saying no

Reader L. B. asks:

How can someone with problems saying no, effectively tell the door to door salesmen that she is not interested?

Dear L.B.,

I have found that the modern woman tends to have two problems: first, it doesn’t occur to her to ask for what she needs (like a raise at work, or a discount at a store), and second, she has trouble saying no. They’re both a symptom of the same problem, in my opinion. A lot of us have been raised to be nice girls. We’re supposed to be demure and long-suffering, selfless, calm, and not needy. We’re supposed to do things for other people. All the time. So when someone asks us to do something, even if we don’t have time, patience, resources, or interest, we tend to say yes. Or we treat people who really shouldn’t be given the time of day as if they deserve our attention, as is your problem with the door-to-door salesmen.

A mutual friend of ours recommended that you just not answer the door. That’s a great solution, if you know in time who it is. Usually when the doorbell (or phone) rings, we modern ladies have a Pavlovian response to jump up and answer it. True, you can still leave the door closed, even if they’ve heard you, but you may feel a bit rude.

I’m going to recommend you practice saying no.

Just Say NO. Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Start small and make it just practice. Sit down with a friend and have them ask you to do things and just say no. Make it a game. High five each other. Have her ask you to help paint her house, and say NO! Have her ask you if you want to go see a movie you’re not interested in, and then say NO!

Then move on to real world situations. This is a bit harder in terms of practice, because you never know when the opportunity is going to arise for you to say no. Door-to-door salespeople are actually an ideal time to practice saying no, because they have no real impact on your life and you probably won’t ever see them again.

When they come to your door, open up politely, listen to them for a moment, and if they keep going on, interrupt. (That’s probably the hardest part.) In your early practice, you can have an excuse for why you’re saying no. “I’ve got something on the stove, I can’t really talk right now.” “I’m unemployed right now, and I can’t afford to buy your product. Sorry.”

But as you develop better nay-saying skills, you’ll be able to simply say, “I’m not interested.”

Or even a simple, “No, thanks.”

Remember that saying no doesn’t mean you’re rude. It doesn’t mean you’re a mean person. It means you’re self aware, and you know what you want. These are admirable traits. And saying no can keep you out of a pickle — you’ll be much better off if you can say no when first asked, rather than beating around the bush, backing out later, or overcommitting yourself.

After you’ve gone through a few religious proselytizers, vacuum cleaner salesmen, and those kids who are selling magazine subscriptions, you’ll be ready for the real test: your friends, family, and coworkers.

When someone asks you to do something that you simply don’t want to do, acknowledge that you simply don’t want to do it. Tell them the truth — you’ve got too much going on; you don’t think your heart would be in it; you really just don’t like singing karaoke. Again, if they are really your good friends or if they’re nice people, they’ll be able to accept a simple no. However, it is nice to give the people you like an explanation sometimes.

After a few times, saying no will become much easier. You’ll be a pro.


1 Response to “saying no”

  1. 1 Nick
    March 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    All women I ask out must have gone through your extensive “No” training…. so, thanks for that Kat. 🙂


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