July 01, 2019

No, Nicely

No, Nicely
Victor Bogorad

Unless you are in the miniscule percentage of the world population that finds it easy to say “no,” the sight of a pushy neighbor, in-law, or boss bearing down on you with a request-you-can’t-refuse is right up there alongside a root canal in the dread department.

And if it’s hard to gracefully say “no” in English, how much harder is it in Russian, where dissembling requires linguistic gifts that you might not have yet developed? Sometimes it is, in the words of a wise, if resigned, friend, “литься, чем объяснить, почему ты не можешь” (It’s easier to agree than explain why you can’t).

But the basics of the art of what Russians call вежливый отказ (polite refusal) are not hard to master. Here is your guide to no, said nicely.

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