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Not everyone accepts the word “no” gracefully. Robin Stern, PhD, a psychoanalyst and the associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, recommends the following approach when dealing with someone who resists your no:

  • Be both firm and kind.
  • Remember that you don’t need the person to accept your refusal. You just need to say it and stick to it.
  • If you’d like, you can add, “I understand this is hard to accept,” or “I wish I felt differently.”
  • If the person still won’t back down, tell him or her that you feel uncomfortable. Be clear about your feelings.
  • If the person still won’t relent, then it’s probably a good time to reevaluate the relationship. Is it worth keeping?

This originally appeared in “The Freedom of No” in the May 2017 issue of Experience Life.

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  1. I agree with most of this article and am happy to see more on the topic these days. I am learning firsthand that saying NO (exercising healthy boundaries) may not feel comfortable for me all the time, but it is worth the temporary discomfort. And each time I do it, I feel a bit better and it gets a little easier. I know a lot of boundary crashers and I would not recommend saying “I wish I felt differently” unless you really DO wish you felt differently. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “It appears that you wish I felt differently, but I am still going to have to say no.” or even not to make a qualifying statement at all.

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