How To Say No – And Why You Must Say It

As a teacher at a private school, the most important word I have learned how to say is “no.”

Even in public schools, teachers get asked to do a lot. The state, school board, community, parents, students, and administration all seem to ask more and more (often without an increase in pay). This is why one of the most valuable words you can learn to say is “no.” You are only a human being, who has other needs outside of work. Nobody does a good job at something they either resent doing, or don’t have time to do. If something is outside of your job duties, and you don’t have time to do it well, it is important to be able to set boundaries.

So, I believe that unless you have time to do something, or it is clearly in your job duties (and therefore you must do it – if you want to keep your job) you must respect your time, and that of your family and friends, by saying “no” when necessary. However, saying “no” can be difficult. Most of us want to support our schools and students, and of course, to keep our jobs.

Below are two ways to say “no” in an effective way. Once again, I thank Marshall Rosenberg, developer of “Non-Violent Communication” for these ideas. I highly suggest you check out his books and CDs.

1. Show the person you really are concerned with their feelings and needs

Most people are not total sponges. They are asking you to do something because they need you to do something for them. It is important when saying “no” to convey that even though you are saying “no,” you are in touch with their feelings and needs. So, instead of curtly saying “no” or expressing anger that you have once again been asked to do something you don’t have time for, express it something like this “I know you are in a tight spot, and that is frustrating, but I don’t have the time right now.” You can also show concern by using a non-aggressive tone of voice with relaxed body language.

2. Try to meet as many needs as possible

Even if you can’t meet a person’s need, find a way to meet that need. Maybe you know somebody that is free that weekend, or who can help that student after school. So instead of just saying “no,” you can say “I can’t make it to the litter clean-up, but just yesterday Mr. Glockner was saying he was looking for a chance for his students to do some civic work…”

If you say “no” in these two ways, people are more likely to hear your “no” in the best possible way.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.