Ever been caught wanting (really, really, really wanting) to say no to someone… but you just couldn’t? It’s totally normal, says etiquette expert Anna Musson. But it’s also kinda bonkers – you’re allowed to say no, so here’s how to tackle three particularly perilous situations.
Say no to… a hairdresser
Hairdressers are a lot like boys: when they’re good, you’ll do anything to keep seeing them. When they’re bad, they make you want to turn and run in the opposite direction, stopping only to pick up icecream on the way home. And look, we’ve all been there with hairdressers – you tell them you “just want a trim” and walk out with Miley’s new mop. Eek.
If your hairdresser suggests a new style to you, it can be hard to say no. They’re older than you and more experienced, so often you might feel like you have to agree to their ideas. But you don’t. If you feel uncomfortable, Anna says you could try using a “compliment sandwich”. Start with something nice (“I love coming here…”), then insert your criticism (“…but I’d really just like to stick to what we discussed before…”) and end with a question (“Is that OK with you?”). It’s polite, but firm.
Say no to… a charity worker
This is a tough one, because, in an ideal world, we’d all like to be able to help those less fortunate than us. So when charity workers hit you up for donations on the street, it can be hard to say no.
After all, doesn’t that make you… well, a bad person? Not at all, says Anna. “As a teenager, you don’t have a lot of money, and most people will respect that.” If you want to avoid confrontation altogether, Anna suggests “having a look on your face that suggests you’re busy and can’t stop.” And if you are stopped, you could politely say, “I’m so sorry, I can’t talk right now” or “I’m sorry – I’d like to be able to help but I don’t have a full-time job.”
There are plenty of other ways you can help out – visit volunteer.com.au for a list of volunteering opportunities in your area.
Say no to… a friend
Maybe your friend wants you to pick her up on your way to school. For the 15000th time. Maybe she’s asking you to lend her some money – and you just don’t have it. Or maybe she wants you to do something risky, that makes you uncomfortable.
Whatever it is, you’re totally within your rights to say no to a friend. Again, Anna suggests beginning with a positive (like, “I really value our friendship…”) and then delivering the no blow (“…but I can’t do that right now.”) Anna says it’s often better to be vague about the reasons you can’t do something, as that way, your friend can’t argue with you.
Whatever you do, don’t lie – like Anna says, it’s too hard to remember what you’ve lied about!