We all hate rejection, so much so that we often put off rejecting or avoid it completely to our own detriment. But being able to say “no” when we should—in both our personal and professional dealings—is clutch.
Part of the problem is that we want to please people, not disappoint them. But consider this: While saying “no” may disappoint briefly, a delayed response or lack of one, can rouse deeper resentment and anger or worse, burn bridges. In short, taking on more than we can handle is a sure recipe for failure. It comes at a great price to our relationships, our reputations and according to the Mayo Clinic, our health and wellbeing.
In a post on this very topic, blogger Chris Brogan points out another reason we hesitate to say “no”: our fear of passing up an opportunity, even if we have no capacity to take it on.
If we can’t devote the proper time and attention, we should say so politely, firmly and expediently. David Allen, a leading expert on organizational and personal productivity, talks about keeping a “mind like water,” a practice that can help us to handle our “nos.” The burden of leaving something for later weighs on us and grows heavier the longer we put it off. Taking care of things as they arise clears our minds for what we need to get done, and more importantly, for what we actually have the bandwidth and ability to do.
This also holds true in business. A recent post on Raven Blog confirms just what’s at stake: “The honest and ethical thing to do is to pair your client with someone whose strength is a match for what the client needs. The more you force yourself into meeting all a client’s needs, the less credibility you have, and the sooner they’ll leave you. Your honest ‘no, that’s not our strength’ will give your ‘yes’ answers credibility.”
To say “no” successfully in life and at work, we should aim for the following:
Integrity—being honest about our capacity and capability to deliver what’s expected and needed
Timeliness—giving the requestor ample opportunity to find someone else who can say “yes”
Respect—showing that you value the request and the requestor
Solution mentality—recommending alternative resources or ideas that may buffer disappointment, foster good will and open up other opportunities
Simply, saying “no” at the right time and in the right way is the right thing to do. It ensures not only our sanity, but also our success and standing with others.