How to Say "No" by Saying "Yes"
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
In business, your time is as valuable as your contacts. Have you ever said "yes" when you really wanted to say "no"? It may have seemed the most efficient, popular or expedient thing to do at the moment, but you regretted it afterward.
Please realize you don't need to make any excuses for refusing a business proposal or social invitation. "No, thank you for asking, but I already have plans." What you don't have to explain is that your plans are with yourself.
And fortunately there's a way to say "no" and "yes" at the same time: Refuse the request, but offer an alternative that works for you and benefits the petitioner as well.
It has always been part of my overall marketing strategy to be well known in my community. Business contacts and worthy causes often ask me to volunteer my time. Here's how I handle it. An organization asked me to run a luncheon once a month for their volunteers. I said, "No, because I'm frequently out of town. Here's what I CAN do. Once a year I'll give a free talk to rev up your volunteers. I'll be donating a talent that most of your other members don't have." I was saying "yes" and "no" at the same time: "no" to the original request, but "yes" to supporting the organization.
Debbi Steele, when she was a sales manager for several small hotels, told me how she handled the frequent requests to "have lunch so I can learn what it is like to be in hotel sales." She said "no" to lunch and offered two alternatives. Either they could talk while jogging at 6:30 a.m., or the inquirer could spend an afternoon in Debbi's office, doing odd jobs while observing.
Often I receive thirty to forty calls a month from people who want to take me to lunch so they can ask me questions about the speaking industry. I reply, "No, I can't have lunch with you, but I'll give you five minutes right now. If we were at lunch, what would you ask me?" Many can't think of a question! If you are interest, check out the 100's of FREE articles my website. Look especially in the area of "For Speakers."
Before you say "Yes," ask yourself:
- Do I really want to do what I've been asked to do?
- Will I benefit personally from the experience?
- Will I have the opportunity to do this again?
- How much of my time is involved?
- Can the job be done quickly or will it involve weeks, months, or even years?
- How much help will I have, or do I have full responsibility?
...and this is the KEY question...
- Am I being asked to do this job because I'm right for it or because I usually don't say "No"?
If you don't have the right answers to these questions, teach yourself to say, "No, thank you, I already have plans." Or to say "yes" by saying "no.