Saturday, 20 August 2011

Saying 'No'

In my Bank, I once appeared for an interview for selection of Faculty Members for the Bank’s Staff Training Colleges. During the course of the interview, I was asked to list my strengths and weaknesses. After telling the strengths, I said,” I have one weakness. I find it difficult to say ‘No’.” At that time I thought that difficulty in saying “No’ to a request was the quality of a likeable person.
After joining as a Faculty Member, I had the opportunity of reading many books on Management and Human Behaviour and realized that the ability to say ‘No’ to an unreasonable request is indeed a strength. I realized that many people fall in the predicament whether to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in many situations. I realized that saying ‘yes’ only in order not to offend another person is a sign of lack of assertiveness.
It dawned upon me that one should not confuse the goal of being liked with the goal of being respected.

Saying ‘Yes’ is easier than saying ‘No’. Saying ‘No’ requires more physical and psychological effort. Nodding the head forward is easier than shaking it sideways. Often, during talks with friends, we nod our head or keep silent when someone is saying something even when we do not agree with what she/he is saying with a fear that it may offend the speaker. But if you say ‘Yes’ to any request, reasonable or unreasonable, you will be taken for granted; people will take advantage of your ‘goodness’ and you would be saddled with responsibilities you won’t like to take and your own work will suffer. You will be ‘used’ by other people. We should not be confused between being selfish in a bad sense and being selfish in a good sense.
 Selfishness is not a bad thing in all situations. Man cannot live unless he is a little selfish when needed.

Also, when people know that you can be taken for granted, it lowers their respect for you in their unconscious mind.

There is a painting by the famous Raja Ravi Varma, of Menaka seducing sage Vishwamitra. The sage was doing tapasya and fearing that after his successful tapasya, he might take the position of Indra, the latter sent the nymph Menaka to seduce him and thus foil his tapasya. Shouldn’t Vishwamitra have said “No” to her entreating? In stead, he was charmed and enamoured by her celestial beauty, forgetting all about his tapasya and asceticism. By the time he realized what had happened, it was all over! He had to leave Menaka and she had to abandon the baby Shakuntala! (Of course, the subsequent events leading to Kanwa Muni taking charge of the baby and to the Shakuntala-Dushyanta love-story and the birth of the brave Bharat, after whose name our country Bhaarat is called, is another matter.)
In the Bible, there is a verse:
Let your yea be yea and your nay, nay;
Lest ye fall into condemnation.
While declining, use the word 'No’ and be as brief as possible.

Don’t give elaborate explanations and don’t say things like “Well, I don’t just think so.” or “I shouldn’t.”

Such excuses may be used by the other person to argue you out of your ‘no’.Here, we must remember that being assertive is not the same thing as being stubborn or aggressive. It only means that one should not say ‘Yes’ if one really wants to say ‘No’. One has to be flexible and open to different view-points. ‘Don’t Say Yes If You Want to say No’ is the title of a good book on assertiveness training, by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer.

One must also remember that just as one has the right to say ‘No’, the other person has an equal right to refuse a request. There is nothing bad to feel when one’s request is declined.


In my personal life, I hear 'No' frequently. Whatever I say, the wife responds with a 'No'. So we decided on an arrangement: Whenever I would like to say anything, I would raise a hand. Taking this as a signal, she would say 'No'. After she finishes this, I would say what I wanted to say! 
When a diplomat says “Yes”, he means ‘Perhaps’; when he says “Perhaps”, he means ‘No’. If he says “No”, he is no diplomat. When a lady says “No”, she means “Perhaps’; when she says “Perhaps”, she means ‘Yes’. If she says “Yes”, she is no lady!!!


  1. hahahaa ... the last line cracked me up !! and the post is like looking myself in the mirror. I too have this problem of not saying no. I remember just one day before a very very important interview, instead of preparing for it, the whole day I was helping a friend to move. He asked and I could not said no :|


    Sometimes we have to struggle within ourselves but we have to get over our hesitation to say 'no'.

  3. Lol at the Tailpiece...Hilarious :D

  4. Bivas,

    Here I want to say 'Yes'. :))))))