10 Effective Refusal Skills

Refusal Skills are the tools and techniques we use to reinforce our “No.” I enjoy teaching refusal skills and encouraging my clients to look beyond the word no, when establishing and reinforcing their boundaries.

Here are some things to consider when exploring and evaluating the sources of peer pressure you have experienced/are experiencing, and how these pressures look in your interaction with others.

1. Identify the kinds of things people may encourage you to do that go against your own values and ideas. Ex: Using substances, stealing/committing crime, skipping school, lying to a parent or significant other, changing your style of dress, changing your profession, etc.

2. What are the different styles of those who try to pressure you? Do they threaten to withhold a friendship/relationship? Do they insult you or call you names? Do they try to make you feel that you have to do it in order to be “cool?” Do they keep bugging you about it even after you’ve said no?

Techniques you can try in response to peer pressure:

  • Make a joke. Humor can sometimes lighten a serious mood and divert attention away from you and onto something else.
  • Give a reason why it’s a bad idea. Maybe you shouldn’t lie to a parent or spouse because you’re working on building trust. Maybe you don’t want to drink because someone close to you is an alcoholic and you’ve seen how addiction has affected their life. Maybe you shouldn’t steal because you’re already on probation/on punishment.
  • Make an excuse why you can’t. Maybe you have an appointment. Maybe your parents/partner are expecting you home by a certain time. Maybe a teacher has given you a second strike and you want to avoid a third.
  • Just say no, plainly and firmly. Sometimes a strong and determined “No” is enough. Say what you mean with no room for argument.
  • Suggest an alternative activity. Maybe your time would be better spent working on an assignment/project, taking a nap, going to the park, playing a game, cleaning the house, running an errand – Anything but what was suggested.
  • Ignore the question. Pretend you didn’t hear the suggestion and change the topic to something else.
  • Repeat yourself if necessary. Sometimes it takes more than once on more than one occasion to get your point across. Some people will test your boundaries – stand strong in reinforcing your “no.”
  • Leave the situation. If you become uncomfortable or other options aren’t working/available, walk away.
  • “Thanks, but no thanks.” You can be polite and show appreciation for being included/thought of while maintaining your boundary.
  • There is power in numbers. Share your goals and expectations with your friends and people that you know have your best interest in mind. Sometimes knowing that your friends and people that care about you will support your decision can help you feel more comfortable with being assertive. 

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