How to Soften Rejection With a Positive Message
A straight no makes you callous. Saying a lot of things that aren't no but add up to no makes you squirrelly. Saying yes when you're thinking no makes you a liar. Any of those is a bad idea. The right way to say no is to combine all three approaches into a kind of super no -- a negative accompanied by a whole bunch of positives.
First, A Little Empathy
A no means more than just a rejection of a request; it means a rejection of the requester. It means a rejection of the requester's belief in the rightness of his or her cause. (And disagreements over belief always get dicey.)
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