How to Say “No” with Respect

By Katherine Bouglai

When you find yourself in a situation where someone approaches with a request or proposition you are not interested in, it can be tough to say “no” without hard feelings. However, if you learn how to decline unwanted proposition with respect, not only will it make you feel better that you were able to set your boundaries in a healthy way, it will also allow you to take it with much ease when someone has to say “no” to you in the future.

When someone you’re not interested in approaches you and asks you out, how do you respond? Do you feel uncomfortable or perhaps even annoyed that they don’t meet your standards? Do you end up worrying about how they take it and therefore try to use each word you say very carefully? Do you find it so hard to say “no” to them and end up lying? Do you convince and force yourself to say “yes” when you really don’t want to? Or do you just avoid them in hopes that they “get the hint”? Whichever situation you find yourself in, it is not pleasant. It doesn’t feel good to be rejected and it doesn’t feel good to have to reject someone. However, if you learn how to say no effectively, gracefully and with integrity, it may transform your entire life. But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the manipulative approaches people use.

Wrong number?
How easy and sneaky it may seem at first to just pretend that you’re interested, be polite and courteous, then just casually give out the phone number saying “sure, let’s go out for a cup of coffee”. Except that the phone number you just gave out was the number you just made up in your head. The fact that this poor guy will find out when he calls the number you give him might be the last thing on your list of things to worry about. In fact, to avoid feeling guilty you try not to think about this at all, however think about other possibilities. If you see him again, how would it feel to you when you’re confronted with “you gave me the wrong number last time!” Or, how would it feel to you, someone who has a habit of giving out false phone numbers as a strategy to get rid of somebody, when someone else gives a wrong phone number to you?

I’ll just avoid him/her until he/she gets the hint…
This may feel like the easy way out but in the long run, the longer you wait the harder it will get to put yourself out there. Just imagine, with all the people you are not attracted to asking you out that you simply can’t say “no” to, how willing are you to get back into the single scene? You might as well screen every phone call you get. You gave him you’re phone number when you had no interest in him, of course he will call you! And he may just keep on calling you until you tell him not to or until he “gets the hint.” How much energy does it take to communicate through hints? And how many times does it take to say no? The truth is, if you say it effectively, once is enough.

I have a boyfriend/girlfriend…
This may be a solid reason not to give out your phone number to other people or agree to meet them on a date. However, when in reality you are single, this simply becomes a solid lie. Besides, you can’t really use this excuse when you’re at the singles event or on your first date from But let’s say you are at the place where you can get away with being in a relationship excuse and this person has no way of finding out about your lie. Consider the possibility that there might be someone else in the room you are attracted to, or that someone else will show up later. What if the one you’re really interested in is someone who knows the person you just told you were in a relationship? Now you either blew your chances, your fraud was exposed or both.

I am bad/wrong for you…
May sound like a noble approach on your part; however it is unfortunate that sometimes this very approach is what makes you even more desirable because you make the other person’s importance come above yours. Was that your real intention? Or were you REALLY saying “You are wrong/bad for me.” Can’t you accept the fact that since she showed an interest, she might have seen something in you that feels right to her? How does it feel to have to put yourself down each time someone you don’t want to pursue a relationship with tells you that she likes you?

I guess I should give him/her a chance…
Hello Ms martyr. Why do you think you should do something you really don’t feel like doing? All the self talk like “I’m doing this for practice” or “Maybe I’ll like him later” or “I’m too picky and need to give someone a chance” will not do you any good. What exactly are you practicing? Going out with someone you are not attracted to? Why practice something you already know is not a fun experience? If you think you might like him later, why not go out with him later when you have developed an attraction? If you think you’re too picky, well why not be picky? If you know what you want, why settle for something you know you don’t want?

You’re a nice guy but…
You have learned that it’s probably better to say “no” but you still don’t want him or her to be crushed. So you try to sugarcoat it: “look, you’re a nice guy, but…” or “you seem like a sweet girl, but I can’t really give you what you want”. And then they hopelessly hear you complain about how your ex mistreated you. Hence the new belief was born: “Men love bitches” and “women don’t like nice guys”. How did that come about? Does the word “but” has a hidden meaning that actually implies “and”? The truth is that the word “but” is so powerful that it has the ability to make anything you said in a sentence before it, sound very insignificant. In other words, what you just said came across as “it doesn’t really matter how nice of a guy or sweet of a girl you are, I am dumping you or blowing you off anyway.” That is probably not what you meant, but that is most likely what they heard.

So what do you do when you’re being pursued by someone you have no interest in? The answer is simple. Be honest, authentic and true to yourself. That’s the best you can do. That would be loving and respectful to both, yourself and the other person. When it comes to being honest, you do not necessarily have to be brutal; you can be honest with compassion. Focus on how you feel and avoid cliché phrases people heard before. Instead of saying “it’s not you, it’s me” speak from your heart so that it really sounds like it is about you and how you feel. Use an I-statement, “I really appreciate your interest; I’m just not in the same place you are”, or “I don’t really feel the way you do”, etc. If you really feel like you want to give it some time, it is perfectly acceptable to say something like this: “I don’t feel comfortable giving my phone number to you right this minute, but we can talk a little bit more and see how that feels.” You can even give out your phone number if you’re not sure; just remember to tell him or her that you are not interested when you know it for a fact. You really are doing this for yourself and you’re worth it.

Katherine Bouglai
Personal Life Coach

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