Picture this: You have a sense of what does and doesn’t work for you. As a result, there are certain things you don’t do. For example, you know that it’s too costly, whether energetically, financially or timewise, to do a particular work thing, so you don’t. Or, you know that you’re not into sexting or threeways, or as one reader was asked, having your head “bashed against a headboard” by someone you’d only met twice for socially distanced walks. Whatever it is, you know that you need, want to and will say no if and when it comes up.
And then someone does ask you if you’ll do the thing that you know you don’t want to do. You say no. They ask again, maybe try to twist your arm with flattery or, yes, their seeming annoyance or sense of entitlement. You say no, again, possibly re-emphasising your original reason or adding a few more. Basically, you let them know that it’s a firm/definite no. Next thing, they take offence at your final no.
You don’t need to be so rude about it.
Saying that it’s a firm/definite no is a bit rude/off/harsh/mean/abrupt, don’t you think?
What are you saying it like that for? You should be flattered that I want to purchase [something from you that you already decided that you don’t sell].
Why are you being like that? The way you said no, you’d think I was a bad person or something. All I want is _________.
Well, that just killed the mood, didn’t it?
Something that all humans could benefit from recognising is that we’ve all given some level of thought to what does and doesn’t work for us.
This idea that we’re revolutionising the wheel by asking someone for something they don’t offer/do in the first place, or that’s inappropriate whether by nature or the context of our limited relationship with them, is our ego at work.
Asking someone to do something as if we and our ask are ‘special’ and then pushing against their ‘no’ crosses boundaries. It relies on a few [dangerous] assumptions:
1) This person never considered what we’re asking for as an option. And even if they have, we know better and think it’s something that should do. For us.
2) We should be made the exception to the rule. After all, what harm can it do when it will lead to us getting what we want?
3) Asking ‘nicely’ or throwing flattery, money or implied possibilities should change a no to a yes.
The person claiming that your no is ‘rude’ or whatever after they ignored your first and possibly subsequent no’s is the one who’s over the line.
As I explain in my guide How To Say No: The Scripts, “A ‘hard no’ is a straight-up no, and a ‘soft no’ is anything that might be perceived as an indirect one or you, on some level, using language to try to ‘let them down gently’.
Both are valid, but you have to be mindful of having too much ‘soft no’ in your life. A ‘hard no’ isn’t harsh–it gets to the point. And in situations where you have already said no and they’re still asking, a hard no is your only option. Fact is, the person who gets offended by your hard no neglects to acknowledge that you only had to use it because they wouldn’t listen to and respect your no in the first place.