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.”