Social skills for autonomous people: It’s ok to say no without giving an explanation



RE:- boundaries without anger. Obviously there are exemptions to the following statement where “no" would be enough; but I think the reason a lot of people have problems…

An immediate response of “Why not?” may be considered rude or challenging the other person. Other sentence constructions might get across the same question in a more socially comfortable way.

Sometimes, I’ll ask for clarification using the reasons I expect are most likely behind the denial. “Do you want to go to the show on Saturday?” “No.” “Is it because you’re not interested or you’re busy?” This gets to the point but has several negative aspects. It makes it more difficult to give an answer that isn’t one of the options in the question. It also may make the person upset if their reason isn’t asked because they may think you didn’t give the situation enough thought to realize their reason. This type of question works best if you’re very familiar with the situation and if the potential backlash won’t be too bad, like with a close friend who might know you didn’t mean anything bad by it.

A more cautious or polite question might be phrased like this. “I understand that you don’t want to use powerpoints in the group’s presentation. Could you tell me why you don’t think it’s a good idea?” This involves giving a summary of your understanding. The question asks for clarification while not indicating that you think negatively of their idea. This may still come off as challenging, especially depending on tone.

Another approach is to use the same summary/question approach, while asking them to provide a solution to what they rejected or to give positive reasons for their already suggested solution. Provide a solution: “I understand that you don’t want to use power points for the presentation. How do you want to do the presentation?” Positive reasons: “I understand that you’d prefer the group to do a speech instead of use power points. Could you tell me why it’s the best way?” or “Can you tell me why you prefer speeches?” These both focus on what the other person wants. They both ask for positive reasons and finding a solution instead of tearing down a rejected option.

People are less likely to be defensive if they see you as positive and being open to compromise.

Some people don’t respond well to defending their no and may always see it as a challenge. Again, though, no doesn’t always require an explanation. However, an explanation may be useful when multiple people are trying to find a solution to a problem.

Sometimes, though, you may want to express negativity or other emotions that may not go over well with the other person. This can be okay too, especially if it helps maintain your boundaries. It’s completely okay, in my opinion, to get upset when someone says you can’t go to the bathroom when you’re having a casual conversation and there appears to be no justifiable reason for the restriction.