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More on The Gentle Art of Saying No

09 Aug

We had an extraordinary amount of interest in last week’s story about Setting Limits with an Overbearing Friend – hundreds and hundreds of page views and lots of comments.  I guess this is a commonplace struggle.  Actually, come to think of it, it’s probably one of the most commonly discussed topics in therapy sessions – always has been!

Interestingly enough, that same week Dr. David Edelberg from Whole Health in Chicago wrote a similar column, called Learning to Say No. You can find it here.

A lot of people wrote in to say that they just didn’t have the words for such a conversation.  So I went looking for words (thank you, Mr. Google) and this one site, Online Organizing, had posted a list of 20 Ways to Say No by Ramona Creel.  It’s more work-focused than social, and I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s still relevant and it’s posted here

I take issue with the self-deprecating responses like “I’m not the most qualified person for the job” and “This is not my strong suit”, only because they invite argument, not to mention a patronizing reply like “Oh, you can do it, dear”, leaving you back in square one with no way out.  More effective, I think, are the ones you can’t argue with, like “I’m not comfortable with that” or “I don’t have any more room in my calendar”.

In a pinch, however, my all time favorite is the unassailable “It’s out of the question”, which carries with it the implied reproach, “And how could you have even had the gumption – nay, the unmitigated gall - to have even asked this of me??”.  Trust me, this reply is a winner, but it really should be saved for special occasions or it loses its clout.

I’m happier with Leo Barbauta’s advice on saying no – his Top Ten Tips on the Gentle Art of Saying No hits all the marks, including the suggestion to pre-empt the request in the first place, warnings against apologizing, and that ever-popular standby, “I’ll get back to you”.  This guy has been on this nay-saying road and he travels it effectively.  You can find his list here.

What did we do before search engines, anyway? Never mind, no need to answer that. I know it’s a mixed bag and some brain cells are no doubt atrophying.

Take care and be well (and say no when you need to…).
All best,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award