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Saying ‘no’ activities


We are trying to spice up our conflict management workshop and are looking for an activity to practise 'saying no'.

Based on our pre-class work we have discovered that approximately 90% of our participants find this a real struggle. Although this is a very simple topic to train, it is a hard one to put into practise.

Peggy Hoogstoel
Peggy Hoogstoel

3 Responses

  1. Try these
    Hi Peggy

    I use the following, very short, scenarios – they require very little explanation and so take only a short time:

    1. A friend asks you to look after his/her dog for the weekend – you’re not keen on dogs.

    2. Someone asks you to lend them a fiver which would leave you short of cash and needing to go to the bank.

    3. Your boss asks you to work late/over the weekend and you don’t want to.

    I put the emphasis on saying (and meaning!) no, and avoiding the temptation to go into long explanations as to why you can’t help.

    Hope this gives you a start.


  2. Saying ‘No’
    I’d like to support Jenny’s suggestion of adding no (or minimal) explanation when saying ‘No’. Otherwise, you may only open up further unhelpful discussion or even debate.

    This works very well the other way round too, when asking somebody to do something, especially at work, who doesn’t really want to (as long as it is a reasonable and ethical request!). Just ask, no explanations, and repeat the request until compliance.

    You can demonstrate this brilliantly in a workshop if you are a trainer. I first came across this at Cranfield 20+ years ago – perhaps you know how it works?

    One by one, go round each participant and ask him/her to stand against the wall. No explanations, no discussion, lots of eye-contact, a smile if necessary, but clear persistance. Pass over those who won’t comply after several repeated requests if you have to (but leave the difficult folk to last!). I find at least 98% will comply – even very very senior people.

    Then ask why they stood against the wall. The usual response is: ‘because you asked’. Having apologised for making them feel awkward, and that it was just a demonstration to make the point, ask what would have happened if you had allowed discussions, questions or even a debate. Most will say instantly that they would have refused.

    Good luck!


  3. Saying ‘no’ in negotiation skills training
    The most effective method I have come across is in Negotiation Skills training. 2 sides are trying to get to a compromise situation. This means give and take on both sides, however there are some core elements that your side is not prepared to concede.

    Brief each participant on the scenario and give them 3 sets of data 1. things they can concede without compromising their desired end result 2. things that they might be prepared to compromise but only with some sort of quid pro quo on the other side 3. elements that they are not willing to compromise on – the final “No”.

    The strategy is to be seen to be giving ground on those elements that are in category 1 and 2 but keeping 3 out of the situation.

    However if pressed on cat 3 issues the individual tries to find a cat 3 element on the other sides argument.

    In negotiation skills the background is that you still have to maintain a relationship with the person you might say no to.


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