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How To Say No–Nicely

By Vicki Rackner MD

What do you say when someone asks for your time or your energy or your attention that you don’t have to give?  Learning how to graciously decline a request helps you stay in the long caregiving marathon. Here’s a tip that will help you say no –nicely.

You can smooth the sharp edges of “no” by making a “no sandwich.” The “meat” of the message is “I would love to help, but not this time.”  It’s delivered between slices of caring and compassion.

First, communicate that you heard the request and you “get it.” “I completely understand why it’s so important to get to the meeting.  People are counting on you!”

Then deliver “No” seasoned with empathy.  “I wish I could help.  It’s just not in the stars today.”  No need to elaborate.  The person who asked does not need to know that you’re planning to take a nap or get your long-neglected haircut.

End with a statement of your support and confidence in their ability to work it out. “I know how resourceful you are.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to make this happen.”

Just like any new skill, saying no feels uncomfortable the first few times.  That’s okay.  It gets easier with time. Saying no is like plugging your cell phone into the charger, allowing you to say yes when it’s really important.

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