hand checking NO box

One Christmas, many years back, a dear friend gave me a wonderful book: The Right Thing To Say by Judith Martin.  If you want a compelling, entertaining and utterly useful  book, I highly recommend this one.  For those of you who belong to a book club, I image it would be the most-discussed book yet!  And all you tough guys — you’d like it, too.  You won’t admit it.  But you will like it.  Bring it home in a plain, brown wrapper.  Read it in secret, with a flashlight under the covers, like when you were a kid.  Do what you must, but read it.  The chicks will dig you for it.

Well, in that book was a gem of advice that I have both practiced and passed along countless times since:

THE BEST ADVICE SO FAR: “No” is a complete answer.

Somehow, after reading this, it seemed both simple and logical that one could actually just say no without any further explanation necessary.  Of course, there was a certain finesse that could be added to the starkness of no:

“I’m sorry, I won’t be able to help.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”

“I’m going to have to pass this time.”

Add a pleasant smile, and that’s it.  Done.  End of story.

Interestingly enough, this advice appeared not in a book about being assertive, but in a book about etiquette, implying that not only is this response complete in itself, it is also sufficiently polite.

Notice the absence even of “I’m busy” or “My schedule is crazy right now.”  The truth is, regardless of what we might imagine, people generally accept a simple no as enough information.

What’s more, even in the case of that really pushy person, the to-the-point approach of just saying no leaves precious little room for emotional manipulation or finding loopholes in the story.  It puts the onus on the other person to have to say, “Well, why the heck not?”  And most people realize that this, ironically, is not good etiquette.

Once you learn to say “no” with confidence and courtesy, you’ll have a lot more time to say “yes” to the good things in life.

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The Best Advice So Far is about choice. Filled with wit, humor and poignantly real stories, The Best Advice So Far shares collective wisdom through a new lens, as well as practical application for living like it matters (because it does).


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About Erik

I'm an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, listener, noticer and lover of life. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

9 responses to “no

  • do we have to? « The Best Advice So Far

    […] really like to be free of this conversation right now.”  In the same vein as saying no, learning how to kindly but firmly extricate yourself from conversation is a skill worth […]


  • hitting the wall « The Best Advice So Far

    […] that it is because I chose to take on extra activities.  I also have the choice at any time to say no — to new things and also to the things I’ve already taken on.  Whether it always feels […]


  • Lynda Tyler

    It took a while for me to realize that I am deeply loved by God simply for who I am, not because of any work I could do for Him. This realization allowed me to be able to say no when asked by someone to do something they wanted me to do. You are so right Erik.
    When said in the right attitude, it can be very uplifting.Great job on this book, written with a professional touch! Waiting for the rest……..


    • Erik

      Hi, Lynda. Thanks for sharing that, both with me and with everyone else who may read it. As I said in my first post, wisdom is collective. No one has the market on it. So I’m hoping people gain good thoughts and advice from each other, not just from what I might say, on this blog.


  • Kathleen Hildebrand

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through your posts. While all of your posts have been inspiring and thought provoking, this one hit me personally. I actually took a group study on boundaries through our church, which was extremely helpful. I never thought of the simple, yet effective concept of just saying “no”. Why do so many of us feel that we must make excuses for our decisions? Needless to say, I am looking forward to reading your book once it is finished.


    • Erik

      Thanks, Kathy. I’m looking forward to reading it once it’s done, too! Thanks for following along as it gets written. I’m getting there. Seems realistic to me at this point to be done sometime in June!


  • Miss Holly

    Very good……so you don’t have to have the long song and dance about why??? You know I never thought that just a polite no would suffice …I always feel a long ..I am so sorry I wish I could but I am having a root canal that day and then I’ve promised my exboyfriend from 12 years ago that I would help him move his stepsisters cousin to her new apartment…so if I could I would…but….hmmmmmm..


    • Erik

      Believe me … I used to be the king of the long explanation. I say more about this in the book, as to why I think people like you and me feel the need to do this. But I’ve found from this side of “no” that it works far better than all the explanations. It’s all in the delivery. So nice to have your input!


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