Assertive Behavior – How to Say No
Assertive Training Course
ASSERTIVE BEHAVIOR Part Two – How to Say No
Do you feel guilty when you say No?
Do you say Yes when you really mean No?
Then this information will help you become more assertive. But first, please read the introduction to the Assertive Training Course: The Abilene Paradox and Assertive Behavior Part One which explains the basics of assertiveness and assertive behavior.
This hub, Part Two,
discusses the most effective language to use in order to be seen and heard as
assertive in your behavior and your communication. And how to say No without
feeling guilt. To understand the basics of assertiveness, you
need to know you have certain rights. Not just the inalienable Bill of Rights
granted by the amendments to the United States Constitution, but the rights to
ASSERTIVE BILL OF RIGHTS
1. You have the right to make mistakes and take responsibility for them. Blaming your mistakes on others is a form of aggression.
2. You have the right to change your mind. Otherwise, you would be stuck with your mistakes forever.
3. You have the right to be illogical in making decisions. Whether they are aware of it or not, this is a right many people exercise regularly.
4. You have the right to judge your own behavior, your own thoughts and your own emotions. No one else, regardless of who they are or how close they may be to you, can know what it is like to live in your life-space. This means, however, that you have an obligation to take responsibility for your actions.
Note: in certain situations we extend to others some limited rights to judge our behavior. When we are at work, we agree that our employer has the right to judge our job-performance behavior. When we marry, we extend to our spouse the right to judge some aspects of our behavior – sexual exclusivity, for example. Law enforcement people have the right to judge our behavior if it is unlawful.
- Assertive Training Course
Assertive Behavior - Part One
- Abilene Paradox - Why Do We Say Yes When We Mean No
5. You have the right to offer no explanations, reasons, or justifications for how you behave. It wasn’t that way when you were a child; it was essential then to explain yourself. If you gave up this right, it is time to reclaim it.
6. You have the right to decide whether or not you will take responsibility for developing solutions to other people’s problems. This means you have a right to say, “no.” It is true that others may want your help and may even resent it if you decide not to provide assistance. Nonetheless, management of your time, resources, talents and energy is up to you.
“There is just one life for each of us: our own.” – Euripides
7. You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
8. You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
9. You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”
What are the definitions for ignorance, comprehension and apathy? I don’t know, I don’t understand and I don’t care.
10. You have the right to be independent of the good will of others before coping with them. If you feel you must have their good will, they are in a position to coerce you into making decisions that are not in your best interests.
11 – You have the right to just say No.
When you are learning to be more assertive, saying no can be difficult at first. But as you continue to say no, and see the positive results as other people start to respect your opinion, it then becomes much easier.
Others will begin to see you as assertive even before you realize you ARE assertive. Promise.
First, be sure you know where you stand – whether you want to say yes or no. If you are not certain, say: “I need time to think it over and I will let you (the other person) know when I have an answer.”
"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause" - Mark Twain
Once you decide you want to say no, here are some general rules to follow and assertive language to use depending on the person and the situation:
• Say no firmly, calmly and decisively without saying, “I’m sorry.” That statement weakens your stand. Passive people often use that word. Do not let your emotions dictate the conversation. Avoid feeling guilty. You have the right to say no. Use the word, no. It has more power than, “I just don’t think so.” or “I don’t believe I can,” or I don’t see how I could . . . “
• Say no and use the words, “I’ve decided not to” or “I will not be able to,” instead of “I can’t.” This emphasizes that you have made a choice. You may have to decline several times before the other person “hears” you.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein
• Say no followed by a straightforward explanation of what you are feeling, or what you are willing to do. Examples: “I’m uncomfortable doing that.” or “I’m not willing to do that.” or “I don’t want to do that.” or “I don’t like doing that.” Ask for clarification if you do not fully understand the request.
• Say no and then give a choice or alternative. “That’s not possible but what if …? or “That cannot be done before the end of the day (week); however, I could have it ready by …”
• Make an empathetic listening statement and then say no. You may paraphrase the content and then state your no. Example: “I can see that it is important to you, but no ….” or “Yes, I understand your position, but I cannot … ‘ or “I know this may be a disappointment to you, but I will not be able to …”
• Say yes and then give your reasons for not doing it, or offer an alternative solution. Use this approach when you are willing to meet the request but not at the time or in the way the other person requests. “Yes, I would go along with your second request, but not with your first.” or “Yes, I am willing to do this for you, but I cannot start on it until …” or “Yes, I could have a part of this report ready, but not all four segments. Which one would you like to have first?” or “Yes, I could do that but not this weekend.”
Be brief. Give a legitimate reason for your refusal but avoid lengthy explanations and justifications. Make sure your nonverbal gestures mirror your verbal messages. Shake your head negatively when saying, no. Use eye contact. Stand erect. Use a firm voice. Do not shout. Do not whisper.
At times you will need to use the persistent response. This involves persistently repeating your refusal as often as necessary no matter what the other person says. It is useful when dealing with aggressive or manipulative people who refuse to take no for an answer.
What does persistent sound like? Simply state your response one more time than the other person makes his or her request, question or statement. If the other person makes six statements, you make seven. Usually, the other person begins to feel ill at ease and will stop after three or four statements.
Here are a few ways to use your assertive language in various scenarios:
1) You purchased a pair of new shoes last week and after wearing them just one time, the heel came off one of the shoes. You decide to return them and get your money back or a credit if you paid by credit card. You put them in the box or bag, find the receipt for your purchase, and wend your way to the store.
In the shoe department you tell the person you encounter at the counter, “I purchased these shoes last week, wore them once, and the heel came off one of the shoes. I want to return them and get my money back. Here is my receipt.”
Sales Associate (in a perfect world): “No problem. I will take care of that for you immediately. Do you want a merchandise credit or removal of the charge from your credit card?”
Sales Associate (in the real world while examining the defective shoe): “I can’t believe that the heel just came off – did you do anything unusual in these shoes? (She is staring at you with the look of a suspicious prosecutor.)
You: “I wore these shoes only once and the heel came off as you can see. I want my money back.”
Sales Associate: “I cannot give you your money back but I can replace the shoes with another pair just like them.”
You: “I do not want another pair, the same thing might happen again. I wore these shoes only once and the heel came off as you can see. They are defective. I want my money back.”
Sales Associate: “It is not the policy of this shoe manufacturer to return the purchase price. But they will replace the shoes.”
You: This may be a defective style and the heel could come off again. I wore these shoes only once and the heel came off as you can see. I want my money back.”
Sales Associate: “I can only replace them.”
You: “I do not want to replace the shoes. I want my money back. Let me talk to the manager.”
This is the persistent response. You have made the same assertive statement five times. You may have to go through this litany again with the manager, but you have had practice now. In my experience, managers do not want to offend vocal unhappy customers who are persistent. You will succeed.
2) You are dining out with a companion in a restaurant. You order a salad to accompany your meal and ask for honey mustard dressing on it. You taste it when it arrives and decide you would like raspberry vinaigrette dressing instead. Think of what you will say to the server before you read the next line.
You say, “I have changed my mind. Please bring me a salad with vinaigrette dressing instead.” Do not feel guilty. You have the right to change your mind. Say ‘please’ but do not say ‘sorry.’
3) You are meeting two co-workers for the first time outside of work. They show up twenty minutes late.
a - You say: “I really do not appreciate being kept waiting for so long. I think your behavior is very rude.” or
b - You say nothing. You don’t like conflict. or
c - You say: “You are twenty minutes late. Did something happen unexpectedly to make you late?” or
d - You go home after waiting fifteen minutes.
This was a test. The first statement is aggressive; you are putting them down. The second statement is passive. The third statement is assertive. The fourth statement is passive aggressive. You are making an aggressive statement with your absence.
The persistent response is also known as “broken record”. Here are some guidelines for using the broken record most effectively:
• Select a concise, one-sentence statement and repeat it, no matter what the other person says or does. “I understand how you feel, but …” or “I’m not interested.” or “You might be right, but I am uncomfortable doing …” or “Yes, I understand, but …” or “No, that is unacceptable.”
• After each statement by the other person, use your persistent response statement. Do not get sidetracked by responding to any issue the other person brings up. Use silence to your advantage. Your silence projects the message that the other person’s statements and manipulation are futile.
"Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing." - Robert Benchley
• Say your statement calmly and as unemotionally as possible. Your nonverbal gestures should mirror your verbal messages. Shake your head when saying no. The focus is how you say no rather than the fact that you have said it. Your attitude and nonverbal behavior play a major part in your ability to say no successfully to produce a positive outcome.
Assertive body language
When you are assertive you believe that you are equal to others and just as important.You make assertive “I” statements with a firm voice … “I want … I feel … I believe … I think . . . Your eye contact is direct but you look away occasionally. You have a relaxed erect posture and movements. You have good self-esteem.
When you are aggressive you believe you are superior to others and their feelings are not important. You make aggressive “you” statements with a loud voice … “You are a …. You should ….” You stare, often with clenched fists, rigid posture, and pointing fingers. You have low self-esteem.
you are passive you believe you are
inferior to others and your feelings are not important. You
are apologetic with an overly soft or tentative voice and you often look down
or away. Your
posture may be stooped with excessive nodding of your head. You
feel inferior. And it shows.
"I speak two languages, Body and English." - Mae West
Tourist to bystander in New York City: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
Bystander: “Practice, practice, practice!”
How do you become more assertive? Practice!
• Enlist the aid of your friends and family and ask for feedback.
• Tackle less anxiety-evoking situations first. Build up your assertiveness muscle.
• Don’t get discouraged if you behave non-assertively. Figure out where you went astray and how to improve your handling of the situation next time.
• Reward yourself each time you have pushed yourself to be assertive regardless of whether or not you get the desired results.
• Above all, avoid feeling guilty. You have the right to say no.
Now that you have finished Part Two of the Assertive Training Course, sit back and enjoy this excerpt from the film, “Anger Management,” with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler
© Copyright BJ Rakow Ph.D. 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So."
Readers of my book say it enabled them to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview professionally, and negotiate assertively. Includes a chapter for older workers.
Jack is the therapist; Adam has anger management issues.
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