40 Highlights From 7 Easy Ways to Say NO to Difficult People by Stephanie Sterner

1. Those who care about you will understand your need to put yourself first once in a while. And those who don’t will struggle to deal with the new you: someone who can no longer be intimidated by a look, a tone of voice, or an unrealistic demand. This new you will quickly learn how to respond to different types of people and situations without sacrificing what matters to you: your time, your relationships, and your good feelings about yourself.

2. The world is full of people who aren’t afraid to ask for what they want … no matter how unreasonable the request may be. And they know that the world is also full of people who will give them what they want – with a bit of persistence.

3.In our sometimes desperate need to feel good about ourselves, we make choices that don’t serve us. We want others to like us, and we want to believe that we’re good people. When others approve of us (as they will when we do things for them that they have no right to expect), we temporarily feel better. Guilt is replaced by a sense of relief. “I really am a good person!”

4. But trying to keep everyone happy keeps you miserable. When you need someone’s approval, that person has power over you. When you want to avoid conflict, anyone who’s willing to argue has power over you. If you’re going to take your life back, you’ll need to let go of the idea that everyone must be (or even can be) happy. You’ll need to be willing to move out of your comfort zone when necessary.

5. Setting boundaries allows you to see what your relationships are really based on – friendship or convenience. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who are only with you because it’s convenient – because you consistently put their needs ahead of your own?

6. The 1st Easy Way Buy Yourself Some Time 

7. Often we put pressure on ourselves (or succumb to the pressure of others) to make an instant decision, to know exactly what we can and cannot do without any time for contemplation. While some decisions may be that simple (“ Hey, wanna go grab a pizza?”), others are not. When the decision isn’t a simple one, give yourself whatever time you need.

8. Once you commit to something, you’ll find it difficult to un-commit.

9. It can be tough to find the words in the moment, so here are some great ways to give yourself the gift of time: 

   a. Let me see how my day goes. 

   b. I’ll let you know tomorrow. 

   c. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you this afternoon. 

   d. I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that. 

   e. I’ll let you know in the morning. 

   f. I’ll need to check my other commitments. 

   g. Please send me an email with the details. 

   h. I’m taking a friend to the airport tomorrow, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it. 

   i. Can I check my schedule and get back to you in the morning? 

   j. Co-signing a loan is more than a formality. It affects what I can borrow in the future. Let me know the details and I’ll think about it. 

   k. I’ll need to give that some thought. Let’s talk about it on Monday. 

   l. I feel uncomfortable agreeing to that, but I’m not sure why. Let me think about it and get back to you.

   m. Send me your business plan and I’ll think about it. 

   n. I can’t even think about the weekend yet. Ask me again on Thursday morning.

10.Over-explaining is a way of giving away your power. It gives the other person something to argue with. This tactic can be used to wear you down, whether you’re explaining your need for more time or the reason for your final decision. Don’t give your power to someone who will disrespect it.

11. Stating that you’re not sure you feel comfortable lets the person know that you may come back with a no.

12. The downside of this option is that someone who is less interested in your wellbeing may take the opportunity to pressure you. A “friend” (whom you see at social gatherings but don’t spend any one-on-one time with) may immediately want to know why you’re not comfortable. Don’t fall for this! When someone who isn’t close to you wants to know why you might not do something, it’s most likely the beginning of a long “debate.” Don’t let someone you hardly know talk you into doing something you don’t feel good about. If someone asks why, you can give a general response that simply reiterates your possible discomfort and your commitment to responding: 

I’m just not sure. I’ll let you know in the morning.

13. Repetition, as you’ll see later on, is a fairly powerful way of stating your boundary. It lets the other person know that you’re not backing off.

14. When the other person has authority over you, asking is a way of acknowledging their position. When the relationship is important for other reasons (as it is with those close to you), asking can be a nice way to communicate that. 

15. When the other person isn’t close to you and doesn’t have authority over you, asking permission is seldom a good idea. It gives the other person power over you – a power that they haven’t earned and may abuse.

16. The 2nd Easy Way Think Outside the Box

17. Rather than thinking about what you don’t want, shift your thinking to what you do want.

18.Look for Other Options Your brother wants you to babysit on Friday night. You have a good relationship with him; you enjoy spending time with his children. And he doesn’t ask you for much, so you’d like to help. But you work long hours during the week, and by Friday you’re tired. Friday night is your night. You don’t want to give it to anyone – especially if it means tiring yourself out even more! You want a quiet Friday evening, but you also want to help your brother. So start with the basics: What’s happening on Friday night? Your brother wants to surprise his wife and take her to a concert. (She loves classical music.) He chose Friday because it would be nice for them to relax at the end of the week. Now that you understand his needs, it’s time to express yours. I’d love to help; you and Susan certainly deserve a night to yourselves, and I love spending time with the kids. But Fridays are difficult for me. I feel drained at the end of the week, and I really need the time to relax and recharge. I’d feel overwhelmed by the kids instead of enjoying the time with them. What about Saturday night? Would that work for you? Saturday is probably fine. And if it isn’t, keep looking for more options. Maybe Mom can join you, so that you won’t feel so overwhelmed (not ideal, but maybe you’re willing to do it for your brother). Or maybe your brother can take his children to other relatives or friends who would be happy to look after them. You don’t have to be physically present for the solution. Just help your brother to get what matters to him while still respecting your own needs. Thinking out of the box is an important skill.

19. The trick is to understand what everyone wants and find a solution that honors everyone – including you. Often this is easier than it seems. And when it isn’t … well, there are still five more tips to help you keep those important boundaries in place!

20. The 3rd Easy Way Recognize Flattery for What It Is

21. “I know I can count on you when I’m in a pinch. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I can’t help you this time. But you’ll do just fine without me. The relevant facts are simple: you’re not available, and although your assistance makes things easier, it’s not necessary.

22. This tactic contains a double whammy: the power of flattery and the power of guilt. He knows he can count on you because you’ve bailed him out before – far too many times, in fact. Taking responsibility for someone else’s mistakes on a regular basis is not a badge of honor. It’s a pattern that leads to anger and resentment – and often prevents us from doing the things that truly matter to us.

23. The 4th Easy Way No Excuses, No Justifications

24.  Some people will use anything you say against you. When you give them a reason, they’ll come up with a way to rearrange your life so that you can still accommodate them.

25. So don’t say so much. Making excuses means handing your power to others; it suggests you must justify yourself to them. Unless you’re dealing with someone in authority, say as little as possible. Don’t let anyone talk you into something you’ll regret later.

26. Here are some ways to hold on to your power and just say no: 

    I can’t help you with that. 

    I won’t be there. 

    You’ll have to manage without me this time. 

 I’d really like to help you get that job. But I’m just not willing to recommend someone who doesn’t have the experience they require. This may sound like an excuse, but it isn’t. It’s a clear statement of where your boundary lies. “I don’t really know him so well,” is an excuse – unless it’s the primary reason you’re uncomfortable with the request. In that case, consider a stronger statement: 

I don’t know him well enough to contact him about this. It wouldn’t be appropriate. 

I’m not taking on any more commitments for a couple of weeks. 

If you still need help after the 15th, talk to me then and I’ll see what I can do. 

27. If the attempts continue, simply repeat your decision, either in the same words or with something similar: 

    I [still] can’t help you. 

    I won’t be there. 

    I understand. And you’ll have to manage without me. 

    I’m sorry, but it’s just not appropriate. 

    If you still need help after the 15th, I’ll see what I can do

28. What if they keep insisting?

29. With a bit of practice, you’ll need excuses less and less. Excuses are another way of giving away your power. When the relationship doesn’t justify it, making excuses tells the other person that you want him to be satisfied with your decision; you need his approval – which he can (and often will) withhold.

30. The 5th Easy Way Handle Manipulation Directly

31. If you’re susceptible to guilt, the people who know this have a degree of power over you. They’ve learned through experience that you’ll give them what they want in order to make that horrible feeling go away. Here are some examples, along with some ways to stop them in their tracks:


“You’re the only one who will help me. No one else cares.” 

This is a classic “poor me” scenario, with you as the hero. If you feel sorry for the underdog, then this one will pull on your heartstrings. Watch out or you’ll feel terribly sorry for this poor victim ... and painfully guilty until you agree to do whatever he’s asking.

32. “How can you be so selfish?” What this really means is, “How can you put your needs before mine?” Take a deep breath and remind yourself of this. With this understanding, all sorts of great responses come to mind. Here are just a few:

     a. I’m not going to feel guilty for putting my needs ahead of yours once in a while. Here you’re using the “g” word. You’ve named the tactic and directly stated that you won’t be giving in to it. You’ve also suggested that you’ve put the other person first more often than you should. It doesn’t get much clearer than this.


      b. I’ve done this out of guilt for years. My dues are more than paid. There’s that “g” word again! You’ve made it clear that your guilt has passed its sell-by date. Using it to manipulate you just won’t work.

33. Obligations don’t last forever. At some point you’ve done enough. It’s up to you to decide when you’ve reached that point. And it’s up to you to choose how to repay your obligations.

34. The 6th Easy Way Handle Manipulation Politely

35. Sometimes you don’t want to be that direct – either because you’re worried about the consequences, or because you have a strong need to be polite. Some of us just can’t be that direct (even when the other person’s behavior is beyond inappropriate). Sometimes we simply aren’t willing to face the likely political consequences.

36. “How can you be so selfish?” 

Remember that this really means, “How can you put your needs before mine?” Once you’ve taken that deep breath and reminded yourself of this, here are some more subtle ways to let people know that this strategy just won’t work with you:

Sometimes I need to put my own needs first. This is one of those times. You’ve restated the situation in your own terms and made it clear that you won’t accept the other’s arbitrary labels. You haven’t come out and accused the speaker of guilt-tripping, but you’ve still made it quite clear that you’re not falling for that trick. 

How interesting ... I’m actually starting to feel guilty about putting my own needs first. I guess I’m just not used to it yet. Let me know if you need anything after the 15th, and I’ll see what I can do. Then leave, hang up or (if neither of these is an option) change the subject. You’ve made your point: this attempt to make me feel guilty isn’t working, even though I do feel uncomfortable. I see what you’re up to. And I’m maintaining my boundary in spite of the discomfort. What makes these responses less direct – and more polite? In both cases, you’ve put everything in terms of yourself. There are no accusations, no statements about the inappropriateness of the other person’s actions, statements or feelings. The focus is on you, so wounded egos and aggressive responses are less likely.

37. The 7th Easy Way The Broken Record Technique 

38. The broken record technique can be used to reinforce any of the previous techniques. It’s most appropriate when you’ve stated your decision clearly and someone is still trying to talk you out of it. It’s also great for someone who just won’t take no for an answer.

This technique consists of repeating something over and over, until the other person finally figures out that you really mean it. 

39. The formula is simple: 

     a. State your decision simply, clearly and firmly. Your words, your tone and the expression on your face should all say the same thing: Yes, I really mean it. No, it’s not negotiable. 


     b. Repeat as needed.


40. When the answer is no, you don’t need to find ten different ways to say it. No is no. Nothing makes that point better than repetition.