Evolution has hardwired us to react to challenge in three instinctive ways: fight flight or freeze. In other words, we get mad, run away or ignore issues. When you have to say no, if we aren’t ready, this instinct will kick in and we default back to one of these three responses. We know beforehand what we should do, and can think of the perfect response afterwards, but at the time… None of these reactions is ideal except in cases of physical danger. Babies and teddies have another defence mechanism which some use when saying no–try and please the more powerful person.
So what is your default when you have to say no?
Deer run away from saying no. “I’m dashing at the moment. I’ll let you know when I have time.”
Teddies try and please, use emotional blackmail or induce feelings of guilt. “Oh, have a cupcake and a hug instead.” I’d love to do it but I’m already doing something for my dying friend”
Tortoises ignore the question or assume that the message will get through. “Email what email?” “Can’t talk about it now.”
Sharks just come out with a flat out no, maybe even aggressive. “No, of course not. You know I don’t do that.”
Running away just means the situation gets worse or the other person assumes that they can do what they like. Withdrawing has much the same reaction.
What about being loveable? Well, that might work, but only if the other person cares about you. Sometimes it causes people to feel manipulated, and in the long term this might lead to resentment.
Withdrawing has much the same reaction. Being ignored can make people very angry. At least if someone says no to you they are acknowledging you.
Being forceful and aggressive may help you get your way, but only if you are the powerful party. It may also store up problems in the long run.
So how should you say no? I’ve developed an acronym, SIMPLE, to help you say no nicely and stick to it. To find out what SIMPLE stands for just clickety click here.