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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Know Your No’s – Guide for Adult Leader

Updated: 2023

Use the following role-playing exercise with your middle schooler to explore and discuss different ways of saying no. To view or download printouts of the scripts, please click here [PDF – 740.17 KB].

Role-Playing Exercise

Give your middle schooler the script and ask them to read the scenes below. Then discuss the different ways to say no and why these are more or less effective.

Scene: Two middle schoolers stand outside their school after class lets out for the day.

Student 1: “Hey, I’m having a sleepover Friday! My parents won’t be home and we’re going to drink. You’re coming, right?”

Student 2 looks uncomfortable. How can they say no?

"No" Option A

Student 2: “Um, no, I don’t think I can. I … um…ah…you know.”

Student 1: “I know you can. Come on, it won’t be the same if you don’t come.”

Parent/Caregiver/Teacher: “You didn’t stop the pressure. That was a passive answer. Being passive means: Saying no weakly; mumbling; making excuses.”

"No" Option B

Student 2: “No Way! What ARE you–stupid?”

Student 1: “No, I’m not–but you are if you don’t come.”

Parent/Caregiver/Teacher: “You didn’t stop the pressure. That was an aggressive answer. Being aggressive means: threatening or blaming them; putting them down; acting angrily.”

"No" Option C

Student 2: “No, that stuff can make you sick.”

Student 1: “Says who? Don’t worry about it! Are you coming?”

Parent/Caregiver/Teacher: “Again, you didn’t stop the pressure. That was a know-it-all answer. Being a know-itall means: Giving a lot of facts; acting superior; judging people; telling them what they are feeling.”

"No" Option D

Student 2: “No thanks, I don’t want to. But I’ll see you at the game Saturday.”

Student 1: “Um, OK, I’ll see you later.”

Parent/Caregiver/Teacher: “Congratulations—you stopped the pressure! That was an assertive answer. Being assertive means: Standing up straight; looking them right in the eye; speaking in a firm voice, saying it quickly and being polite; choosing words well—instead of a “I can’t,” say, “I don’t want to.”

"No" Option E

Student 2: “Did you study for the quiz today?”

Student 1: “Huh? Come on! Can you come over or what?”

Parent/Caregiver/Teacher: “You didn’t stop the pressure. That was an avoiding answer. Avoiding means: changing the subject, staying away from the issue, trying to distract the person.”

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