How to say no

How to Say NO with Confidence in dealing with various people:

Dealing with demanding moms and dads (or other older relatives)

If you know that your parents will be disappointed (i.e., you won't be home for the holidays), tell them as far in advance as possible and repeat often.

Dealing with our partners/spouses

It is important to share the power in relationships. You can never be happy if you try to say NO and your partner/spouse usurps the power by threatening to leave, or threatens you verbally or physically. Our biggest fear in relationships is abandonment or loss.

At the office

Saying NO to a boss in these challenging economic times is very difficult. If you have a very good reason for saying NO to something your boss asks you to do (such as a very important family commitment), offer an alternative way to complete the task so that (ideally) neither your boss nor you are disappointed.

To a pushy friend

People who are pushy don't hear NOs so it's an opportunity to practice your most forceful NOs. They won't be offended-they're used to it. And it's a good way to strengthen your NO muscle for situations in which you need to be forceful-such as in the face of an assault.

To an adult child who won't grow up (as in, "no, I will not lend you money to buy a house")

Your adult children will not disappear if you say NO. Sure, they will be disappointed. But you can explain why you're saying NO, and they may even learn something about limits from your ability to set them.

About Nanette Gartrell, MD:
Nanette Gartrell, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Center of Excellence in Women's Health for the University of California, San Francisco, was previously a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She is a clinician and researcher whose ground-breaking investigations have been published in professional journals and cited in the media. Dr. Gartrell has appeared on network television (including Good Morning America, NBC Weekend, Fox News), on National Public Radio, and in documentaries produced for PBS, Showtime, and French and German public television. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and the Christian Science Monitor. Dr. Gartrell has a private practice, and she volunteers her psychiatric services to chronically mentally ill homeless people. She lives in San Francisco with her spouse and Maltese dog.

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