How to say NO

… and not to shut down the other person

#36, Oct 27, 2023

Fair Vasi is here.

It’s dose-time.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds.


[Btw, if you, like me, have a problem keeping your focus during deep work → Check… I’m already a fan ]

What’s the issue about?

In today’s dose, I show you how to disagree. I give you a real example from my email communication with a client.

What is the good about working in our gang?
Whatever situations you face – you can open our lab’s Google Drive and find soft skills tips and tricks
(which in most cases Petya and Hari have prepared for one of our trainings with dev teams).

And what is the good thing about being a dose pill-er?
No need to dig through the thousands of files, because I send you directly to your inbox

I prescribe this dose to you if

You don’t want to do something and:

☑️ don’t want to be rude and sound aggressively

☑️ don’t want to be passive – want to respond appropriately

☑️ want to tell the truth and don’t have to pretend

☑️ want the other person to feel heard and understood
(you’re here because most probably it’s important for you to have smooth communication with the other people… and that way you’ll be closer to this goal)

☑️ have arguments for your rejection and it’s important for you the other person hears and understands them

☑️ don’t want to cause negative emotions in the other person

How do you say “No”?

There are two options for this:

1. The Phoebe Technique from the Friends series (the video is 47 seconds) → *applicable when you just don’t want to explain yourself That is your right

2. Assertively disagree with someone else’s request → *applicable when you really WANT the other person to hear your arguments. And you don’t want to be aggressive or passive.

Although I’m a big fan of the Friends series, I’ll focus on the 2nd option here.

The biggest problem when we say “No” is that it closes the dialogue. As soon as the other person hears rejection of their request, they are very likely to shut down. Whatever you say after “No” will not be heard and understood by them.

There is a 5-step approach to disagree and at the same time, the other person will continue to LISTEN to you and UNDERSTAND your reasons behind it.

This approach is one of the techniques you can use to strengthen your assertive behavior. In other words, the golden mean – is neither being aggressive nor being passive and agreeing to everything.

Assertive behavior is to put your needs on an equal footing with others. Honestly, directly and with respect for the other person to present what you want and what you don’t.

I wrote in a previous dose which 6 techniques you can use to strengthen your assertive behavior.

5-step approach to saying “No” – direct but not aggressive

*Our gang learned about this approach from “ASSERTIVENESS Pocketbook”, 2nd Edition, by Max A. Eggert.

⚠️ Something very important to pay attention to so you don’t screw up ⚠️

Your “No” should not be heard before step 5. Otherwise, if disagreement is felt earlier – in some of the previous steps, you risk the other person immediately going into argument mode or shutting down. And it’s already less likely to listen to you.

Don’t use words like: “Sorry…”, “However…”, “But…”, and any other phrases that start with a negative.

The real example

A bit of context for the client request:

as some of you know, our gang does a podcast – Radio Tochka 2 – in which I and Hari explore soft skills topics, and in most episodes, we invite tech people. The choice of guests is entirely ours.

To sustainably develop our platform (the podcast is part of it), we partner with IT companies through our Employer branding service. For these companies, we share info in the free content of the platform, in our posts, as well as in the intro of the podcast episodes.

This is a request from an IT company for this service of ours:

Here is my answer using the 5 steps (in this case I am not offering a compromise, so step 6 isn’t in the email):

Step #1. You say “Yes” to the other person’s point of view, which does not mean that you agree with it (it’s strange, yeah, but this way the other person will feel heard)

Step #2. You say why you think the other person has that point of view (step into their shoes)

Step #3. You say you’re going to state your position (to prepare the other person)

Step #4. You explain the reasons for your point of view (without sounding negative)

Step #5. Saying your “No” (without apologizing or feeling awkward)

Bonus step #6. Offer a compromise (satisfying both points of view)
for example: “We can have a meeting where we can talk and think about some custom options.”

Stay Healthy, my dear Pill-er!
– Vasi

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