Brady:  The word “no” is often one of the hardest words for people to say and hear.  People need to realize that every “no” has a “yes” to it.  For example, if my friends ask me to go to a party on a school night, I say “no.”  I am saying “yes” to doing my homework and getting a good night’s sleep.  This idea is useful to me because I like to work out and have some time to myself, but it has always been hard for me to tell my girlfriend when I need alone time.  I think if I explain it to her as a “no” really equals a “yes,” she may not get offended if I want a night off from her every once in a while. 

Jody:  I’ve always imagined that by saying “no” I was being selfish or worse.  Because of my discomfort with saying “no,” I automatically took offense when someone told me “no.”  I have learned in this class that saying and hearing the word “no” is just another way of saying and hearing “yes”!  It reminds me of my macroeconomics class where we learned that everything you say “yes” to is a “no” to something else.  From the economic standpoint, this is considered “an opportunity cost,” the cost of passing up other choices.

Renee:  The more you say “no,” the easier it is to hear “no.”  If someone asks something of you, stop and ask yourself, what are your own needs.  Then you guys should discuss what you both need.  All of my life I have had trouble saying “no,” but I am learning.  Last week my roommate wanted me to help her study and I had a huge paper due.  I told her my situation and we decided to study after I finished my paper.  We were both satisfied. 

One way we neglect to choose actions that enhance our lives is by freezing when someone asks us to do something we don’t want to do.  Look with me at the big picture first.  Every choice we make is saying “Yes” to one option, and “No”to many other options.  If you sleep in, you don’t watch the sunrise, you don’t make it to breakfast, and you don’t make it to your first class.  Or you go to your first class and you do not get the extra sleep or the elaborate breakfast.  If you focus on practicing your skateboarding, you may be doing it at the expense of listening to music that hour. 

Suppose a friend requests you to do something, anything.  You check with yourself and you notice, “Oh, bleh!  No!  I do not want to.”  Stay with that feeling.  You may bump into the thought, “I would be a selfish person if I don’t say ‘Yes’.”  Stay with that too.  Listen to yourself until you find your needs underneath it all.  I confess that my self-judgment was so strong that at first I could not even find an unspoken “No” inside.  I had to start by noticing any discomfort when I said “Yes!”

Ask yourself, “What need of mine would not be met by doing what they ask?” or “What would I be saying ‘Yes’ to instead, if I were to turn them down?”  Perhaps when you look inside, you will see that you have no room for saying “Yes” to their request, even if it is very urgent to them.  You might say briefly, “Thanks for the invite—it does not fit for me today.”  Or you might let them know what you are saying “Yes” to instead, i.e. why you cannot meet their request.  Or you might want to work with them to try to come up with a strategy to meet both your needs and their needs.

Sun Image 

Every choice we make
says “Yes” to one option
and “No” to many other options.

WAYS OF SAYING “NO”:  Based on the initial dialogue, expand ways for the SECOND speaker to say “No.”  1. To give a friendly refusal.  2. To share what they are saying “Yes” to.  3. To suggest a way to meet both needs.  Use your imagination to capture missing details.

Initial dialogue.

Robin (1st speaker):  Let’s go to the movie tonight.      
Gail (2nd speaker):  Nah.  I don’t want to.

1.  Rewrite the second speaker’s line to give a friendly refusal.
Gail:  No thanks, it does not fit for me.

2.  Rewrite the second speaker’s line, sharing what they are saying “Yes” to.
Gail:  No, thanks, I am in an exciting place in my novel and really want to read it tonight.

3.  Rewrite the second speaker’s line, suggesting a strategy that could meet both needs.
Gail:  I’ll be finished with my book by tomorrow evening.  Want to go to a movie then?

Terry:  Come to Kenya with Linda and me.                                                 
Doris:  No way, Jose.

1.  Doris (friendly):

2.  Doris (sharing “Yes”):

3.  Doris (strategizing):


Scott:  Those look good.  I am hungry.                                       
  Do not touch my Fritos.

1.  Taren (friendly):

2.  Taren (sharing “Yes”): 

3.  Taren (strategizing):


Cyd:  I need to borrow your motorcycle today.                                
Ellen:  Not going to happen.

1.  Ellen (friendly):

2.  Ellen (sharing “Yes”): 

3.  Ellen (strategizing):


Greg:  Turn the tv off and come play a game of ball.                                            
  Go away.

1.  Tim (friendly):

2.  Tim (sharing “Yes”): 

3.  Tim (strategizing):


Lori:  I need you and Chirstine to invest $1000 in my coffee shop.        
Jamie:  You think I’m made of money?

1.  Jamie (friendly):

2.  Jamie (sharing “Yes”): 

3.  Jamie (strategizing):


TamiWe are going to hike the Grand Canyon.  You should come.             
JaneSounds awful.

1.  Jane (friendly):

2.  Jane (sharing “Yes”): 

3.  Jane (strategizing):


OK.  I see how maybe I could say “No.”  What about when the other person says “No”?  That one is even harder.

Many people find it difficult to hear “No.”  First of all, turn to page 54 and review the components of an effective request.  Your mindset going into this has to be focused on honoring their needs as much as your own.  You are not trying to force, guilt-trip, threaten, bribe, override, or use any other such demanding method.  You are really aiming for a win-win solution that works for everyone.  So check on your attitude as your starting point. 

Rosenberg suggests that a yardstick for making a true request, not a demand, could be, “Do not do what I ask unless it would bring you the joy of a young child feeding a hungry duck!”  So, maybe that is a bit much for you.  Please lean in that direction as far as you can go.  After you get your win-win attitude lined up, you are next aspiring to invite the other person to join you in this frame of reference.  This can become your habitual way to approach differences. 

We have conflicting needs.
Oh, well.
  We could work together
to meet all of our needs
Text Box: my needs vs. your needs  K   /   K         ME                                        YOU   Text Box: my needs  +  your needs    J ~ J                ME                 YOU

After getting your attitude in order, start with a complete request that both states your interest and clearly refers to their choice.  If they say “No,” you next want to respectfully ask for more information, so you can start thinking of ways to meet your needs and theirs.  You may find a way to combine your needs.  As you share the importance to you of what you asked for, they may change their “No,” and as you hear their feelings about their needs, you may want to change your request.  Or, perhaps, either or both of you will find a way to get your needs met by a strategy that does not involve the other person. 

So, Robin asks Gail to go to a movie and she says “No.”  When he finds out she is interested in finishing her novel, he could make suggestions.  Gail might also offer suggestions. 

Robin:  This is the last night for the movie that Andy and Jessie recommended so highly. Knowing that, might you be willing to set your novel aside for one more day?

Gail:  I have been looking forward to this novel all afternoon.  Why don’t you call your daughter, Cami, and see if she wants to see the movie with you? 

Robin:  I would really prefer doing something with you tonight.  What about we take turns reading your book aloud?  We haven’t done that for awhile.  Does that sound enjoyable?

REACHING FOR A “YES” WHEN YOU HEAR A “NO”:  For the FIRST speaker:  1. Make a more complete request.  2. Find out what they are saying “Yes” to.  (3. Create a line for the SECOND speaker that offers what they are saying “Yes” to.)  4. Suggest a way to meet both needs.  Use your imagination to capture missing details.

First speaker’s initial effort at a request.                    
Robin (1st speaker):  Let’s go to the movie tonight.       
Gail (2nd speaker):  Nah.  I don’t want to.

1.  Rewrite the first speaker’s line to make a more complete request.
Robin:  I want to go to the movie tonight and would love your company.  Interested?

Gail (2nd speaker):  Nah.  I don’t want to.
2.  Rewrite the first speaker’s line, to find out what the other person is saying “Yes” to.
Robin:  Hmmm.  I am curious.  Do you have other plans for the evening?

3.  (Create a line for the second speaker that shares what they are saying “Yes” to.)
Gail:  Yes.  I am in an exciting place in my novel and really want to finish it tonight.

4.  Rewrite the first speaker’s line, suggesting a strategy that could meet both needs.
Robin:  If you are finished by tomorrow evening, would you like to go to a movie then?

Amie:  The baby needs changing.                                            
Matthew:  No way- it’s your turn.

1.  Amie (request):

Matthew:  No way – it’s your turn.
2.  Amie (ask for info):

3.  Create a “Yes” for second speaker.

4.  Amie (strategizing):


Claudia:  You and Sierra have to come to our barbeque.           
  Mom, don’t be a nag.

1.  Claudia (request):

Michael:  Don’t be a nag.
2.  Claudia (ask for info):

3.  Create a “Yes” for second speaker.

4.  Claudia  (strategizing):


Rob:  Here’s fresh snowpeas—you must fix them for supper.     
Patti:  No—put them in the frig.

1.  Rob (request):

Patti:  No—put them in the frig.
2.  Rob (ask for info):

3.  Create a “Yes” for second speaker.

4.  Rob (strategizing):