I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and he was telling me about this problem he had with a neighbor of his. His neighbor is an old widower, and kind of a lonely guy. I guess his loneliness has caused him to be less polite than you’d normally expect, as he is always imposing himself on my friend.
He’ll come over several times a week, many times without any reason, and just to have somebody to talk to. On the one hand, my friend can appreciate his situation, his kids and grandkids all live in a different state, and the old guy apparently doesn’t like to leave the apartment complex. So it’s easy to have sympathy for somebody like that, but lets be honest. Sympathy can only go so far. Pretty soon your good manners wear thin, and you start to think of reasons to get rid of the guy.
It’s gotten to the point where my friend feels anxious when he goes to do laundry in the shared laundry room. I guess he’s been caught a couple of times loading and unloading clothes, and dragged into some lengthy conversation about times past.
Then his girlfriend suggested he read a book called “When I Say No I Feel Guilty” by Smith. I checked the book out, because my friend really said it helped him. It is a book filled with helpful advice, and strategies to become more assertive. It was written during the seventies, so it’s filled with some references that don’t really work anymore, but the underlying concepts are just as powerful.
Not only can you effectively say “no” to people and reclaim your time, but you can avoid manipulation, and stay out of arguments with no end in sight you’d otherwise get dragged into. The great thing is that the concepts are really easy to understand and apply.
Here is one of my favorites.
One is called the broken record. This is for when you are talking to a salesperson, or a clerk at a store, and they are being less than helpful. Basically it works so well because it effectively defeats any argument somebody throws at you for not being able to do what you are requesting. It’s pretty simple, and works like this.
You figure out what you want, let’s say you want to return or exchange a book you bought at a private bookstore. (Most large chains have a pretty good return policy, so you likely won’t need these skills there.)
So you figure how to word your request, for example:
“I’d like to return this book.”
So far so good, right? Likely, you’ll get some reason why you can’t, especially if it is a family owned store. Even if they have a big sign stating “NO REFUNDS,” this will still work. Small stores (even huge international chains) can pretty much do what they want, despite the seemingly rigidness of their policies. Its’ not like the refund police is going to pop in out of thin air and arrest everybody.
So you say:
“I’d like to return this book.”
And they say:
“We can’t because of blah blah blahâ€¦”
The great part is that it doesn’t matter at all what they say for the “blah blah blah” part. You just say:
“I understand that, and I’d like to return this book.”
And just keep repeating this until they cave in, which they usually do pretty quickly when they realize what they are up again. Can you see why this is called the broken record technique? It’s important to stay as calm as possible, and not get angry. It helps to even try not to listen to their excuse at all. Just imagine they are on of those teachers on those old Charlie Brown cartoons.
There are many other techniques in this book, which can do wonders for all your relationships. It’s considered one of the classics of assertiveness, and has helped millions of people since it’s publication. I strongly suggest you pick it up; you can probably buy a used on Amazon for a couple bucks. It’ s great to have a couple copies around to refer to whenever you wish you would have handled a situation a little bit better, so you can study up and improve for the next time.