When’s the last time someone told you no? How did you respond?
We all get a lot of requests. And if you’re anything like me, you love to be helpful because you’re a giver. Perhaps you even get anxious at the thought of turning someone down. Or when you do, you’re left feeling guilty.
I’ve come to realize that you can’t say yes to everything. If you did, you’d not only run out of time to advance your primary projects, but you’d also water down the impact of your ‘yes’.
Because of this, I decided to find ways to say no, and do so gracefully. However, you can control only your own actions and intentions, not someone else’s response. It became brutally clear from other people’s reactions when they received my “no” replies that they “didn’t get the memo”.
Allow me to share a segment from a note I received recently after I said no:
“For someone who runs a networking group, you’re obviously not too keen on networking. I’ll be leaving your group now…which leads me to wonder what you’re even doing here. Best of luck.”
Now allow me to share some context. This was in response to her reaching out to me, having never met me, asking me to do her a large favor. I replied as graciously as I knew how to and said no, which triggered this reply.
Initially in that moment, I regretted having replied in the first place, as it would have been easier to sweep it under the rug and ignore it. But I wanted to give her the respect of replying.
Then I realized that we so often avoid telling people ‘no’ (need I remind you of the ‘ghosting’ culture in dating) that it can feel jarring when we do hear it.
Here are a few keys to take away from this:
- Any time you ask a question, it’s important to respect that the person on the other end is entitled to answer as they please.
- ‘No’ is a complete sentence. And, the word ‘no’ needn’t be spoken directly to get your point across.
- Respect someone’s priorities and boundaries of her time. If they don’t happen to be aligned with yours, sincerely wish her well.
- Look at the long game. Everything in life is about relationships. Don’t burn a bridge because something doesn’t line up immediately.
- A ‘no’ for now isn’t necessarily a ‘no’ forever.
- Continue to build a giver-focused, value-additive relationship, especially after someone turns you down. It reminds him that you took no hard feelings to his ‘no’, as well as demonstrates that you seek more from the relationship than a transaction.
- Per number 6, have no hard feelings.
- Saying ‘no’ reduces stress and leads to a happier life, so start saying ‘no’ yourself. Don’t believe me? Check out what this Mayo Clinic study has to say.
- When you do say ‘no’, say it in a way that you’d be comfortable receiving it. Kindness goes a long way.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.