Saying No Gracefully

Saying No Gracefully by Isadora Alman


Some time ago I mentioned to a man I knew socially that I would enjoy getting to know him better on a one to one basis. He led me over to a quiet corner of the room, took my hand in his, and looked into my eyes. “You are one of the most …..(all sorts of lovely adjectives here) …women I have ever met. Unfortunately for me, I seem to have this thing for skinny neurotic blondes (I am a round redhead of fine mental health). I wish it were different.” I felt so special, so appreciated, that it was minutes before I realized that I had been turned down, and by a master.

Whether we are talking about a request for a date or for sex, how can one (of whatever gender) say no without hurting the other person’s feelings. The fact is you usually can’t, but you can minimize the damage. There is no way to say “no, I will not give you what you want from me” without at the very least inflicting disappointment. Even if it’s only the grocery store being out of your favorite breakfast cereal, no one likes to be told that what they want is not available.

If what you mean to say is “Perhaps, if the situation were different I might…” the words you’re likely to choose will be different than if you’re thinking “Do what? With you? Are you insane?” If someone pays you the compliment of wanting you, your company and/or your body, it’s only fair that you return a kindness – not by giving what is asked for if you’re not interested, but by making the asker glad s/he took the risk of asking.

Below are a few Guidelines:

* Self talk first. Ask yourself if there are any conditions which, if met, might change your mind and do you want to put them out there? (“If I weren’t already married…” or “if YOU weren’t already married..”)

* Position yourself within eye level and within touching distance. The blow of bad news can be softened somewhat by a touch on the arm or hand.

* Use “I” speak: “I feel” rather than “You make me feel”. Saying something positive or what you do like about this person is helpful: “I’ve enjoyed speaking with you, however….”

* Say no clearly and unequivocally- no whining, no giggling. (If what you really mean is maybe, then say something like “Not now. Perhaps some other time.”) If you know that you’d rather kiss a dozen more frogs then get together with the one who’s asking, then stringing along is just not playing fair. “I’m really flattered, but no thank you.”

* Hear the other person out if a convincing argument is presented, even if seems like a sales pitch, and then repeat your refusal. If the other person becomes overly insistent, simply repeat your refusal more firmly. There is no need to explain yourself beyond “No, I’m sorry.”

* Allow the asker his/her dignity. After all, s/he took the risk. Acknowledge that, and the other person by saying something nice they can take away from the encounter along with that awful feeling of rejection.

* Do not say “Let’s be friends” or “I’ll call you” and not follow through. If you really want to salvage or create a friendship here than it’s up to you to make the next offer. If your private wish is that this person would disappear from your world forever, don’t imply any future possibilities.

* If the person actually grabs hold of your body without your consent, all politeness bets are off. “Stop! You are assaulting me!” along with vigorous attempts to leave we hope will cover most such situations.

* If you find it just too difficult to say this simply monosyllable convincingly
practice in the mirror until your no is believable.

Copyright to Isadora Alman