How do you say no:

A student today asked me “how do you say no if someone is set on some treatment and I do not think it is appropriate for them?”

The key to answering this question is a basic principle for “how do you say no” regardless of context.

Reality is ambiguous. There is never just 1 way to look at any 1 thing thus “how do you say no” is really the wrong question as it assumes there is ever only two choices, yes or no.

A better question when someone comes with an agenda is rather, “Is there a reason for me to not agree.”

The litmus test for me regarding “Is there a reason for me to not agree” (outside of obvious reasons that it is just the wrong thing to do) boils down to “Do I trust them?” If I do then they have already reasoned the situation out for me and if there is no reason for me not to agree then easy peasy my work is done. But if I don’t trust them then it would be unwise for me to agree to a perspective that not only might not be true but I sense is not true. That is a set up for failure and doesn’t do me or the client any good. Thus I am not really saying no but just stating I can’t agree with said plan or desire as I don’t feel it is the best option for either of us. If they can reasonably discuss it and come up with an acceptable alternative then that goes a long way for establishing the trust I am looking for and I might then even be more agreeable at our next encounter?

If they can’t discuss it or just perseverate on their agenda  I don’t have to say no as I can’t really say anything – end of discussion. “We are not a good fit for each other.  I can refer to someone else to work with.”


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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