Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Prom and Peer Pressure

Dear Ilana and Jess: My senior prom is next weekend. I trust myself to say, “no,” if my friends want to do something that I don’t, but I’m still a little worried about how that will go down. How do I say, “no,” without being a party pooper? Is that even possible? - Piper

Dear Piper: Happy Prom! The short answer to your second question is yes. Let’s talk about how (and answer your first question).

Be confident in your delivery. “No,” is, “no.” It’s not “maybe,” “okay,” “sure,” and it’s definitely not, “yes.” Use body language and tone of voice to convey the sincerity and severity of your decision. To do this, stand tall when you speak and use an even, neutral tone. Don’t drag out the letters or elongate your words; this will make you sound uncertain. If people can sense your seriousness, they’re more likely to back off. If they continue to push, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, or simply walk away.

Practice. It may seem silly, but if you’re anxious about saying, “no,” you should get more comfortable with the word. Practice on your own, with others, in front of the mirror; and do it repeatedly.

Redirect. When your answer is, “no,” you might suggest an alternative to the original proposal. By giving people other options, you may help them reconsider their own decision and move everyone in a better direction.

Find kindred spirits. Your friends are your choice. While you don’t want to only surround yourself with people who always agree with you, the opposite is also true. Choose friends that share your values and standards. Not only will you share a deeper connection, but they’re more likely to join you when it’s time to say, “no.”

If all else fails, remove yourself from the situation. There’s plenty to do at prom (and there will be plenty to do on prom night). Have a backup plan so your night isn’t dependent on the whims of any one person, except you.

Have fun!

Say This: “Thanks, but no. I’m good.”

Not That: “I don’t know...” (You do know.)

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: