How to Say “No’

Everyone has to say “No” at times. Sometimes it’s easy, but most of the time it’s hard. Adults have to say “No” when asked to do something that’s against their principles. Very important is learning how to say “No” when you’re invited to do something you’d rather not do. You will want to learn how to refuse an invitation without hurting the feelings of the person who asks you.


More and more the problem of drinking among young people comes up. Teen-agers and young adults throughout the country are faced with the question: “Should I take a drink?” Here are some things to consider as you make your decision.

Why People Drink

Many people, when asked why they drink, simply say, “Because I enjoy it.” But drinking is usually more deeply motivated than that. There are many different reasons why people drink. The most common reason is to relieve feelings of insecurity. If everyone else is drinking, a person feels left out of things if he doesn’t take a drink. People who call themselves “social drinkers” depend upon alcohol to keep them in good spirits and to keep the conversation rolling. They lean upon drink as a sort of social crutch. If they don’t feel at home in a situation, alcohol loosens them up and makes them feel more congenial and sociable.

The danger is that as social drinkers depend more and more upon alcohol to provide their entertainment, the drink­ing can get out of hand. They begin to realize that they must have a cocktail before they can relax. Sometimes it even gets to the point where they feel physically ill unless they are con­tinually stimulated by alcohol. They have let drinking be­come a necessity.

Alcoholics are usually people who feel neurotically inse­cure and unsure of themselves. They feel that they are in­ferior to others and unable to face the world. They use alco­hol as an artificial stimulant to give them a temporary sense of security. They lose themselves more and more in the habit, forsaking everything else. If they are lucky, these people end up in the hands of competent workers who help them realize that they can exist without alcohol. Less fortunate alcoholics may literally drink themselves to death.

Teen-agers often start to drink because of social pressure. When others in a group are drinking, they feel that they also are expected to. They’re afraid to refuse for fear of being considered “sissy.” Some young teen-agers drink in an effort to appear more sophisticated than they are.

An occasional young person drinks as an act of rebellion against parents who forbid it, in an unfortunate effort to “show them” who’s boss. While some independence is to be expected during the teen years, rebellion by way of unwhole­some pursuits can be, and often is, harmful at the time—and for years ahead.

Are You Expected to Drink?

Young people rightly want to belong. There is a strong urge to conform and to do what the group expects, especially during the teen years. What many young people fail to recognize is that it is the person who does not drink who conforms to what is generally expected.

Continuing polls of young people conducted by Purdue University indicate that the overwhelming majority disap­prove of drinking. The latest survey in 1957 found 60 per cent definitely opposed to drinking and another 12 per cent saying that although they were undecided they probably dis­approved.

Whether or not you personally are expected to drink de­pends almost completely upon your family and your crowd. Some groups of young people include social drinking as a part of their activities. If their parents drink, young people are much more likely to be expected to drink. Other groups of young adults feel that drink is not necessary. They do not like to rely on artificial stimulation to keep their affairs inter­esting. They feel that they have resources enough in them­selves not to have to depend upon alcohol. If you go with a crowd that drinks, they probably expect you to drink. How­ever, if you wish, you can find other friends who choose not to spend their leisure hours and money on drink.

To Drink or Not to Drink?

If you’re out with a group that is drinking you may feel that you are obligated to take a drink yourself. You may be afraid that the crowd will call you “chicken” if you refuse to drink. Social pressure is difficult to oppose. Many teen-agers, however, have found for themselves effective measures for re­fusing drinks without seeming prudish.

“I’ll Have Coke”

If you want to keep peace among your friends, don’t sound off on the evils of alcohol when you are offered a drink. It’s not necessary to make others feel uneasy. When asked what he wants to drink, one boy brightly replies, “I’ll have Coke, straight, please.” This approach provides an easy out. His friends are amused at his remark rather than irritated by his refusal. He often finds others having their Coke straight too. Maybe they just needed a way to say “No.” If you know for sure that you want to refuse the drink, your problem in re­fusing is not difficult.

Principles Pay Off

If you’re out with a person who wants to drink, and you yourself don’t drink, what do you do? How can you let him know how you feel about drinking without making him think you are prudish? One teen-age girl reports that she was very concerned when her crowd started to drink. She didn’t want to drink and preferred that her date abstain also. At first she was afraid to mention it, but later, when she finally did, she found that her date was actually relieved. He was not eager to drink, but he was afraid it was expected of him. Actually he had much more respect for her, as a girl of principles, than when he assumed she blindly followed the crowd.

Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving are a bad combination. The papers often report accidents caused by people who felt they were sober enough to drive. Tests show that alcohol slows down your reaction time to an alarming extent. Even if you are feeling perfectly all right, you’re an unsafe driver if you have been drinking. Many people realize this and leave their cars at home when they think they will be served liquor. If your escort has been drinking through an evening, and you have not, it’s for your own safety to ask for the keys so that you can do the driving. If you don’t know how to drive, you’ll probably want to make some other arrangements for getting home.

Drinking and Sex

As people drink they begin to lose their higher controls. The more they drink, the more uninhibited they become. Girls have gotten into serious trouble under the influence of alcohol. If a boy has had something to drink, it’s harder to put off his sexual advances. He does things when he has been drinking that he would never consider doing when sober. Then both he and the girl must face their regrets the next morning—and all too often through the years ahead. Teen­agers generally find that drinking and sex are a dangerous combination.


Smoking is accepted among some people as a natural thing to do. Others find that it’s an annoying habit. Continuing re­search linking excessive smoking with lung cancer has caused many people to decide that smoking is just not worth the risk involved. Whether or not you smoke depends upon your background and personal feelings.

Why People Smoke

Smoking usually starts as a form of rebellion against au­thority. Teen-agers in the process of breaking the ties that bind them to their parents often use smoking as a form of rejection of their childhood. They feel that smoking makes them more “grown-up” in the eyes of their peers. Smoking may also be a manifestation of oral craving, arising out of insufficient sucking as a child. This oral craving is relieved by smoking or by eating or chewing gum.

Smoking Is Habit Forming

One of the main problems of smoking is that it’s habit forming. If you have successfully broken away from the strong ties you had with your family, you may no longer need smoking to assure yourself that you’re grown-up. By this time, however, smoking has become such a habit that it’s difficult to stop. It is true that many people attempt to stop, and some people actually do make the break, but, generally, people have great difficulty in stopping completely. One per­son wisely remarked that giving up cigarettes was easy—he had done it hundreds of times! Smokers usually admit that smoking is an expensive and messy habit. But some indi­viduals feel that if: provides enough relaxation to be worth the disadvantages. Others feel that it’s not worth the trouble, and if they never start, they will never have to worry about stopping.

Think About It

If your crowd is one in which the majority of members do not smoke, you may have no difficulty deciding against it. But if your friends do smoke, you may have more trouble making up your mind. It’s difficult to be different, especially when you are in your teens. As you come to realize that people do accept you as an individual, you won’t have to “go along with the gang” in everything they do.

As an individual, you may recognize that it’s important to do some careful thinking before making up your mind about smoking. Consider all the advantages and disadvantages. If you realize fully what you are getting into, and still feel that it’s worth it, at least you will know what to expect. If, after weighing the evidence, you decide that it’s simpler not to start smoking, your definite decision will help you when you have to refuse a cigarette.

“No, Thank You”

When people smoke, they feel it’s courteous to offer others cigarettes. You do not have to accept if you don’t want to. At the same time, you can refuse politely, without making any remarks about cigarette addiction. A simple “No, thank you” is sufficient. When people offer cigarettes to others it’s just a casual, almost mechanical, gesture, and a refusal is hardly noticed. If you feel that an explanation is needed, you can simply say that you don’t smoke. Regardless of how strongly you feel about smoking, it’s better not to condemn others.


Some teen-agers have parties specifically planned for smok­ing. Especially if their parents disapprove, they may feel the need for smoking secretly. It gives them a thrill to know they’re doing something their parents disapprove of behind their backs.

This attitude is very immature, and such parties can be dangerous. The teen-agers who attend them are easy prey to dope peddlers who “contribute” marijuana. Young people may be tempted to try a “reefer.” They have been promised an immediate emotional sensation. It may be very hard to refuse “just one” when everyone else is experimenting. Of course if the peddlers believed that it would remain at “just one,” they wouldn’t distribute “free” samples. They know that many of the people who say “just one” will continue taking “just one more.”

Smoking marijuana is a first step toward dope addiction. Soon the marijuana is not enough, and young people are compelled by an insatiable craving to go on to heroin or other more potent drugs. Once you are “hooked” it is almost impossible to stop without long hospitalization and treatment.

Former policewoman Lois Lundell Higgins reports that juvenile addicts spend over $250,000 a day on narcotics. Addicts go to any extreme to obtain money for more dope. They steal and get involved with criminal gangs. Even mor­ally sensitive people get into real trouble when they are under the influence. When in need of a “fix,” nothing else matters; they will go to any lengths to get it. “Playing around” with dope is courting serious physical and emotional damage!


The time will come when you will probably be invited to a place that you’re not sure you ought to visit. Perhaps your friends want to go to that roadhouse that has always looked dangerously intriguing. Maybe they want to go to a public dance hall of which your parents disapprove. What should you do?

The first thing to consider is why you are questioning this particular spot. If it’s definitely the type of place you consider taboo, your problem is simple. But suppose you’re not sure in your own mind about it. Maybe you have just heard rumors; maybe your parents have just dropped vague remarks against it. If you ask around, you will probably find out just why that place is considered off limits by some people. Knowing will help you decide what you want to do. Even if you know something about the place, you may still be tempted to go-just to see for yourself what it’s like.

“Crazy Mixed-up Feelings?”’

Very often teen-agers find that they have a conflict of feelings. You may know that a roadhouse is not suitable for you, but inwardly you very much want to go. Going to that public dance hall may sound thrilling to you. You may be curious to find out for yourself just what it’s like. Yet you know your parents wouldn’t want you to go. Until you get your own reactions straightened out, it will be hard to explain to the others how you feel.

Pro and Con

If you have a question about places to which the crowd might want to go, it helps to decide ahead of time if you would feel comfortable there. One thing you might do is to find out why your friends want to go there. Is it because they really enjoy themselves or is it for a risky “thrill”? Do they really like the spot, or do they go just because they are not supposed to?

Once you know these things, weigh the pros and cons. How much fun do you think you’d have, knowing that you shouldn’t be there in the first place? How would you feel if you were seen by some of your other friends or neighbors? What if your parents found out? Most teen-agers feel that it’s wise to avoid doing anything which they would be ashamed to talk about later.

Getting off the Spot

Saying “No” is not so difficult once you have decided against the place in question. If you really believe what you say, it will be easier for you and more acceptable to your friends. If you are hesitant and say something mealy-mouthed like “Maybe I had better not go,” the others may tease you. But if you are sure of yourself and firm in your reply, they will accept your answer.

One good way to say “No” is to offer an alternative sug­gestion. Follow up your refusal with an idea that may interest the others. When asked to go to a gambling joint, one boy answered, “I’d rather not go there; let’s go down to the skating rink instead.” Usually there are others in the group that would just as soon do something else.

The young people in one community complained that there was no nice place to which they could go on a date. The only places open after school games or movies were spots where liquor was served and where a rough gang hung out. When this fact was brought up at a young people’s meeting one Sun­ day night, the leader and a committee of teen-agers were delegated to work with some of the city fathers toward the establishment of a YMCA in the town. Their proposal was publicized in the community, and soon it was widely discussed among responsible adults. Within a month one of the nicer ice cream stores offered to stay open late enough to be of service to the young people. A joint committee of young people and adults was then formed to consider permanent possibilities for a YMCA, with a trained youth worker and facilities for a wide variety of wholesome recreation. Is this something that you and your friends could do? Is there a vacant build­ing, store, or hall which, with the help of interested adults, you could turn into a youth center?

Sometimes you’re at a party that has gotten out of hand. Perhaps there is drinking that you had not anticipated. Maybe it has turned into a petting session. Some teen-agers are disgusted, because parties so often turn into unpleasant situa­tions.

Usually parties get out of bounds because of insufficient planning. If the activities and games are planned for a party, it is unlikely that it will degenerate. People find no need par­ticularly to turn away from relaxing fun and entertainment to other veins.

Sometimes there are parties without adults on tap. Chaper­ons may seem old-fashioned, but it does help to have adults at social affairs; their very presence keeps things under control. Regardless of how carefully you plan parties, incidents may arise that need a firm adult outlook. Suppose some fellows try to crash your party, bringing liquor with them. This is a hard situation for you to handle alone, but your parents would be able to put a stop to it at once.

Who Is to Blame?

When a party gets out of hand it’s usually blamed on the hosts or hostesses. True, much of the fault is theirs. If they had planned the party properly, and made sure adults were present, the trouble might not have started. In one sense, however, every person at a party is responsible when it gets out of control. If you’re at a gathering, and it seems to be getting wild, you might try to help steer it back to safety. The time to act is the moment the party starts to get rough. It does no good to wait until the next morning and then con­demn the host.

What Can You Do?

Try to get some activity started to pull the party back in line. Suggest one that would be fun—really fun—to absorb the guests. Perhaps a game of charades will liven things up. Maybe there are enough table games around to capture people’s interest. How about a spur-of-the-moment scavenger hunt? Or maybe everyone would like to go out to the kitchen and make hamburgers or popcorn balls.

If a gang of boys try to crash a party, are you prepared to handle the situation? Do you know how to get help if they come looking for trouble? Many of the incidents that happen at parties can be avoided if each young adult takes respon­sibility for seeing that things run smoothly.

If you find that you can’t help keep the party under control, the next best thing is to leave. If people are drinking too much and you’re not enjoying yourself, simply explain to your hostess that you had better be running along. No one has much fun at a party that has gone out of bounds. After you have left such a party, reflect on it a while. Maybe you can prevent it from happening next time—especially at your party!

Saying “No” does not have to be difficult if you follow some simple principles. First, be sure in your own mind how you feel. If you’re hesitant yourself, it’s much harder to con­vince others. Try to make up your own mind firmly before you say anything. Second, be tactful in saying “No.” Try not to condemn others when you have to refuse. Saying “No” in a courteous, tactful manner expresses subtly how you feel about the activity, without making the others think you dis­like them as persons. The most effective way to do this is with humor. If asked to go gambling, you might say “Gam­bling?—I need my shirt!” Letting the others know you are not interested helps in avoiding unfortunate situations later. Doing it tactfully prevents hard feelings.

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when saying “No” is to offer alternative suggestions. If you follow up each “No” with a more attractive possibility, you may find it easier, both for yourself and others. One girl carries a package of mints in her purse. When offered a cigarette she says, “No thanks, would you like a mint?” In this manner without making an issue about the cigarette, she refuses politely and changes the subject.

Saying “No” need not be too much of a problem. When you yourself have definitely decided, you refuse the invitation in a tactful way and offer alternative suggestions that free you for more congenial activities.