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Assertive Behavior – How to Say No

Updated on May 30, 2011

Assertive Training Course


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 be assertive.


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.

Euripides 480 BC - 406 BC  Playwright
Euripides 480 BC - 406 BC Playwright

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.

Mark Twain 1835 - 1910 Author, humorist
Mark Twain 1835 - 1910 Author, humorist
Harvey Fierstein 1954 as Mrs. Santa Claus Actor, playwright
Harvey Fierstein 1954 as Mrs. Santa Claus Actor, playwright
"No way," works, too.
"No way," works, too.


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.

Similar to the shoe with the broken heel
Similar to the shoe with the broken heel

Persistent Response

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.

Robert Benchley 1889-1945 Actor, writer, humorist
Robert Benchley 1889-1945 Actor, writer, humorist

Broken Record

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.

Mae West 1893 - 1980 Actress
Mae West 1893 - 1980 Actress

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.

When 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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    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      How nice to meet you, Ms Dee. Thank you for your gracious comments - all absolutely true of course. And whether you know it or not, we have now become fast friends. You quoted one of my favorite icons of the silver screen - Mae West.

      It was Mae who once responded to a friend who admired her new mink stole with the comment, "You must really be good to get such a present." And Mae said, "Goodness, dearie, had nothing to do with it!" What a woman!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      What a wonderfully thorough treatment of how to learn to be assertive! I love your humorous, positive approach and the many helpful examples. This is great: "I speak two languages, Body and English. - Mae West". Bookmarking!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Thanks! I won't have to worry about the book mob chasing me down!

      I actually had to give you a funny because I laughed when I saw that Mata Hari lived in Sneek. You did kind of sneak that in there:)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Congrats to you, RH, you picked up on that town named Sneek as being especially appropriate for Mata Hari. Who knows, it might have been some of that very early experience as a Sneek-er that guided her later escapades.

      With all the remarkable hubbers around, I'm not at all surprised you don't have time for novels. I promise not to mention that to the Book of the Month folks.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Oh I read the Mata Hari one! I hope I spelled that right! I loved it. I just didn't want to keep you up all night. I did have a comment - don't you think her living in a town called Sneek was kind of funny?

      I get hung up on certain hubbers and I just want to absorb every word they have written. Since I started my own hub I haven't read a novel!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Awesome, cool and kind? Wow! Thank you, my new hubbuddy. You have been a very busy follower these last few days and I do appreciate your visits and exceptional comments.

      For something very different, take a look at my supernatural interviews with dead celebrities. The most recent is "Interview with James Dean." And let me know what you think.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      You are so cool and kind:). I was looking for the personality tests, so much fun. I also must read your hub on Erma Bombeck but I found that one. Then there was also a series I was trying to follow:). I could keep you rather busy! I really love the way you think and the way you convey it on the paper. Awesome.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks for returning, RH. Delighted you loved sublime. So do I. Yes, you are right, saying No does take practice but it is always close to amazing how well it works. And how great it can make you feel.

      Let me know the premise of the hub you were searching for and I'll try to find it for you - no charge. This time.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Wow! You are special. I was really looking forward to your comments on this hub. Sweet! I still haven't found the exact hub of yours I was looking for, but as I read down your list, I can't help stopping on others and reading those first. They are so interesting and helpful.

      Even while I was typing my response - especially this one - I could feel myself making excuses to keep saying YES when I'm supposed to practice the NO:). You are wicked clever.

      I love sublime! Thanks for that one:)!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Ah, RH, you are a writer, too. '... hub titles (that) just beg me to read them.' What an exceptional statement and much appreciated.

      Sometimes it IS difficult to say no but it is always possible. And with practice, the guilt subsides. Trust me. Keep practicing - these strategies do work. And thanks for the sublime comments.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Well I has to stop here - your hub titles just beg me to read them. I have lots of trouble telling the PTA and my kids school no. (I volunteer two days a week) It is getting a little overwhelming sometimes because I notice those of us who are "yes" moms are always getting asked to give even more time. It is such a good cause though, these obstacles will be gone in a couple of years, but I feel so guilty if I say no!

      Thanks for the therapy - I'm already feeling a little less stress about it. I need some practice tho! Up/useful/awesome

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, thebluestar, thanks for dropping by. I congratulate you for being able to hold your ground and say no and mean it when necessary.

      You are also perceptive enough to know what you need to change. Do jog your ideas a bit - it could make a big difference. And don't thank me for sharing - it is entirely my pleasure. :)

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      8 years ago from Northern Ireland

      mmm thought provoking hub. Yes I can say no and mean it, stand by my decision relentlessly, then as if in a puff of wind, I will forgive and forget just to ride the same highway again, knowing that the same thing will happen. I am my own worst enemy. Wish my heart wasn't where my mouth is lol

      Glad I read this hub, I think I need to jog my ideas a little. Thank you for sharing

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, schoolmarm. I think that many of us have someone in our lives from time to time who attempts manipulation and "wearing us down."

      If you try the suggsetions herein and persist, you WILL be successful. Thanks for stopping by. Let me know how it goes or if you have questions. :)

    • schoolmarm profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      This was great. I have someone in my life that is very manipulative and they sometimes just wear me down when I don't care too deeply about a topic. From now on I will try the suggestions here. Thanks

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Welcome, kindacrazy. If you read enough of my Interviews and Crazy Laws and Tributes, you will see why I can really relate to your profile name. It's my pleasure to meet you.

      You are right, people tend to take advantage of us when we let them by not being assertive. It's human nature. Let me know how you do practicing. Use the phrases that are bolded and they WILL work for you.

      And thank you for the up. My favorite place to be.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, Audrey, hope you are having a pleasant day. Thanks for stopping by and your very kind quotes.

      Happy to learn that Twain is one of your favorites, too. He was always able to say so much with so few words - sorta like Will Rogers.

      "Educational and empowering" in the same sentence - you can return any time. Delighted I was able to remind you of the power of assertiveness.

    • Kindacrazy profile image


      8 years ago from Tennessee

      Boy, did I need this advise!!! I am horrible at saying "no" and because of that, people tend to take advantage of me. But, after reading this hub, I intend to put practice my assertiveness!! THANK YOU drbj!! Vote up!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Excellent hub and great advice! Love the Mark Twain quote. I so appreciate learning that when I give in to others, I lose the freedom to myself. Another educational and empowering article from you,drbj. Stay close.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      That's great, Melinda, I congratulate you on being assertive. And also 'loving' this hub.

      Don't thank me though, it's entirely my pleasure.

    • msorensson profile image


      8 years ago

      I love it. My motto is number five.

      Thank you, drbj.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Love your doggie avatar, jayjay. Where have you been? I've been missing you.

      Follow the 'say no' statements and you will be assertive quickly. As for feeling guilty, DON'T! You have rights. Do not give them up.

      Thank you for the 'writing so clearly." 'Tis what I endeavor to do.

    • jayjay40 profile image


      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Great hub, I needed to read this as I have a problem saying no, and if I did say no I feel SO guilty. Thanks for writing so clearly that even I understood it

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Nice to meet you, Ingenira. Delighted you are a fan of Mark Twain, too. He knew how to make a point with the fewest words. Thank you for the thumbs up. Come back and visit any time.

    • Ingenira profile image


      8 years ago

      I like the quote, "The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause" - Mark Twain

      Great hub, thumbs up !!

      Loved the photos and pictures.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, steph. Delighted I found a topic that is close to your heart, too. Assertiveness is a skill we need to use on a daily basis to get the most out of life. I like the way you defined saying no as "sanity saver." I agree.

      I have also read about passive people being described as "compliants" or those who "go along to get along." And "controllers" are everywhere in our lives - aggressive and manipulative. Learning to say no is our best defense.

      I know that holidays with extended family can often be a challenge so it is wise to be prepared with your assertive backbone.

      Thank you, I appreciate your 'great read and full of excellent advice, as always' - you make my evening. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Docmo, how nice to meet you. What a great way to introduce yourself with all those positive, kind and gracious comments. "Truly useful, thought-provoking. brilliant, coherent and comprehensive" is what I aim to be.

      Delighted you will be introducing this information to your students. We don't ordinarily do enough of that. Happy New Year to you, too.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Please don't zap Patrick, Audrey, a little love tap will do. And reinforcement. Whenever he says, 'sorry,' say, "What? What?" He'll soon get the idea.

      I think the Quakers had a saying that goes: "Too soon oldt, too late schmart." But it's never too late to realize that when you acquiesce to others constantly, you are giving up your rights to what you want. And yes, you deserve to have what YOU want.

      But somehow, Audrey, I picture you as assertive - except perhaps when your lovely large dogs are pulling you where they want to go!

      Happy New Year to you all, too.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      You are spot on, AC, pleasant and persistent is the mark of an excellent teacher and an effective communicator as well. And when you can be assertive with youngsters and they listen, then you can be assertive with anyone.

      After all, most adults have listening spans shorter than those of teenagers. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi drbj, a great hub - on a topic close to my heart. Learning to say no, practicing saying no and repeating the word "no" can be sanity savers. I was browsing the books at Barnes and Noble the other day and came across a great one about setting boundaries. It talked about "compliants" - those that lose themselves in doing what ever they need to do to get along, instead of asserting themselves. Then there are controllers - directive and/or manipulative people that do not take no for an answer.

      Suffice it to say, we have both types in my extended family, so holidays can be a challenge. Your hub was a great read and full of excellent advice, as always.

      Happy New Year!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      A truly useful hub - thought provoking brilliance, coherent and comprehensive information. Thank you drbj .. I am going to read part I now. I do some teaching on related subjects and this is a great hub to direct my students to. Happy New Year!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Great points, BJ and going to be sending this my son's way....he's so good about saying "I'm sorry" in front or behind of EVERYTHING! I told him if he moves down here for a bit, he's getting a zap (or a slap) every time he uses those 2 words....that probably isn't very nice though, eh? I was thinking of a shock collar but may just stick with the slap.

      Seriously though, it takes a lot of practice to get to the point where you feel no guilt! I'm still working on it but since I'm old now, I just flat out think I should be honest and get more of what I want in life rather than being guilted into this and that or being afraid to confess my limitations. God knows, I have enough to confess about otherwise! ha ha

      Well done and I'll have to bring my son Patrick back soon for a read while I stand behind him with the shock collar.....ha ha ha ha

      Happy New Year!!

    • ACSutliff profile image


      8 years ago

      That reminds me of being a teacher drbj! Pleasant and persistent, that is how I've been surviving so far this year. Telling no to kids is much different than telling no to other adults, or teachers or friends though. But you have to start somewhere. :) I don't say no often, so when I do my kids listen right away. They are good kids.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      What an intriguing way to maneuver in this sometimes difficult world. Follow BJ Benson's precept: "Say Yes only if it is going to keep you out of trouble or it makes you feel good."

      You are a pragmatic philosopher, BJ, and I love you, too. Happy Healthy New Year.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Welcome, Venugopal Sivagna, I agree with you that no is a negative word. It means a refusal or a denial. But it is positive as an assertion to use the word, no, when you want to refuse or deny a request as long as you state it in an assertive manner meaning you do not humiliate the other person.

      If you put down the other person with your no, then yes, you are being aggressive. And not saying no when you want to say it, that is genuine defeat. You are conceding your rights.

      Saying Yes is positive and many politicians use that word frequently when courting voters. But for me, following through is more important than merely lip service. Would you agree?

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Laura, I'm delighted you love this hub and that you are circulating it among your friends. PR is good. Sorry that you suffer from arthritis but turning it into an asset is like making 'lemonade from lemons'.

      Number 5 is difficult for women and sometimes men as well. We are so conditioned to offering reasons and justifications for everything that it becomes a difficult habit to break. Just remember you are not a child so you do not need to offer explanations to anyone for your behavior, or for saying no.

      You are so right - being a parent helps us be more firm about saying no. Thanks for the 'awesome job' comment. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, AC - nice to see you here. It is not uncommon at all to feel uncomfortable when you first begin to use assertive behavior. But in some situations repeating yourself a number of times may be the only way to be heard.

      Does the guilt go away? Of course. Once you learn that other people will respect your wishes when you are firm and pleasant and assertive, they respect you. If you want to say no, that is your right and you never need to feel guilty about expressing your rights. Just be pleasant but be persistent.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Well, mysterylady, if assertive behavior is found in the genes, you have nothing to worry about. From the description of your little sister's remarks when she was younger, she has all the assertive qualities anyone could want.

      Yes, I do recall that quote but not the quoter. Thanks for visiting and enjoying the cartoons. If you want to view the Sandler video go to this site:

    • BJBenson profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I say Yes only if it is going to keep me out of trouble or it makes me feel good.

      Love you, Happy New Year.

    • VENUGOPAL SIVAGNA profile image


      8 years ago from India.

      A very good topic.

      The word "no" may seem to be assertive and may be aggressive in some cases. But it is a negative word. It signals the beginning of our defeat.

      The word "NO" may be applicable to Mrs.Sarah Palin. But not for Mr.Obama. Success requires the word "Yes.. we can", and it is applicable to Mr.Obama.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      8 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I love this hub! Wow you did such a great job. This is a must read especially for women. I'm sending it to some friends of mine. I guess the blessing of my arthritis issue is that I claim a lot of these rights out of necessity. I have to say no a lot and I don't feel guilty. The one I need to work on is #5 and feeling the need to offer up explanations. I do this out of habit. Also being a parent and disciplining is a great way to learn to be firm about no's. Awesome job on this hub!

    • ACSutliff profile image


      8 years ago


      Excellent tips. I imagine I would become very uncomfortable repeating myself over and over again. Does that mean I'm not assertive enough? It is easy to feel guilty when saying no to someone. Is there anything you can do about the guilt? Or does that just go away as you become more used to the idea that it's okay to say no?

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I still have not figured out what program to download so that I can watch videos on hubpages, but in this case I remember the movie and thus know you gave a perfect ending to your fine hub. A little humor follows:

      Do you remember, "If she says no, she means maybe. If she says yes, she's no lady"?

      My little sister, when she was a kid caught doing something wrong, would respond, "I didn't do it." When she was reminded that she did indeed do it, she would say "It wasn't my fault." When it was proven that it was her fault, she would scream, "I don't care!"

      Great cartoons!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      You are so right, Eileen, it IS hard sometimes to learn to be assertive. And most of us do not want to hurt others' feelings. That is why when you decide to say no you say it in a way that will be less hurtful to others but at the same time satisfy what YOU want or don't want.

      Most people are not as frail emotionally as we think and stating what you want assertively and realistically will make you feel so good. Trust me.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Happy New Year, prasetio - I always look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your most gracious comments - all true of course. No thanks necessary though since it is absolutely my pleasure to share what I have learned.

      Thanks also for the up rating and blessings and hugs backatcha!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Nice to meet you, simeonvisser, thank you for stopping by. You are spot on with your comment since I wholeheartedly agree with you - life is too short not to say yes to what you want and no to what you don't want.

      I realize it is not always that simple for some, but you have to start someplace, right?

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Great hub thats for sure. Yes and it takes a while for some people to learn your way of learning how to say no. It is not always easy for everyone to do this as they do not want to hurt peoples feelings. thanks for sharing this

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Another great hub from you. I really enjoy to know your idea about this topic. Very well written and very inspiring hub. Thanks for share with us. Rating up. Happy New Year!

      Blessing and hugs,

    • simeonvisser profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this hub, it's really important that we learn to say no. If you say yes to the things you want and no to the things you don't want, you'll be on your path to happiness :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, Martie. I salute you for holding your ground and holding your own when you believe you have the best plan. But it diminishes your strength and you will ultimately lose power and respect if you display anger or make apologies.

      How does one suppress anger? I could write an entire hub on effective ways to manage anger (one day I will) but in the meantime, say to yourself when finding yourself becoming angry, "They do not understand. I need to explain my thoughts more clearly." Then request a time out - 5 or 10 minutes will do and decide on the points you want to emphasize.

      Then begin the conversation again by repeating some of their strongest objections and saying, "I understand and ..." Continue with the points you have decided to emphasize.

      The small 'trick" here is not to use the word, but. When you say, "I understand, but ... " the but often acts as a roadblock to consensus. Instead, use the word, 'and.' It will often smooth the way. Let me know how you do.

      Thanks for the 'excellent' comment and loving the video.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Micky - I think I'm getting your message. Could it be a No?

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent course drbj. Absolutely the best. I wonder what your opinion will be about this:

      My partner is a male idealist while I am the realist. Sometimes he comes forward with an unfeasible idea/plan, which I will reject with an assertive ‘It is a brilliant idea, but it will not work for us’, and I will state the reasons and the benefits of the current plan (mine) in practice. Unfortunately he will always try to sell his new brain wave to me. If he is not successful, he will enforce himself with the members of the Governing Body. So it will be me against them, most of them males, during a meeting.

      Please note that I am always willing to accept a better plan as my own – I’ve got an open mind and prefer the best plans, whoever submits it. But oh boy, I don’t allow anyone to force me into a plan I don’t agree with. At a certain point I will loose my temper and change into b*t*h. Loosing my dignity. So unpleasant! I always feel terrible afterwards. But strange, in the fire of my anger they always see my point. One day I pardoned myself in time: “Excuse me, I can’t go on, I’m only a woman and I’m going to loose my temper.” I left feeling like a looser, running away. Nevertheless, fight-fight like this we grew from strength to strength and realised our dreams one after the other. But I really wish I was able to control my temper in all situations. How do I do that? And oh, I loved the video – the movie, I remember, was hilarious. Great actors.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      No! Nope! No way! Nyet! Non! Nien!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Mighty Mom - the pleasure is all mine. Delighted I could provide your 2011 New Year's resolution! Assertive behavior is not taught in school and sometimes it takes a while before we learn how necessary a skill it is to live complete and independent lives.

      Thank you for the visit and the 'guide is excellent' comment.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, thoughtforce. I used the 'salad' as an example because it's so common to order one and then decide you want a different one instead. Sometimes it's because you viewed or tasted another person's order and decided that was more to your liking.

      You have the RIGHT to change your mind. And you have the RIGHT not to offer any justification. Why should you worry what the server might think? He or she encounters changes from customers on a daily basis.

      Thanks for visiting and your gracious comment: 'a brilliant lesson on this difficult skill!' :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Jim, for that great story about the wise maintenance manager you knew. He understood the importance of assertiveness as an essential behavior - in business as well as one's personal life.

      That question: 'Do you want me to give you the date you're looking for it to be done, or the date it will actually get done?' is the perfect example of an intelligent assertive statement.

      I'm identifying with your description of suits 'who didn't know a hammer from a pencil sharpener...' I've coached a few who unfortunately used the skill of aggression rather than the art of assertion. I helped them see the wisdom of making a change.

      Thank you for your comments and passing this on. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, psychicdog - Thanks for the 'great hub' and 'great advice' comment. Of course you can be assertive in your comment - especially on this hub.

      I agree that a restaurant would have every right to charge you if you returned an entrée because you changed your mind. Unless you are returning it for a reason: the steak arrived well done and you ordered it rare; or the salmon came rare and you ordered it well done, etc.

      But in my personal experience (and I eat out a lot due to circumstance and work assignments) and also because I'm not a good cook like AKirschner, I have never been charged for returning a salad. At least, not in a restaurant that is not fast food nor casual dining.

      In those circumstances where the mark-up is more meager, I agree, you could be charged. There is another option, however. If you are eating in a new restaurant, order the salad with the dressing on the side. :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      OMG you've just decided my 2011 New Year's resolution! I've had problems with being assertive (aka setting boundaries) all my life. This guide is excellent. THANK YOU! MM

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, Ruby,

      Thank you for visiting and delighted you have learned to use the no-word without saying, 'I'm sorry.' It's your right to say no and you owe no one, no one, any explanation.

      Happy you enjoyed the Sandler video - he is a funny man. And Nicholson was perfect as his therapist in this movie.

      Thank you for your 'always very informative and fun to read' comment. You make my day. Cheers, backatcha.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Somehow, Hillary, I do not see you as being less than assertive, but as you stated, it is good knowing you always have the right to say no.

      I remember hilarious Benny Hill and your description of that favorite sketch does not surprise me. It's exactly the type of thing Benny would present.

      Thanks for reminding me.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      8 years ago from Sweden

      You have so many good advices here, and with descriptive examples! I believe I am an assertive person most of the time, but sometimes I am not! That is when I think more about the person, standing in front of me, than about myself. As in your example with the vinaigrette, I would never have sent it out, because somehow I would feel that it was my fault! I have ordered the wrong salad and the server may think I'm hopeless if I send it out. I would either eat it anyway or left it uneaten even if I payed for it. So obviously I have some work left to do! Thanks for a brilliant lesson on this difficult skill!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Dear Amy - It is not unusual to be fearless in asserting yourself with one segment of the population, and practically helpless when attempting to do so with someone else.

      If you were less caring and solicitous as a person, you would have less difficulty dealing with your manipulative neighbor. But then you would not be the Amy we all love and respect.

      Yes, practice is the answer and repetition of the no-word is the solution. The problem, and you stated it in your comment, is your inability until now to actually say no.

      Read the ways to say no until they almost become a memorized litany and use silence as necessary and you will be successful. Promise

      Thank you for your very gracious comments: 'important, informative, needed, dynamic and interesting' as well as 'helpful' is what I hoped this hub to be.

      And since you mentioned my 'perfection in style, topic, illustrations' etc., your 'bill' has been paid. I may even owe you a refund.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, hello. Thank you for stopping by and I am delighted that you found 'many very interesting points' in this hub.

      The more I have learned about the subject of assertive behavior, the more I believe it is a learned behavior and our early experiences as well as the culture and environment we live in, often inhibit our expression of assertiveness.

      Delighted that you feel more comfortable in saying no. That's a good place to be. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Now you got me laughing, Gus, at the image of you laughing about the 'waiter' cartoon which happens to be one of my favorites. It's such a good example of the way our communication often goes astray.

      Thank you for your lovely comments: 'wonderfully written' also happens to be one of my favorites. And the pleasure is all mine.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Ivorwen, m'luv, it is not uncommon to be very assertive with one segment of the population and and not very assertive with another, such as members of one's family.

      We tend to give our loved ones more power to get their way. But that does not mean we cannot assert ourselves when the need arises. You are welcome for the guide in saying no - it is entirely my pleasure. And in time you will feel less guilt when making assertions to your loving family. Trust me.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, amillar, I agree with you. Self-help articles ARE, and I quote you, 'the best.' Thanks for visiting and the 'useful advice' comment. I agree with that, too. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, carrie.

      Bookmarking is good - delighted you will be referring to this hub. Thank you for the 'nice job' and the up vote. How gratifying it is for you to notice that I write with my heart - at least, I like to think so.

    • Springboard profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I love this, and man, how true! How many times do we get caught up in someone else's outlandish expectations? The art of saying no is one that is not only handy, but I think essential. We used to have a maintenance manager who used to have to tell the director of operations all the time when he asked for a timeline on a project, "Do you want me to give you the date you're looking for it to be done, or the date it will actually get done?" The director of ops hated that, but the reality was that no matter what the director of ops THOUGHT he knew was an appropriate amount of time to get something done simply was off base. Of course, HE had to answer to other guys in suits who didn't know a hammer from a pencil sharpener...

      No sometimes helps put people in their right place. I'm passing this on.

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      Great hub drbj, I always enjoy reading your great advice but can I be assertive and say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing - we also need to keep our morals/values sound - if "I have changed my mind. Please bring me a salad with vinaigrette dressing instead" - sure you can change your mind but the restaurant would have every right to charge you for it - don't you think? Taking the consequences of our assertiveness also. I throw that in to the mix!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, sweetsusie.

      Gentle nudging is one of my favorite things to do. Delighted that it has come just in time. By all means, enjoy your 'coffee' tomorrow and do not relinquish any of your 'rights' during your discussions. Saying no with no apologies whatsoever is one of your most salient rights.

      Thank you for the 'excellent hub' comment and let me know what happens. Go get 'em, tiger.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I agree with Amy.I did enjoy this hub,and i think i've learned to say no without saying"I'm sorry" immediately after.I love Adam Sandler so you selected a good video to end with.Your hubs are always very informative and fun to read. thank you.


    • Green Lotus profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      What fun! I love having the "right" to act as you point out! I have to admit, when I started to read your Hub, I couldn't help thinking about one of my favorite Benny Hill sketches...the one where the guy asks the sexy lady, "When you say 'Yes', do you really mean 'No'? And of course she replies seductively, "Yes".

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Dear Doc, I can see the root of my problem stemming from not enough practice. It's funny, because I can easily get rid of nuisance calls without a second thought. I can call about a bill that is incorrect and resolve the issue. But, dealing with the neighbor, I leave hating myself. She can provoke me with her disrespect and I am seething and she sees it, but my empathy for her situation has made me go back to help her. I know she is truly sick, I know her attitude is influenced by her chronic illness, I know, however, she is manipulative. I come home raging to myself and my dog about "that's it! I will not allow her, a stranger really, to treat me this way any longer, never again". Actually, I am closer to that, but I recognize so much of your article in my inability to just say no. It's not impossible, as I see from your article, and I get a vicarious thrill just thinking about it. I have much success with silence and I use it when appropriate. When I talk with my mom, it's like listening to myself. She has similar issues and we tell each other how we have every right to say "no". Everyone else has said "NO" to the manipulators in our lives and we both know that is why we are stuck with them. I find this as an ongoing issue to be disgusting and laughable. I know, from the outside looking in, how self defeating it is to allow anyone live your life for you. No one loves a martyr. What I have found in my present situation is that the manipulator I have tried to help has made me feel like a victim. I guess I've stuck around this long because I am interested in how it will play out...what does she think she has that is so compelling that anyone would come back for another helping? I find it amazing, almost like watching someone else's movie. But now, I cannot abide her and walk her poor pup and get out as quickly as possible. My goal is to never go back. She is on her third nurse and the doctor quit. Of course, this is some defect on everyone else's part. Well, drbj, if you were charging by the hour, I'd be in deep shit. Thank you for a very important, informative, much needed, dynamic and interesting piece. You have helped me again with Part 2 of this article. I am going to take your advice and Practice as in Practice makes your writing...perfection in style, topic, illustrations and video! Well done and you can send the bill! Thank you

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Many very interesting points. I used to be hopeless in saying 'no'. I have got a lot better because too many people kicked me about but I have learned a lot form you excellently written hub. Thank you.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      8 years ago from USA

      Good Doctor bj - I'm not sure if I can type this right now, for I am laughing too hard still over some of your cartoons - particularly this one - "I said well done!" "Well, thank you sir!" That waiter guy is truly my man!

      Other than the levity contained in it, your wonderfully written article was full of stuff that should be helpful to lots and lots of readers. Thanks.

      Gus :-)~

    • Ivorwen profile image


      8 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Reading through this, I see that I am very good at being assertive with everyone but my family... I tend to let them run me over. Thanks for this guide on saying what is needed, without feeling guilty.

    • amillar profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland, UK

      There's a lot of useful advice here. Self-help articles are just the best.

    • carrie450 profile image


      8 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      This is a hub that I have to bookmark so I can refer to it often drbj. Nice job with the writing. I can see you have put your heart into this. Voted Up.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      As usual, excellent Hub! It couldn't have come at a better time. I've been wrangled into 'coffee' tomorrow to 'discuss' a few things. Of which of course I am going to firmly say 'no' to without apologizing. I will thank them for their time, and the nice visit but it is something that I am just not interested in.

      Thanks for the gentle nudge I needed!!

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      I admire your ability, christopher, to make cogent statements without any excess verbiage.

      And when said statements include 'good article, wise words, appropriately amusing pictures, and a very funny, but strange video' then I admire you, too. Oh, yes, thank you also for the 'very well put'. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      There is no question, Pamela, that living and communicating in an assertive fashion enhances both one's self-confidence and self-esteem, and removes the sense of guilt we otherwise might feel when expressing our rights.

      Thank you for visiting, your gracious comments and for enjoying the video which is one of my personal favorites. :)

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Thank you, Lynda, for visiting and your 'excellent article ... full of good advice' comment. You and your perspicacious comments are most appreciated.

      As you pointed out, it would be a much different and happier world if everyone could be more assertive. Maybe we could just banish those who want to remain aggressive to a world of their own ... far out in space.

    • drbj profile imageAUTHOR

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, katie, after all that serious erudition, I felt I had to end this hub on a lighter note. Delighted you enjoyed the video. The film itself, although primarily a comedy, makes a number of salient points about managing one's anger.

      Yes, as you pointed out, when you begin to express an even flow of assertive behavior. others learn to expect it from you and subsequently see you as assertive. Thanks for the visit and the kind comments. :)

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      8 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Good article, wise words, appropriately amusing pictures, and a very funny, but strange video.

      Thank you. Very well put.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is an excellent hub. The examples to illustrate each point are very good and living the way you suggest certainly enhances your self esteem. It feels good to say no and not feel guilty about it or apologize at the same time. I also think the Adam Sandler video was a great ending to your hub.

    • lmmartin profile image


      8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Excellent article, drbj, full of good advice for everyone. If everyone could be more assertive, perhaps we would not have so many aggressive people out there. We'd live in a much happier world. Lynda

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Oh what a great addition, the Adam Sandler video he's a riot. The assertion Adam needed with Jack should relate to that of operating a backhoe to dig a VERF BIG HOLE! Opps...

      I must say I do feel it's vital to express a even flow of assertive behavior as it is then others will learn to expect it from you and hence smooth sailing.

      Great read thanks for the insights. Katie :)


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