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The six steps to saying 'no':

1 Keep the reply short Simply say No and recognise that it is unnecessary to justify your decision or to make excuses.

2 Acknowledge the response Recognise the person's feelings and avoid becoming emotionally involved. You could say, for example, 'Yes, I can see how you might think that, but my answer is still no.'

3 Use the repeat button Find an expression that succinctly expresses your wishes and repeat them until the other person realises you mean what you say.

4 Self disclosure Be honest about your feelings at that exact moment. You might say, for example, 'I feel awkward having to refuse/uneasy when you raise your voice. Avoid accusing ('You make me feel . . .').

5 Show empathy Express how you feel, again using the 'I button' ('I do understand how difficult it is; however my answer is still no.')

6 A workable compromise Seek an alternative solution.

Meet the other person half way without losing your self-esteem ('I can't stay late tonight, but I could come in earlier tomorrow if that would help.').

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