DebatorsCredit: Credit: brainpop_uk / photo on flickr CC-by-2.0

I remember back in my early teens I would get nervous going to the clothing stores with my friends.  I think I was just afraid of the sales people and scared that they would force me to buy something.  

Looking back now it was an irrational fear.  This fear I believe was based on shyness and my avoidance of conflict.  

I took a class early this year on negotiations and I remember the instructor had told us that 10% of the population hates conflict.  People who hate conflict would do anything to avoid conflict and negotiations.  That is why sales people love these individuals who avoids conflict; they will accept any terms the sales people offer.

More than likely, back in my younger days, I was part of the 10%.  But I see now how the avoidance of conflict affects us negatively in both our professional and personal lives.  Avoiding conflict or the need to please others makes us accept situations that we are not comfortable with, or buy into something that we know makes no financial sense. 

So, to those who have trouble saying no sometimes, this article is for you.  Here are 4 ways to help you and guide you to saying no. 

1) Understand Yourself First

It helps to take a moment to reflect on what your values are and what it is that you want.  Because if your gut is telling you that something isn't right, then likely it isn't.  So, the answer no should come much more easily.

For example: if you approach a dealership wanting to buy a car and the salesperson is trying to up-sell you to a nice sports car.  It's important to do a self check first to see if the sports car is what you need and if it fits your budget. 

A person going into a negotiations without knowing what they want will put themselves in a weaker bargaining position.  By going through the process of knowing what your values are, why are you purchasing the item, do you need it, or is it a want, will help you gain a better understanding of yourself.  This will help you say no when you to.

2) Practice Saying No and Give Reasons

Saying no to someone can be hard at first, because you don't want to hurt the other person's feelings.  It goes back to the avoidance of conflict.  But keep in mind that the world will still continue to turn and the sun will still rise tomorrow.  It is likely not the end of the world for the other person if they were rejected. 

When I give a no and I am sure of my answer, I often try to avoid saying "I'll think about it" or "maybe", because that leaves a door for a potential yes later on. 

Instead, try to back up my rejection with reasonable points to make it difficult for the other person to change my mind.

I remember back in university and I was trying to sublet my room to someone.  A student came to look at my place.  After I answered his questions, he gave me a very respectful decline of my offer, and started listing out the reasons why he could not take my place.  I could not come back with a rebuttal and just accepted his refusal. 


Worried PersonCredit: Credit: Francesco (spaceodissey on flickr) CC-by-2.0

3) Take The Time To Think About it

 I remember enrolling in a private online course and the individual wanted to sell me these additional features for an online course.  He wanted to charge me an extra $500 for it on top of the original fees that I paid.  I told him I needed the time to think about it to see whether it made sense, I said I would get back to him in a few days.  He used pressure tactics to get me to decide on the spot.  That was when I decided all right, if I have to give you an answer now, then the answer is no. 

Don't believe that you need to make a decision now just because the other party says you need to.  Someone who makes you decide on the spot is making you think illogically.  This creates buyer's remorse later on. 

Not every situation or sale is a bad transaction, sometimes we just need time to assess and weigh the pro's and con's.   But if someone is giving you a high pressured sales tactic and time is limited, then be ready to walk away from it.

The sales people would always want you to buy on impulse.  Perhaps they know that once people have the time to think it through, they would realize how the service or product is really not for them.  

When I had told the fellow that I will not be paying $500 in extra fees.  He changed his tune and offered me an incredibly sweetened offer.

4) Be Confident

When you say no enough times to someone, eventually they will get the picture - for most people at least.  For the minority that cannot take no for an answer, don't be afraid to be aggressive. 

Someone who can project a stern and confident demeanor while saying no sends a strong message that a no is a no, this is not negotiable. 

Being aggressive is also a good negotiating tactic.  If the other party is not negotiating in good faith or not displaying respect to the negotiating parties, an aggressive tone can set the other person in its place.   On the other hand, it can also derail the negotiations, in which case you just have to walk away. 

My negotiations instructor had told us a story about how his team was negotiating with their counterparts on a deal.  The head negotiator had to stop the negotiations abruptly and asked his counterpart to show some respect towards his secretary, and to stop with the sexist comments, or the entire team walks out now.  A confident threat changed the tone of the negotiations and the talks became much more professional afterwards.  

Being confident projects an image that you are sure of yourself and makes people take you more seriously


The other day at the furniture store I was negotiating for a lower price on the sofa and dinner table.  He was trying to up sell me on the dinner table at a price I felt they can do better on.  I was more than willing to walk away from the deal and I did.  There was a back and forth before he finally offered me a serious price.  

Learning how to say no is an important skill to have and is a great tool to have in negotiations.  By saying no, you are making a statement about what is important to you and no one knows you better than yourself.  

Of course, there are situations when it is okay to say yes, but for the times when you know that there is no other option than to say no, just do so.  You will thank yourself for it.