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Say No More Effectively by Skipping the Explanation

A man telling his friend no during a discussion at a coffee shop
Monkey Business Images

It’s such a common thing the majority of you reading this probably understood what “the Explanation” referenced in the headline is without us, well, even explaining. If you want to say no more effectively, though, you have to knock it off.

You’ve likely used (and heard) the No+Explanation format thousands of times in your life. It’s a typical exchange like this:

Friend: Can you help me sort and catalog my Beanie Baby collection to prepare it for professional grading?

You: Sorry I can’t, my car will be in the shop all weekend or else I’d be there in a heartbeat. 

Many of us use the format all the time: “No, I can’t, I’m (insert some excuse)”or “I’d love to but I (insert some explanation).”

By all means, if you’re sincere at that moment, and you genuinely wish you could say yes, but an outside force is conspiring against you (like your car really is in the shop and you really would like to be there) then feel free to say so.

On the other hand, most of the time when we say no we don’t actually want to do the thing and the explanation part is just a result of guilt over saying no and a bid to soften the negative response. The reality, though, is that it only opens you up to hassles because the message isn’t “No.” It’s now become “I would, but (insert reason why I can’t).”

If the excuse you give is something the person can fix (like you can drive their car while yours is in the shop), then you’ve just left yourself open to your no response getting poked and prodded at. Rather than awkwardly having to say no again and try to set a new boundary, you could have saved yourself the hassle by just sticking with a firm no from the start. Now it becomes a more airtight and firm answer like:

Friend: Can you help me sort and catalog my Beanie Baby collection to prepare it for professional grading?

You: No, but good luck with the process—I hope you get top dollar for Valentino. 

In the second round of Beanie Baby negotiation, there is no negotiation. You said no, and it isn’t situational; it’s a firm no because you don’t want to do it. It’s direct, it’s useful, and it’s final.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »

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