the right direction. You will feel great knowing that you have done what is right for you, laid down thoughtful boundaries and made any future yeses way more appreciated and deeply meaningful.

Bonus tip when saying no

There's one last item in your arsenal the almighty "No." Sometimes, you just got to say it outright. But here's the trick: inflect it downward and calmly, as if you're a wise oracle delivering a prophecy.

Keeping it low like a statement and not inflected upward like a question or request for approval is vital and will make all the difference.

This will maintain your reputation as someone who can be trusted, even when declining requests. And come up with alternative solutions to the issue, and help them find alternatives. A win-win can always be found if we take the time to work through any situation.

Final thoughts

When it comes to the art of saying no, the name of the game gives your counterpart the illusion of control while you navigate the negotiation with your end goal in mind. The endgame? A mutually satisfying outcome that leaves everyone feeling warm and respected inside. By following this process, you'll foster empathy, encourage better decision-making, and decline requests that don't work for you.

So, there you have it—a solid guide to conquering the dreaded 'no'. Embrace who you are, freeing up your time, setting boundaries and lending your energy to a better life.

If you want to dive deeper into the world of mastering the 'no' once and for all, grab yourself a copy of Chris Voss's Book - Never Split the Difference. It's a great read.

More money, more freedom, more happiness


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