One Christmas, many years back, a dear friend gave me a wonderful book: The Right Thing To Say by Judith Martin. If you want a compelling, entertaining and utterly useful book, I highly recommend this one. For those of you who belong to a book club, I image it would be the most-discussed book yet! And all you tough guys — you’d like it, too. You won’t admit it. But you will like it. Bring it home in a plain, brown wrapper. Read it in secret, with a flashlight under the covers, like when you were a kid. Do what you must, but read it. The chicks will dig you for it.
Well, in that book was a gem of advice that I have both practiced and passed along countless times since:
THE BEST ADVICE SO FAR: “No” is a complete answer.
Somehow, after reading this, it seemed both simple and logical that one could actually just say no without any further explanation necessary. Of course, there was a certain finesse that could be added to the starkness of no:
“I’m sorry, I won’t be able to help.”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“I’m going to have to pass this time.”
Add a pleasant smile, and that’s it. Done. End of story.
Interestingly enough, this advice appeared not in a book about being assertive, but in a book about etiquette, implying that not only is this response complete in itself, it is also sufficiently polite.
Notice the absence even of “I’m busy” or “My schedule is crazy right now.” The truth is, regardless of what we might imagine, people generally accept a simple no as enough information.
What’s more, even in the case of that really pushy person, the to-the-point approach of just saying no leaves precious little room for emotional manipulation or finding loopholes in the story. It puts the onus on the other person to have to say, “Well, why the heck not?” And most people realize that this, ironically, is not good etiquette.
Once you learn to say “no” with confidence and courtesy, you’ll have a lot more time to say “yes” to the good things in life.