Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to say ‘no’. It is a simple word, but it just feels wrong to say ‘no’ when someone asks for a favour. Of course saying ‘no’ is easy if you don’t care about the person. What if you did care about the person, but you still wanted to say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings.
An example of a Risk game may clarify this. Suppose you are playing Risk online and your strategy is to conquer a continent such as South America. You also have some armies in Europe. A player approaches you and asks you to move your armies out of Europe. You want to say ‘no’. However, you want to say it in such a way that your opponent doesn't become hostile to you. There is no point in making enemies in the process. How do you do this?
Research shows that if you provide a reason when you say ‘no’, it will be much easier to get accepted by the other side. Do you have to provide a valid and rational reason? It turns out that you don't even need to provide a valid reason. All you need to say is ‘because’. Yes, that's it. Just using the keyword will do the trick. We are conditioned to hear valid and legitimate reasons as soon as we hear ‘because’. It seems that, in certain circumstances, we pay no attention to what follows after ‘because’. As long as there is a reason, all should be fine!
Hence, in this example, you can say, “No, I can't, because I am going to use my armies.” The reason isn't really adding anything; it's there to show that you have a reason! To make this sentence even better you should follow it up with a request of your own. This way, the other person is confronted with a dilemma. If he wants you to do anything, he is also obliged to accept your request. If your request is bigger than his, he would have difficulty accepting it which means he should have no hard feelings when you say no to his request.
As you can see, this technique only works effectively if your request is unlikely to get accepted by him. If he accepts your request, you have to fulfil his request as well. In any case, in order to be on the safe side, demand a lot. If he accepts it, you haven't got much to lose by doing the small favour for him in return for your outrageous demand.
In this example you can respond by, “No, I can't, because I am going to use my armies. But funny you mention this, I was going to ask if you could remove all your armies from Africa.” If he doesn't agree, he shouldn't have any hard feelings. If he agrees, you have almost got a deal for yourself, hopefully biased towards you.
Another way to control the situation is to give positive results instantly, showing that you are interested to satisfy his request (and sometimes you can actually be genuinely interested). By giving a positive response, you indicate that you have no problem on the outset with his request. Later of course, you can look at it in more details and then go back, apologise and explain why you can't do what he asked for. People accept reasons much easier than if they are flatly refused with no explanation. They understand excuses because they might have been in the same situation themselves.
Remember, you don't have to do anything just because someone asked. It could affect you far more than you think. Evaluate it before you accept a favour and always be prepared to say ‘No’.