How to Say No to Anything – Including Your Dates

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Dating situations are tricky, in part, because they sometimes require you to say no or reject someone when you have no interest in hurting anyone’s feelings or looking like a bad person. The good news is that there are ways you can say no that still manage to show respect and kindness. I’ll show you how to say no respectfully, but first I will ask you some questions to get you to think about why people have a hard time saying no in the first place.

Do you need to be liked by everyone?

Men and women who have a hard time saying no often have a deep need to be liked. While it’s normal and healthy to want to be liked by the people you have relationships with – family, friends, and so on – it’s not normal or healthy to want to be liked by everyone. If you need to be liked by everyone, you are inevitably going to feel stressed because you are trying to pull off the impossible! After all, who really cares if someone you don’t know well doesn’t like you? They don’t even know you, so it doesn’t make any sense to take it personally. The first step in learning how to say a “nice no” is to put any need to be liked by everyone to rest.

Do you try hard to look perfect or like one of the nicest people around?

If you have this problem, you know it. What you need to do is remember that the goal is to be good enough – not perfect – and to be nice enough – but not the nicest. Anyone who appears perfect or like the nicest gal or guy is actually working really hard to keep up that image. It’s a lot of work, so spare yourself that headache and allow yourself to be flawed (a little) like the rest of the world around you!

The secret reason why some people don’t want to say no…

If you say no to someone about something specific, you may be afraid that they won’t like you or want to be with you anymore. You may have the fear that you will only be liked if you mold yourself into whatever that other person wants you to be. If you say no to a date and let the other person know that you’re not interested, you know what’s going to happen: they will move on. If you are someone who doesn’t want to say no and reject someone, it might not be for purely altruistic reasons; you might actually like the attention and you might not want to say no because you don’t want the attention to end. While that it is understandable on a gut level, it’s not fair to anyone to keep someone strung along for the sake of your (somewhat needy) ego.

The answer, finally – How to say no with a question.

This technique is my favorite way of saying no to anything. You ask me for a date but I’m not interested, so I respond: “Thank you for asking, but is it okay if I say no?” By asking the question, you aren’t shooting anyone down harshly and you give the other person a sense of control so they don’t otherwise have to feel like an idiot. If the person persists and asks why, say this: “I’m not sure exactly, is that okay?” Again, you ask another question which has the effect of taking the pressure off of you. Very quickly the person will stop asking and move on, and you won’t have said anything mean or hurtful while simultaneously managing to avoid something you don’t want to do. When someone asks you to do something that you really don’t want to do, ask “Is it okay if I say no?”

What you shouldn’t do when you can’t say no…

There is no reason why you can’t say no using the technique above. It’s easy and direct, and you don’t have to list a million reasons why you are saying no. What you shouldn’t do is postpone dealing with the issue by not saying either yes or no: “Let me think about it;” “I’m not sure;” or “I have to check my calendar.” Come on, let’s all agree to be more direct in our communication, especially in dating! It’s already stressful enough to begin with, so let’s not communicate in ambivalent ways and make a challenging process even more challenging. Deal with the question you’re asked and say no nicely so that the two of you can move on.

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About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve


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