Nobody likes to say “no” to a friend or colleague, but sometimes we just have to say it. The word’s surprisingly tough to say for most of us, and The Wall Street Journal dug into why that is.
Picture: Tom Woodward/Flickr
As you’d expect, part of the reason we struggle to say “no” is that we’re guilty, but that’s not the whole story:
“One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong,” Dr. Bohns says. “Saying “no” feels threatening to our relationships and that feeling of connectedness.” And we worry that saying “no” will change the way the other person views us, and make him or her feel badly.
Sadly, it often does hurt feelings. “No” is a rejection. Neuroscience has shown our brains have a greater reaction to the negative than to the positive. Negative information produces a bigger and swifter surge of electrical activity in the cerebral cortex than does positive information. Negative memories are stronger than positive ones. All of this is to protect us: A strong memory of something hurtful helps us remember to avoid it in the future.
Even so, psychologists say, most people probably won’t take our “no” as badly as we think they will. That’s because of something called a “harshness bias” — our tendency to believe others will judge us more severely than they actually do. “Chances are the consequences of saying “no” are much worse in our heads than they would ever be in reality,” Dr. Bohns says.
Thankfully, you can get over this bias and everything that comes with it. We’ve talked about plenty of ways to say “no/” without being a jerk, but knowing why it’s so hard to do makes it a little easier.
Ways to Say ‘No’ More Effectively [The Wall Street Journal]