Saying 'no' can be one of the most challenging things to master. But it is also one of the most empowering things we can learn to do.

In the next few weeks (maybe months), until the spread of the coronavirus is controlled or eradicated, you will have to decline invitations, hugs and any form of physical contact, even from loved ones.

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Many of us are bought up with the ingrained belief that saying no means letting people down. If you are a people pleaser and you strive to have everyone see you in the best light at all times, the ability to say ‘no’ is even more challenging.

It’s hard to feel like you are disappointing people, but it’s even harder to live your life with the feeling that you are constantly juggling too many balls and most importantly right now, puttting your health at risk.

While saying no can feel awkward in the moment, it enables us to establish boundaries with people, ultimately earning people’s respect and giving them clarity about what to expect from us. Most importantly, it empowers us to be more authentic and to choose the way we spend our precious time. Saying no to one thing also means opening the door to something else.

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It all comes down to how we say no. There are practical and respectful ways to decline an invitation respectfully, turn down a request, or set a boundary.

Here are seven tips on how to say no with dignity and integrity:

1 - Be assertive and direct:

Be firm in your ‘no’. If you use the correct tone- one which is confident and firm, the recipient will pick up on it and will respect you for it. If it is a face to face confrontation, use strong body language and don’t be apologetic in any way. Remind yourself that you have nothing to apologise for: putting yourself first is a strength, not a flaw. The moment you show weakness, guilt, or remorse, it will create an opening for people to challenge you and question why you have said no.

2 - Don’t make up excuses:

You do not need to give long-winded explanations to justify why you are saying no. Keep your response simple and to the point. Briefly explain why you are saying no if you feel compelled to do so. It is also completely acceptable to simply say no in some situations.  

It is not necessary to fabricate stories around the truth- people respect honesty, even if it feels a bit awkward at the time.

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3 - Give yourself time to think about it:

We often feel under pressure to give people an immediate answer. In a culture of instant messaging and instant gratification, quick responses have become an expected norm. Give yourself the breathing space to mull over the situation and to listen to yourself. Instead of saying yes immediately, tell people that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can.

4 - Be polite and courteous:

If you are polite to people, it is far less likely that they will take offense to you saying no. Always be respectful by saying things like, “Thank you so much for the invitation. I’ll take you up on it another time when my schedule is less hectic”, or “I would have liked to help you, but my time doesn’t allow it right now.”

5 - Offer an alternative or a compromise if it suits you:

Perhaps you would like to say yes at some point, but the timing is off. Or maybe you are willing to compromise by offering a small piece of your time, versus a chunk of your time. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and sometimes the middle ground works well. However, only offer a compromise or alternative if you can provide something. You are not obliged.

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6 - Don’t give in when someone is insistent:

Some people don’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer. When a person keeps pushing their agenda, stand your ground, and stay true to your needs by remaining firm in your no. If the person remains insistent, realise that you are being bullied and disrespected. Walk away or start ignoring their messages/emails.

7 - Choose an appropriate medium for your response:

There is no right or wrong way to say no. Whether you choose to email, text, WhatsApp, call someone or confront the individual face to face, select the medium that feels most comfortable for you and the most appropriate for the situation. It all depends on the context and your relationship with the person.   

Have you had to decline an invitation since the coronavirus outbreak? Tell us about it here.

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