# Etiquette # etiquette horror story

Saying No With Poise | Etiquette Chat Discussion

Do you have trouble saying no? I certainly do. Especially when I'm caught off guard. In today's video I share a story with you. What happened when I was approached by a spa salesperson while grocery shopping with my daughter? My answer at first wasn't very poised, but then I got assertive and I was in control of the conversation.

Some people call it a "high-quality no", I call it saying no with poise, but truly, saying no is an art. If you worry about people-pleasing or pepper your response with a list of excuses, you will likely end up babbling and get into a conversation you don't want to have. Learning to give a firm, but polite, no is a great skill to have.

I hope you enjoy hearing my story in today's video.

I hope you will join me for the Mapp & Lucia book club at the end of June!

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Sherrie P writes: since I have found your channel and books,I don't feel guilty to try to dress better and treat myself with respect. I'm a plus size lady and you helped me to think I could look my best. Your 1st book really changed my life.

Dear Sherrie, Thank you so much. I loved receiving your comment and am thrilled to hear that you are treating yourself with the respect you deserve!

Today, I would love to know... do you have trouble saying no? Do you struggle with assertiveness? Do you have any funny stories you'd like to share with us regarding this subject? Any tips? Let me know in the comment section and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week on the blog.

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Kristia Di Gregorio said...

I've gotten quite good at saying no to charitable solicitors, but it took an act of fraud to get me there! I gave a cheque to a charity that didn't actually exist and I had to close down my accounts. Since then it'd been quite easy to say no. If I do happen interested in an organization, I always ask for a brochure or a website and give myself lots of time to think about it. Where I could be better at high quality 'nos' is declining social invitations with people I don't want to spend time with. I find that one very tough!

Bliss said...

I do struggle with this, though I have gotten much better with age. Life is already so hectic, I need to remember that I don't owe my time or attention to a solicitor. I love characterizing it as a high quality no - I do feel it is so important to remain polite, but one can be polite and firm at the same time. Great topic.

PamelaD said...

Thank you for encouraging us to give a "high quality no." Unfortunately, the companies doing the soliciting count on our politeness. We are all taught that we shouldn't interrupt others while they are speaking and that it is rude not to answer the phone or door. I used to try to be polite with phone solicitaters for charities but now I simply say "I don't accept phone solicitations." If the caller doesn't stop, I simply hang up. I recently installed a video doorbell and it has been great for the door-to-door sales people. I can speak to them without needing to open my door and can even do this when I'm not at home using my mobile phone. I can find it easier to give a firm "no thank you" from the security of my home.

Alba Scott said...

This post came just in time for me. However, my biggest problem is saying no to people I know, but who are not exactly my closest friends. I find myself finding excuses for not wanting to get together or having dinner (at my house from all things!), because I have not been able to give a "high quality no" or just assert myself.

Summer Smith said...

Great post! I think this is hard for most people. I have such a problem with NOT including an excuse. I think it makes me a witch if I don't! And where did that come from?!? I think it's very confident and polite to just say, "No, thank you." Yet, it is so hard to do and to LEAVE it at that. Thank you for this post and the reminder.

Cynthia Washburn said...

In some countries a person will try to engage you in conversation while their partner is pickpocketing you. They rely on our politeness in attending to the person talking to us for their success. Again, in some countries you can/will be solicited very aggressively to the extent that people will follow you down a street holding their product in front of your face. You can feel bad because you are in a poor country but if you do stop and engage the person, you may find several/many others will come to you.
Another situation I have read of is when people agree to go to a time share presentation while on vacation not realizing how aggressive those situations can be and how trapped you can feel. These are situations that can really test your composure.

Tracy said...

Saying no with poise is such an important skill!

Saying 'no' is something I learnt to do after I managed to weather a season where I'd said yes to too many (but very worthy) responsibilities. Seventeen years later, I don't find it a problem at all, because I never want to be that overtaxed and unavailable to my family. They key for me was being aware of the season I was in, and responding accordingly. I also learnt that no excuses are required. Knowing my season empowered me to be able to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm not able to do that". Guess what? No one hates you, even the people you know, when you say 'no'. They just move on to find someone else! How liberating!

As for unsolicited callers? I maintain a position that having them call me does not obligate me to take on their product - I didn't ask them to call! If they don't listen when I say 'no, I'm not interested' I hang up. One called me back once, and asked why I had hung up. My response was something like "You wouldn't listen to me, so I had no choice but to end the conversation. I said 'no' a number of times. Just because you called me doesn't mean I have to say yes'.

Gigi said...

I'm unusually okay with saying no to strangers (I say unusually because I'm fairly introverted) but saying no to people I know and like is SO much harder.

F0706 said...

I hate saying a "dry" NO, but ignores you think about it the persistent person is not embarrassed to persist , therefore we shouldn't be embarrassed to be assertive .

Jennifer , I bought a "Do Not Disturb" sign for my door (from world market) and hang it during the day sometimes . It works because they don't knock, turn around and go away.

Ange said...

Living in the south where everyone is friendly,can be wonderful. However at times like this, I feel, ( for myself) it makes it all the more harder to say a firm and polite no. No one really cares about your excuses or reasons anyway, so why we offer them up is odd in itself really. The salesperson at the checkout counter doesn't care that you receive spam emails when you sign up for store rewards program. All he or she knows is that they must ask every guest to sign up. It's definitely much easier and faster to say " No thank you, I do not want to sign up for it" and be done with it! If you're firm they do realize it, accept it and don't try to convince you otherwise.

taylorcait said...

How timely this was! I was recently approached by a woman at church who had cast me in "the perfect role" (her words) for a benefit...the only thing is, I HATE being on stage in front of people. I like this woman a lot, but there was not even a question involved - just "for this benefit, I have you down for this role". In the moment I just smiled and nodded, as I was so overwhelmed by the situation. Now I am needing to figure out how to politely get out of it! I truly will hyperventilate if I have to get on a stage with people looking at me. Thank you for sharing this topic!

Capecoastgirl said...

I don't have any problems with saying no, but I think, like everything else, that comes with age and experience. It is ok to just say "no thank you" with a smile and move on!

Anonymous said...

I learned the value of saying "no", without offering reasons a long time ago, when I was waiting tables. I realized that when the manager asked people to work a double "just thus once", if they offered a reason why they couldn't, he would try to talk them out of their reason. Not only that, if they caved and worked this double "just this once", doubles soon turned up regularly on their schedules. I guess he figured, if they can manage it once, they can deal with it regularly. So when he inevitably asked me if I could do him a favor and work a double "just this once", I said "no, sorry, I have plans." I said nothing else. He said nothing, but looked at me expectantly, as if waiting for me to elaborate. I didn't. The silence grew awkward, so he just said, "okay," and walked away. I felt so empowered by that "no", and I've always remembered that lesson.

Natalie T. said...

I try to remember that saying no to someone else is essentially, saying yes to myself. As I cultivate greater self-compassion, saying no to others becomes easier.

In addition, saying a tactful and firm "No, but thanks for thinking of me. I hope you have a great time *smile*." to be helpful for most social gatherings. Not providing an excuse, as other commenters have suggested, is key to ending the conversation swiftly on our terms. Never drag out such conversations into a negotiation.

I have no qualms in saying no to strangers. Personally, the hardest people to say no to are my aging parents. The "good girl/daughter" mentality paired with my perfectionist tendency is strong within me and I have only recently started to break out of this societally-conditioned mold. Anyone have tips on how to set boundaries with aging parents (grandparent wannabes) and letting go of being the best daughter in the world?! Please let me know!

Audrey said...

I work at a high end kitchen store and all employees are required to ask for an email address at check out. I absolutely hate asking because I understand how much spam everyone receives. Customers do have benefits they receive when their email is entered but I do get why many are reluctant to give an email address. A polite "no" is ok in fact much preferred rather than a defensive, angry response. Remember those on the receiving end of the no too the a polite attitude goes a long way to improve everyone's day!

Jennifer Lynn said...

Hello Jennifer,

I am constantly falling victim to sales people and it took a really long time to actually build up the courage to learn my high quality no. I feel like they zeroed me out in a crowd and thought "Now that girl, she's a sucker!"

Whenever someone approaches me about buying something they are selling I start studdering and blabbering, I'm sure it's very attractive... After reading your books, I realized what I was doing was actually making it worse for me. Like you said in your video, instead of just saying no, you give them excuses to work with.

If it wasn't for my husband I think we would own a set of knives, some knock off perfumes, a central air vac,and who knows probably some time-share somewhere I've never heard of. But luckily after some practice and persistence I have realized that it makes my life easier. My husband has repeatedly told me that you can't let other people control your answer or situation.

I just had a great laugh with your video because honestly that is something I would have done. I try my hardest to remain elegant in everything I do, and watching your videos always are a great inspiration.

Anna Wegner said...

I haven't really felt the need to say yes to sales pitches. I see it more as a transaction than relational. However, having had a few of those type jobs myself, I do try to speak politely and acknowledge the person.

In my relationships in life, it's been harder for me to say no. Some things that helped are the quote, "When you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else" from an organizing book. I keep in mind that I have to balance that yes or no with what else is going on in my life. My difficulty saying no stems from wanting people to like me. I learned that if someone is going to dislike you because of a "no," it's going to happen eventually anyway. Maybe they will ask something you are incapable of doing or unwilling to do. Written out that seems so simple, but it was a lightbulb realization for me.

I still struggle with not explaining or justifying every no. That depends on the relationship. There are some people close to you that you need to have those conversations with. For the most part, a simple no is enough. Sometimes, I will say "Let me get back to you" if I need more time to really think about the decision. There are a few people who will always push back at a no, and I've learned never to give an answer to them. It's just a chance for an argument, and those wear me out! I have given in to something I didn't really want to do just to stop talking about it. It's better to head that off at the start! If I have to give an answer something like, "I'm not interested," "That doesn't fit my current priorities," etc, is more about me than a general thing that can be argued like time, resources, etc.