Communication coaches are some of the most sought-after professionals especially by parents who would like to inculcate quality communication skills in their children to ensure good quality, confident communication. But even the most seasoned coach has failed to teach one very basic communication skill – THE ABILITY TO SAY NO.

Teachers and parents spend many hours with the most difficult and complicated spellings. Yet the most difficult word for an adult comprises just two letters – NO. While some people consider using the exact word “no” as derogatory, most people are unable to express their disagreement even in a graceful and dignified manner. This happens due to many several reasons but two of the most common ones are:

FEAR OF LOSS – The ability to express what is on your mind is usually dependent on the nature of the relationship we share with the person with whom we are communicating. It also depends on how much we value our relationship with them and vice versa. If the relationship is too precious, we tend fear its loss which is why we are unable to express our true feelings and disagree.

FEAR OF EXCLUSION – The ability to disagree or express our true feelings becomes even more difficult when we are part of a group and the majority is leaning in the opposite direction. Everyone believes that strength lies in numbers which is why we are afraid to be true to ourselves and stand alone. We are scared to disagree in a group since we might get excluded in future from the group. This fear makes us passively agree with the majority even though the heart does not agree with the mind.

Now that we have understood some of the reasons about our inability to disagree, let us look at some constructive measures that will make it easier for us to disagree:

RESPECTFULLY DISAGREE – While disagreeing in principle is fine, the tone or manner of disagreement delivery heavily determines the reaction of the person/persons listening. It is very important to respectfully disagree especially in a group. Instead of blatantly disagreeing by saying “No”, start the sentence by saying “Excuse me, but I would like to disagree at this point” and then go on to elaborate your stand. Another sentence to express disagreement can be “Excuse me, but I would like to differ.” Blatant disagreement can throw other people off guard and create resentment against you in their mind. Using the above-mentioned prefix sentence will mentally prepare the listener without catching them unawares.

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS – Disagreements are likely to take place when a decision needs to be taken. Disagreement from a single person can sometimes lead to a delayed decision which may not be viewed positively by the rest of the group. They might express their resentment very openly. If you believe that you had a very strong and valid reason to disagree, then rest assured you have done the right thing by expressing your disagreement or difference of opinion. At the same time, it is better to take responsibility for your actions and convince the rest of the group about the validity of your disagreement. This can be help them in gaining a better understanding of your viewpoint and it could also help in swaying them towards you.

REMEMBER IT IS OK TO SAY NO – While some people can be convinced about your difference in opinion, it might prove to be a more difficult task to convince every member of the  group. It is better to stay mentally prepared for opposition and criticism from one or many individuals. They are also likely to make you go on a guilt-trip so that you withdraw your disagreement. If you are convinced that you are doing the right thing by disagreeing, stick to your guns. Always remember:

  • It is ok to say no
  • If you are alone in your disagreement, it is because others are afraid of getting isolated
  • Stand-alone but stand strong when you disagree



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