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When to Say No

All reasonable people prefer to avoid arguments, but sometimes you must say “no”.

In these circumstances, you may have to ask for things that are really yours, stand your ground, disagree or argue, either because you’ll lose something material, or because your integrity would be hopelessly compromised if you didn’t.

Unfortunately, if you say “no” you must face the possibility of feeling disliked, or actually being disliked, irrespective of how skillfully you do it. In addition, as a civilized person, you will suffer an empathic discomfort if you feel you are disappointing someone.

Sometimes, if you hold onto your idea or position, you may lose love and approval. However, if you let go of your position when you know you shouldn’t, you are diminished and lose something of yourself.

In saying yes, there is a more immediate reward in agreement than in refusal, which is why it is so tempting to say “yes”.

If you have thought through the balance of profit and loss and you really don’t want to say “yes”, it is not too hard to work out when you ought to say “no”.

If you are going to be angry or belittled by agreeing to something, you should probably refuse.

In summary, you are good and wise if you give as much as you can, but it must be short of the resentment barrier.

The above piece is drawn from one of my favourite books, An Intelligent Life by Julian Short.