How to say “No” with Grace

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As a blogger, it’s easy to get overcommitted. A friend wants you to join a giveaway, a guest series, teach a class, host a facebook or twitter party… and you say yes because:

  • you don’t want to hurt her feelings or have her upset with you
  • you don’t want to be left out
  • you don’t want to miss a good opportunity
  • you really want to help her out
  • a million other reasons 
  • or maybe you just can’t seem to say no. 

The problem is, these things don’t really align with your main goal or focus for this month or quarter. The activity ends up taking more mental power and time away from other things that should be getting them, and you find yourself struggling, exhausted, and not meeting your goals. 

In several of the books I’ve read this year (12 Week Year, Essentialism, Deep Work, the Culture Code, Known and many others) one theme has jumped out at me over and over and over again: You can’t do it ALL, ALL the time. Priority is singular. One thing. 

What is your ONE thing? The big thing? The main thing? Figure that out and then let that be the filter through which you accept or reject other opportunities during the set time period. And if it doesn’t somehow advance you or support the ONE goal, then say no, because saying yes will take your further from the goal. 

How do you say “No” with grace? 

how to say no with grace,

1. Separate the decision form the relationship

If this were some random person offering you this opportunity and you had to decide if it would help you towards or keep you from your ONE goal, would you take it on? or say no? Then it shouldn’t be different coming from a friend or blogging colleague. 

2. Focus on the trade-off 

Evaluate the pros and cons of saying yes and no before making the decision. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. An hour’s twitter party might mean more exposure, but also means an hour less with your family. A guest blog post and promotion means 3 hours less to work on your goal of promoting your product for increased sales… 

On the other hand, you can focus on what you will do well by passing up this opportunity. Not agreeing to host the twitter party gives you an additional family time hour and helps you keep your new resolution to not work evenings. Not writing that guest posts gives you additional concentrated time on your product funnels and promotion. 

3. Make your peace with the fact that you’re trading popularity for respect. 

Your friend/colleague may be disappointed when you say no, but ultimately will respect you for knowing and guarding your priority and goals. When the disappointment wears off, the respect kicks in. 

4. Don’t take on their problems

My Dad had a sign in his office that read

“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Now, I’m not saying, never help a friend in a pinch. Not at all. If you have space in your schedule and are not jeopardizing your priority, by all means, you can help a friend out! However, many of us tend to take on other people’s problems as if we were the superhuman blogger hero out to save everyone’s blogs but our own.

Help when you can, but when you cannot, don’t allow a false sense of guilt to affect you. You are responsible for you. 

5. Don’t try to justify yourself

Often we feel the need to justify our decision of no. There is no need to do that and I’ll give you some great ways to gracefully decline an opportunity below. 

  • Use auto-responders  – set up auto-responders in your email that let folks know you are accepting few outside opportunities now while you are focusing your efforts on ______ (goal, product creation, writing a book, project, etc.) You can also add info to your contact page, letting people know who to contact for what, serving as a sort of pre-email filter. It really does cut down on the random cold-call emails you receive.
  • The pause: count to 3, or wait for them to speak first – often they will give you an out if you don’t speak up immediately, especially if they are asking a huge favor. 
  • “Let me check my schedule and get back to you” – Or, if you’re married “Let me check with my husband and get back to you.” This is great when you need time to think, check your priorities and goals, and or formulate the wording of your response. 
  • If it’s a client or supervisor, say “Yes, what should I de-prioritize?” – this puts the weight of the decision back on the other person helping them realize too that a yes to this means no to something else.  
  • “I would want to do a great job, and with my current responsibilities I don’t think I could do a great job.” – This is a gracious way to let them know you are at full-commitment level, and also shows you care about their success. 
  • “You’re welcome to _________ , I am willing to __________.” –  Use this when you’re willing to participate to a certain extent, or when you see a potential trade-off. You aren’t a flat out “no”, but saying what you aren’t going to do, and letting them know what you will do. 
  • “I can’t do it, but ____________ might be interested.” – This is especially good for things you know are not a great fit for your abilities or interests. And by pointing them to someone else who might interest you’re helping both parties. 

The bottom line is that no one else is going to guard your priority for you. As a business owner, you’ve got to set those goals, deadlines, actions steps and then guard them. 

Learning to say “no” with grace might be the best thing you’ve ever done for your business. And if you still feel like you need permission. Here it is:

I give you permission to say “no.”

While you are here, you will want to read this . . .

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