How To Say No


I have the hardest time saying no. Lots of people do. It’s one of those things we do to foil up our lives quite often. Why? Because we hate to disappoint. Because we think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Because we want to say yes and be more positive. There are lots of things that thwart us from saying no.

Personally, I’m an avoider. That’s even worse. Because I don’t do well at just saying, “You know, this isn’t going to work.” But that’s changed. It’s come from some recent changes in my perspective, in my priorities, in my realization of what I’ll have to do to find success (and my definition of success, swiped from Tony Robbins, is that success is making continual improvements in my environment).

Saying no is hard. Here’s my current best advice on saying no. I’d love yours in the comment section.

Say No

First, be very clear and polite. Start with a thank-you.

Thank you for thinking of me. I’m going to have to pass.

The problem with the above is that the person will almost always ask why. Let’s do this, instead.

Thank you for thinking of me. I’m going to have to pass. My workload and priorities are such that I can’t add this project to my schedule.

And Then

My very best advice for next steps is to refer. If ever you can, refer. When I can’t speak at an event due to a schedule problem or something, I do my best to refer the opportunity to someone else. When I can’t review someone’s website, I refer them to Third Tribe Marketing. The more I can help others by sharing the things I can’t help with, the more I can grow a network of people who get more opportunities from my being able to pass them along.

The Pushy Person

Often, you’ll get someone who pushes back. “What do you mean you can’t do it? It’s only 20 minutes.”

This is where I have a hard time. Because they’re right. It is only 20 minutes. The problem is that three of these requests is an hour. 12 of these requests is four hours. They add up really quickly.

My best piece of advice here is to repeat. Again, thank you. It’s great that you feel so passionately about me participating. I am so backed up with other priorities that I just can’t commit to this and deliver you success. I’m very likely to stumble or not complete this. I’d rather say no now than say ‘I’m sorry’ later.

What Should You Say No TO?

My friend, Brian Clark had this great thought on this onstage at PubCon the other week. He said, “I ask whether the project will help my existing community. If not, I really have to consider it.” That’s one way to do it, especially if you’re already working with a focused community. It’s not useful to me because I work across several communities.

Instead, I’ve built little “ecosystem maps” and I ask whether the project will help any part of the larger ecosystem, and then whether I should do it or if I should refer it. Often times, B is the better answer, but sometimes, things can’t be transferred. So, I just look at my map. And whatever I can’t say yes to, I share with others.

And Questions?

How can I help you with this? What else can we talk about? When is it MOST difficult for you to say no?

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