The Point When You Have to Say No…and How to Say It Better

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I’ll admit – I’m a “yes” kind of guy. It’s not often that I say no to friends, family, or opportunities. Part of my personality and demeanor is to please and help everyone. With that being the case, I often get overloaded with a crazy schedule and lots of tasks on my to-do list in order to make all of the yes’s come to fruition.

The other day, I said no.

Well, back up. I actually said yes at first. I had an opportunity to contribute to a major fitness website, get paid, and likely build some relationships that could serve me continuing business down the road. My first inclination was to go for it. I replied back to the e-mail request right away with a firm “yes”.

About 36 hours later, I recontacted the site to tell them “no”.

Why the change of heart? Mainly, I was going to be put on a time crunch. This particular job required a very short window and involved something that I wasn’t particularly experienced with – video production. After thinking about the week and how I was going to get everything done, I knew that I couldn’t dedicate the time needed to make this a huge success. So, I bailed.

The “no” word is becoming increasingly popular in my vocabulary. Not because I’m a negative person – far from it. I’m just beginning to realize that power of prioritization and taking some time to breathe amongst projects and such.

Over the last few days, I’ve realized that every time you say yes to an item on your to-do list, one of the following happens:

  • You have less time to spend with your family and friends because you’re taking on a new project.
  • Your current projects suffer from lack of quality because you don’t have the appropriate time to dedicate to your thousands of ideas.
  • A few more of your hairs start to turn gray.
  • You get just a few hours less of sleep than previous nights

All of this ultimate turns into burnout and exhaustion.

At the onset of this whole writing thing, I said yes to literally anyone and anything. Want me to write for you? I’m your man. Need a program? I’ll design it. All of this “yes” work wasn’t in vain. Within a few months, I had accomplished quite a bit in terms of getting my name in bylines. Before I knew it, I was writing everyday before heading to work and often times, logging back on to my computer when I came home at night. This wasn’t the worst of all things. I absolutely love being productive, and this period was one of my highest in terms of making shit happen.

But, as all things go when you do them frequently, they started to lose my interest. I started to have writer’s block, which is something that I hadn’t had early on. It was hard for me to dream up topics to write about.

That’s not to say that I don’t write all of the time now. I still put pen or keyboard to paper every day now, likely for a few hours at least. But, I work on a myriad number of different projects. Some blog related, a few articles a week, some editorial work, and a small bit of audio. The variety has kept me entertained and enjoying what I’m doing.

All of this brings me to my point that “no” is inevitably going to be part of your vocabulary at some point whether it’s a business opportunity or your kids that want to buy the whole store of Toys ‘R’ Us whenever they walk by.

But, voicing this negative word doesn’t have to make you come across as a jerk that’s blowing off an event. Believe it or not there are better ways to say “no”.

Saying “No” – The Art of Not Sounding Like a Jerk

1. Evaluate your time. If this isn’t something you can commit to fully and dedicate enough of your resources, it’s in the best interest of both parties to put it on hold or search for a different solution. Explain this to the other individual. You’d love to participate/help out but your current time constraints would prevent you from devoting your full attention to the project.

2. Be honest right away. If you’re going to have to say no later on, it’s easiest just to get it out of the way right now. Don’t give the other partner false hope.

3. Explain why. Although in my opinion, most people won’t really care once you say no, it helps to give a reason why and reassure them that you aren’t just blowing them off for beer and baseball.

4. Develop a network and refer out. This is perhaps the crucial step that either makes or breaks your presentation. Develop a network of individuals that you’re able to refer out for similar services. For instance, in the beginning example, when I replied back to let the individual know I couldn’t tackle the project, I also forwarded along a few names of other individuals that are extremely knowledgeable and have a similar skill set. One of these individuals was able to tackle the project on the short time frame and hence fulfill the void. Have a list of individuals on hand or in your head to refer out.

5. Follow-up. Even though you may not haven been the one to get the job done, it doesn’t hurt to follow-up afterwards. This shows that you genuinely care about the individual or organization, and that you take responsibility for the individuals you recommend. Ask how they did. Explain that you want to make sure the individual you recommended fulfilled expectations. If you’ve built a successful referral network, the individual will be thrilled and you’ll hear nothing but great things. Plus, this helps you to potentially get back on the list for a shot at the next opportunity.

Hate saying no? Have other tips that I didn’t list? Love Toys ‘R’ Us? I’d love to hear it in the comments below. 

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