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Emotionally Intelligent People Use This Brilliant 5-Word Phrase to Say No With Confidence (and Stop Talking)

Ι  have a confession to make: I’m a chronic overexplainer.

Maybe you can relate. Have you ever replied like this:

In an email: Sorry for the delayed reply; it’s been completely crazy …

When someone tries to sell you something: Sorry, I can’t purchase your service right now. I really like it, but we just don’t have the budget because we’ve already purchased …

When you can’t accept an invitation: Sorry, I can’t make it; I have a very early appointment the next morning …

If you have, chances are you’re an overexplainer too.

Overexplainers often have good intentions. You may be a high-empathy person (that’s a strength but it can also be a weakness), so you worry a lot about how others think and feel. The problem is, overexplaining kills your confidence. Additionally, you may actually add anxiety to the other person, who feels the need to assuage your feelings.

But why do you overexplain? And how can you break out of it and become more confident?

Psychologist and best-selling author Nicole LePera recently shared a brilliant five-word formula for breaking this nasty habit, and it goes like this:

Appreciation + the no + well wishes

Why is this formula so effective? To help answer that question, let’s use emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions, to help us understand exactly why we tend to overexplain. Then, we’ll see how and why this phrase is so effective at stopping it. (If you find value in this lesson, you might be interested in my free course, which teaches you how to build emotional intelligence in yourself and your team.)

Why you overexplain

So, why do we overexplain in the first place? LePera dived into this topic in a recent Twitter thread.

“Overexplaining is a habit response where we attempt to rid ourselves of guilt or anxiety by providing a ‘right’ answer to someone,” writes LePera. “The root of overexplaining comes from patterns of fawning or people-pleasing. Many of us believe in order to say ‘no’ or to not do something, we need to provide a reasoning that won’t disappoint or upset others.”

When overexplaining, you might notice it feels like you’re out of control and can’t stop talking. LePera further explains, “This is because of the nervous system and the messaging it’s getting that saying no is a threat or a danger.”

The truth, though, is that most adults are capable of hearing no. Best-case scenario, they don’t think twice about it. And worst-case, they are disappointed for a short time, and then they get over it.

Even more important, saying no in certain circumstances is an important part of learning to respect our own limits and boundaries.

Of course, for some relationships or situations, we owe an explanation. As a business owner, you may need to provide context to certain clients or partners–at least at times–lest you risk damaging your relationship with them.

But if there’s one thing the “Tom Hanks Rule” teaches us, it’s that every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you do. That’s why you need to learn how to say no, and to do so in a way in which you’re not adding extra stress or anxiety–to you, or the person you’re saying no to–by overexplaining.

How to say no and stop talking

So, how do you break the nasty habit of overexplaining?

“You practice,” says LePera. “Over and over again, until our nervous system adapts and our window of stress tolerance gets wider and wider.”

“With practice, we’ll learn that people actually appreciate short, concise answers. And confidence in saying no actually creates respect between people,” she says.

Which brings us back to that brilliant five-word formula:

Appreciation + the no + well wishes

Here’s how it works:

“Thank you so much for thinking of me (appreciation). I actually don’t have time in my schedule right now (the no). I know it will be a great event (well wishes).”

“Thanks for sharing what you’re up to (appreciation). Right now, I’m not in the market for [this product] (the no). I wish you the best with this (well wishes).”

“I love that you’re passionate about this (appreciation). I won’t be able to make it (the no). Let me know how it goes, though; I know you’ll crush it (well wishes).”

LePera shares a final tip:

“If you’re a chronic overexplainer, you’ll notice a pull to make the no sentence long-winded,” writes LePera. “Practice keeping this super short and not providing an excuse beyond what is actually true (e.g., ‘I don’t have time in my schedule right now.’)”

So, the next time you’re tempted to overexplain, remember the formula:

Appreciation + the no + well wishes

Doing so will lift the burden of defending your choices, and give you the freedom to actually enjoy them.



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