Be firm but kind

"Somehow I will impress them / I will be firm but kind"
— Maria from The Sound of Music

Be firm but kind.

This piggybacks on the heels of non-compliance, "be able to say no." When a person says no, he or she should not feel guilty or waver. Apologizing for your no means you don't have your own mind (THERE ARE TIMES when it is okay to do this, however). Changing a "no" to a "yes" means you're, well, compliant — you're eager to please (there are occasional exceptions to this as well). Being rude with a "no" shows a lack of control. (There are no exceptions that allow rudeness.)

"But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." – Jesus from Matthew 5:37

Apologizing for your "no"
I struggle with this. Whenever I can't do something, I am always tempted to say "sorry" for no other reason than saying "sorry" is a bad habit.

Example: Your boss comes to you at 2 p.m. and asks you to stay past your normal 9-5 p.m. shift until 7 p.m. You already made plans for 7 p.m. so you can't do it. Most people say, "No, I'm sorry, I can't, but think about it: Are you really sorry? The appropriate response should be "No, I can't, I've already made plans for this evening." Bonus points for "If it's not urgent, I'll work on it tomorrow" only if you can fit it in your workload. If you can't (no bonus points here) DON'T DO IT.

Exceptions to this: When you are genuinely apologetic or are expressing sorrow. If you've taken on a task and realize that you cannot do it, offering an apology with a "no" any smooth ruffled feathers.

Changing "no" to "yes"
Don't do this often. Avoid it whenever possible. Changing a "no" to "yes" often shows that you have no backbone and are all too eager to please—which may be true, but you'd pay for it in the long run. People would take advantage of this knowing you'll change your mind because you always "come around." Don't fall into this trap and don't be fooled into always coming through at the last minute.

Example: Marie worked as a pharmacy technician at her local pharmacy. She was reliable, always on time and never said no when managers or coworkers asked her to accomplish a task. After two years of solid part-time work, she began getting calls at home on her day off to come into work at the last minute. Even though she had homework for college and studying to do, she would justify "coming through" at the last minute because she really needed the money and that they must really like her because she was the first person the manager called. Soon, Marie found herself working 6-7 days a week with a seemingly full-time status. Marie quickly became burned out and quit the pharmacy to focus on school. The pharmacy even called after she quit to rehire her (!) but Marie had all she could take – she was finally forced to quit and say "no." If Marie had learned her limit early on, she probably could have managed work and school easily.

Being rude
"No" does not need to be synonymous with nasty. Being firm and sticking to your guns is not mean at all. It shows that you've drawn your boundaries and there are limits to what you can (or will) do. "No" can be said politely, with a smile, firmly or even sternly. But turning a "no" into a "how could you even think of asking me that with my busy schedule" is unnecessary. Inevitably, feelings may get hurt with the word "no" but that's not being rude; what is rude is saying "yes" then not being able to come through as expected, i.e. dropping the ball. Save face by learning your limits early and saying "no" up front.

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