Have you ever said “yes” to something you really didn’t want to say yes to? Sure you have, but it probably didn’t go as well as it could. We’ve been taught that during the course of running our businesses, “no” is a conversation starter, but saying no well is a skill and an art; and it’s legitimately a way to help grow your business.
When I first started my business, I gave a lot away. I thought I had to in order to establish myself, and there was no shortage of requests. Now that I’m growing, I’ve had to conscientiously and politely turn down gigs that didn’t match my goals or that would have taken too much time and effort, OR where I’m asked to work for free. Over time, I’ve learned that there are profitable ways to decline.
Here are three things to keep in mind when saying NO:
1. Tact: Let’s say an organization that provides sweaters for small dogs asks you to sit on their board. If you’re not a person that cares for dogs, clothing for dogs, knitting or crocheting, then this is not an opportunity for you. Your best approach is to let them know that you are honored to be asked. Thank them for that honor and let them know that you are respectfully declining because it is not a cause you are passionate about. You don’t have to tell them you think the idea’s silly.
2. Time: Don’t tell them that the only reason you’re saying no is because of time. While that may be part of the truth, once they whip out the calendar and give you the lowdown on exactly how little time the commitment will take, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Once again, let them know that you’re honored to be asked. Let them know that you’ve already allocated your time and resources elsewhere. You can say that you’d like to revisit the offer in six months or a year (only if you really are interested). That lets them know that you're actually giving consideration to their request.
3. Ego: In every circumstance you must let the person know that you are honored to be asked. Ego is not a small consideration, both yours and theirs. If someone thought enough of your talent, expertise and reputation to make a request of you, you owe it to them to receive and decline that offer gratefully and graciously.
Saying no well can give you the opportunity to start conversations at a later date, to reconnect. It gives you the appeal of someone in demand. Resist the urge to say “yes” to something you don’t enjoy, aren’t enthusiastic about or just plain don’t want to do. Saying no may be difficult, but nothing is so irksome as someone who doesn't keep a commitment.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company uses theater strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.