How To Say “No” Graciously

I get a lot of emails from people who want to partner with me or have *irresistible* offers for me. They’ve...

How To Say “No” Graciously

I get a lot of emails from people who want to partner with me or have *irresistible* offers for me. They’ve got THE app that will quadruple my productivity or the system that will boost my website traffic into the millions. Usually I dismiss those emails (because you know what… you don’t have to reply to unsolicited email… no really, you DON’T) but sometimes the pitch will be *really* good, or the way the email is put together shows someone with a brain actually sat down behind a keyboard to write it. In that case, I might reply. Like I did last week, when I got an email from an airline magazine offering me a once in a lifetime deal to have my work featured in their upcoming onboard edition.

I was intrigued (not in the least by the outdated information they had about my business, which goes to show that there’s more that triggers me besides great pitches) so I decided to give it a shot.

Long story short, last Friday my phone rang. It was the airline magazine people. Quickly I realized the great deal was in fact an emergency cover-up on the side of the magazine, who had lost one of their advertisers last minute.

My business could be featured in the magazine instead. But to make it work I needed to act fast and provide a suitable ad by the end of the weekend, pay a (ahem) exceptionally discounted fee, change copy on my website, and be on stand-by all Monday for changes that would – most probably – be requested. Of course, all this without any certainty of return on my investment.

All in all not such a great deal after all.

With all the ifs above, and because I profoundly dislike last minute marketing (hello marketing plan) I told the friendly magazine representative that I wasn’t interested, at least not until the fee was so low that I couldn’t pass on the opportunity. I shared with her how disruptive this opportunity was for me, how I’d have to pay premium to my designer to work on such short notice, kiss relax and recreation my weekend plans goodbye, rearrange my marketing budget to squeeze in a magazine. All of which without knowing if it will result in any tangible business. After a short pause she took a breath and thanked me. Told me that she understood where I was coming from and wished she could give me a better rate. Since she couldn’t though, we said goodbye and left it at that.

I’m mentioning this experience because it’s a great example of how I’ve learned to say “no” in an authentic way, and how effective such clarity and honesty can be.

When you think of it, most requests are usually a “no” or a “yes”, but rarely a “maybe”. Even so, we turn most of our “nos” into delayed “yeses” floating around for way too long as “maybes”. Why? We don’t want to disappoint, we’re afraid we won’t be liked, or we haven’t learned how to do it properly (that’s most of us by the way).

The truth is: dancing around a “no” takes so much more time and effort than offering a gracious one immediately. It’s really not that hard. No, REALLY, it isn’t.

You can say something like:

Thank you so much for thinking of me, but right now I’m focusing on X so I won’t have time to do Y for the next Z.

I love the idea but I’m currently going all in on this new project I’m working on, so I’ll have to pass.

I’m so honoured you’ve thought of me, but I promised myself I wouldn’t take on any more work for now, so I won’t be able to help you. I can give you some referrals instead if that would help.

This sounds like a great opportunity but it doesn’t fit in the plan I’ve created for myself. I do know someone who might be just what you’ve been looking for, shall I introduce you?

Saying “no” doesn’t need to take long, be difficult, or put anybody off. All you need to do is be clear and honest about your situation, and explain why you cannot go in on the request.

That’s all.

Once you’ve mastered the art of saying “no” graciously, it will become one of your biggest allies in protecting your time so you can focus on what that really matters to you: your dreams and nobody else’s.

PS: If saying “no” is somewhat tricky for you, I’ve put together a free soulful productivity challenge that might be just what you need. In it I share everything I know about how to do your best work in a way that flows and feels easy. Including how to set boundaries and protect your time so you can do the things you really want to do. Click here to learn more (and sign-up :)).

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