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  • Adil Malia

'No Means No'

It pays in life to be assertive. Do not let someone push you to 'Yes' when you have said 'NO'.  But there are better ways of saying that 'NO' without the recipient losing his face or feeling rejected. Assertive messaging is important but doing it gracefully and with empathy is more critical. Let us explore the ways to say 'No'. But before that let us understand the concept of social 'face'. In 1963 the Canadian sociologist Goffman propounded the concept of 'face'. It is about ones comparative social prestige in relation to others. Every average human being has an inner desire  to have a 'Positive Face' (be seen by others as a good and respectable person) and not have a 'Negative Face' (the desire to remain autonomous). Receiving 'NO' for a response may disturb an individual's equilibrium of his social  'Face' and thus has to be dealt with acute sensitivity and mature mindfulness. 'Politeness Theory' propounded by Brown & Levinson suggests ways of speaking which people could generally adopt. Some of these ways may antagonize listeners whilst some others may maintain the social 'face' equilibrium. Message conveyed with prestige and esteem in-tact The 4 Speaking ways are : 1. 'Bold on Record' : The 'Nay' sayer says it straight to face - "No, it can't be done". Recommended for use on rare occasions in emergencies to convey the message straight on. Ideally, avoidable. 2. 'Positive Politeness' : The Nay sayer phrases the message & conveys the same by using polite language. 3. 'Negative Politeness' : It conveys the nay message to the recipient by empathizing with his situation to ensure that his/her potential for Negative Face does not disturb his Positive Face. 4. Off-record : The Nay sayer drops a hint and builds up a backdrop before communicating the ultimate negative message. Early preparation ensures smooth acceptance. The otherwise negative message now can have a soft landing ! Stand your ground. Say 'No' It is important. But making someone lose his social face is not the purpose. Develop mastery in conveying the Negative messaging. Relationships are critical. Let communicating the 'Nay', not disturb that purpose. 

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