...the hairstylist when you're in the salon chair, as your hair is being butchered before your eyes:
1. Scream on the inside, smile on the outside. New York salon owner David Evangelista advises telling the stylist, in your most congenial tone: "I don't see this shaping up to be the look I was going for. Let's stop and talk it over so we can get back on the same page."
2. If, on the other hand, the stylist is doing exactly as you asked but you've realized you were insane to ask it: "I'm sorry, but I don't love where this is going after all. Can we stop and change direction?"
...the cashier who's trying to sell you on a two-for-one deal or a frequent-shopper card ("It's free!") or something else he thinks you'd be crazy not to take advantage of:
3. "No, thanks." Repeat as needed. Repeat as needed.
...the sweet-talking salesperson who's nearly convinced you to buy the season's "hottest" pants (though on a better body-confidence day, you'd recognize the look as cruelly unflattering):
4. Even fashion authority Tim Gunn has purchased a garment he later regretted, simply because he "didn't want to hurt the salesperson's feelings." To avoid pushover-buyer's remorse, he's learned to say, "This is just not for me" or "It's a stunning piece, but it's beyond my budget." Now, if Tim Gunn isn't shy about announcing that an item is out of his price range, why should you be?
...Girl Scouts selling cookies:
5. Just order the Thin Mints. Seriously. It's for a good cause, resistance is futile, and you know you want them anyway. Do-Si-Dos are excellent, too.
...a bad hotel room:
6. Don't call, says von Sperling; go downstairs. "Your objection will be taken more seriously if it's made face-to-face." Ask for a manager at the front desk, and in your calmest, most matter-of-fact voice, state the problem (awful smell, awful view, lumpy mattress, lousy plumbing, broken heating or cooling apparatus); express your dismay ("This is not the experience I expect-or am accustomed to-at such a fine hotel"); then say, "Surely this isn't acceptable to you, either. I'm hoping you'll be able to find a solution."
...the customer service representative who says, "Can you hold?"
7. Resist giving in to phone rage. Atiya Morgan, a switchboard operator at the Hudson Hotel in New York City, says that a polite no works wonders.
Penny Wrenn is a New York-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, Essence, and Redbook.