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Five Effective Ways to Say No

By: Guest | October 17, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Ingrid Abboud aka ‘Griddy.’

Well lookie here – it seems I get to hang out at Aunt Gini’s house again. It’s been a while since I totally ignored her 500 word limit rule for guest posts my last visit ;).

Oh, and here’s a head’s up – I’ve thrashed the word limit this time round as well!

Sorry Gin – but Lisa said I could muwahaha! (Lisa’s note: Nuh-uh. I deny such claims.)

I’m not sure if that makes me a rebel or a nerd – but either way, I sure as heck appreciate the space, time, and tolerance that Spin Sucks affords me.

The Art of Saying No: In Life and Business

There have been numerous articles on why it’s sometimes necessary to say “NO” – whether to a potential client, an existing one, or even a friend or colleague.

There’s even a couple written on this blog that touch upon the subject.

Saying No to Clients

Why We Say No

Now before you yawn, hear me out…

I have no intention of regurgitating anything from those two posts!

Believe it or not – I have my own thoughts and wise words of wisdom on the topic.

There’s no doubt saying that two letter word can often pose a challenge – whether it be because we’re afraid, embarrassed, overzealous, unsure…whatever the reason, that small hesitation that leads to a yes, might have you banging your head against the wall while you repeat the answer you should have given in the first place…”NO, NO, NO!”

When a friend pleads with you to take over their assignment because they’re spending the weekend at the beach or a client asks you to handle their social media activities for 50 percent less of what you normally charge – it’s almost natural, not to mention nice – to agree and help out.

But the thing is – saying yes just to be nice or when you really can’t, might make it hard for you to follow through especially if you already have prior obligations.

What’s more, working while annoyed or for much less than you deserve can create a lack of motivation, not to mention a lack of quality.

So why open a door of potential problems for yourself when you can just as easily say no in a firm but polite manner – one which won’t create resentment from either party?!

What’s this you say Griddy? No resentments? No problems? No regrets?

Please do tell!

Well considering that I’m “officially” allowed to muse for another hundred words (which in Griddy world means at least 500), I’m gonna’ do just that.

Five Effective Ways to Say No

1). “I would love to, but unfortunately I’m not able to take that on right now.”

Whether you’re being honest or not (with the love part) – this line is somewhat code for “I don’t have the time for this and if I were to say yes I’d either not finish your project on time or do a half-ass job just to say it’s done.”

Always know your schedule and deadlines as well as your limits. You’re not frickin’ R2D2 and there’s only so much you can multi-task.

It’s important to level with yourself and others. After all, you want to remain true to yourself and the quality of your work. I’ve been late to deliver a project before because I was in over my head. Trust me, it’s a lousy feeling!

2). “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t think I’m the right person for that.”

Okay people…not everyone can do everything! Sometimes you just need to stick to what you know and are good at!

You may not agree with this, but I believe it’s important to admit when there are others out there who’d be better suited for the job. If a project is outside your scope of expertise or services, there’s no shame in saying so.

Remember: Your reputation and credibility are on the line each time you commit to something.

This answer (or one similar) could also work if the request goes against your values and beliefs. It might not be as harsh or straightforward as as saying, “Sorry, but I’m not okay with that” or “I’m not a fan of that cause or organization”, but it works nonetheless, and might spare you the “why” or “how come.”

3). “No thanks, but I can recommend someone else (or so-and-so) to help you out.”

Although you’ve given a firm negative, you’re showing your helpful and caring side by pointing them in the right (but different) direction. I’ve often had to do this – especially when I was overloaded or less interested in a project.

It’s always nice to recommend folks (as long as you’re sure of their capabilities so the finger doesn’t get pointed at you later) because they’ll most probably appreciate it and may even return the favor someday. Plus, it shows you support and aren’t threatened by others who work in the same field as you.

However if it’s a crappy or tedious job – like mowing the lawn for example – you can always call upon the fabulous Spin Sucks gals, Gini and Lisa. They’ll have your garden sorted out in no time (this is where my sarcastic emoticon would go if there was one)!

If you’ve got a confused look on your face because of that last part, go ahead and click here to see that I’m not on crack.

4). “Thank you, but it’s a rather big commitment for me right now. Is there any other way I can help out?”

Your friend asks if you can help organize an upcoming fundraiser. You realize that it’s a pretty large commitment that’ll require a ton of work and dedication. For whatever reasons – you’re not up for it.

With an answer like that, you’ve made it crystal clear that it’s a no-no for you. But at the same time, you’re not completely kickin’ ‘em to the curb. You’re still offering to help out all while making it clear that it would mean a less major role on your part.

5). “Sorry, but I’m afraid it’s not part of the job description that we agreed upon. But if you like, I’d be more than happy to revise the contract and send you an updated proposal that includes your new requests.”

When it comes to saying that – I’m as weak as they come! It’s like my personality shrivels away – along with my female cojones – and I willingly get taken for a ride. It truly boggles my mind!

This type of answer demonstrates your awareness and your business sense. It’s also perfect for when a client pulls a project creep on you – something that’s being done to me as we speak. For the love of God – DO NOT let this happen to you! The more you cave, the deeper you’ll drown.

If you’ve been hired to do a job and your sweet client is squeezing in a bunch of other unrelated tasks – put your foot down! Don’t be afraid to call them out – regardless of how much you “like” them.

Note to self: Please follow own advice.

Alright, I’ve said enough.

Sheesh Lisa! There’s no need for you to shake your head in agreement! As it is, Gini’s running a word count and gasping ;).

Now it’s your turn…

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew “NO” was the right answer but you said “YES” anyways?

What other ways of saying “NO” have worked for you?

Have you ever had a client pull a project creep on you? How did you handle it?

Don’t be shy. You know I love it when you join the conversation – so go ahead and share your thoughts and stories.

Ingrid Abboud aka ‘Griddy’ is a whole lot of things with a ridiculous amount of interests. For one, she’s a social media enthusiast with a tremendous passion for writing and blogging. She’s also a pretty cool copywriter but a more serious MarCom Consultant. But most of all, she’s the proud owner and driving force behind nittyGriddy.com – A Kinda Social Media Journal with Net News & more.

P.S. This is Gini: We’re at 1,344 words. That means you can’t come back for 18 months, but we still love you.

111 comments
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

These are all very smooth ways to respectfully turn down a proposition.

One of my favorite books I've ever read on this topic is, "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel Smith. Anyone who feels like they'd like to go deeper on this topic, I can't recommend this book highly enough. Extremely eye-opening for the inner wuss.

letmemoveyou
letmemoveyou

My example is opposite but sitll pertains to the topic. I do have a hard time saying no sometimes. MostI recently, I hired one of my students to do some work for me. We did not find a meeting of the minds and he did a lot of work that I did not ask for and that I just did not understand. He did not paying any attention to what I was asking for or respond to what I was sending. When I gave him feedback, which I thought would help direct his efforts, it hurt his feelings. This astonished me as I thought the clarity would help direct his efforts. In the end, I had to say "no," or more aptly, "no more," and it was long overdue. I had to walk away from the project because we never got on the same page. I spent months trying to help him out when I would have moved on a lot more quickly had he not been my student. It was a hard lesson. Perhaps I should have said no from the outset so the lines would not have been blurred.

Wes Towers
Wes Towers

Hi, Ingrid.

It has been awhile since I've last read any of your posts and I sure am glad that I read this. It reminded me of an experience recently when I had to let go of a client. She demanded too much of my time and it got to a point when it was no longer worth it. I had to gently let her go as the time I spent on her could have been used on other more worthwhile business dealings. Boy, was she mad when I told her I had to let her go by using words along the same lines as your number 5. But, even if she got mad at me, I am still relieved and able to do much work now that she's out of my client roster.

- Wes -

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@mombizcoach And I LOVE, Love your enthusiastic RT :)). Thanks a lot Lara - I'm really glad you enjoyed my GP on Spin Sucks. Cheers

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@hackmanj Thanks a lot for the RT on my GP at Spin Sucks Joe :). I appreciate it. HOpe you're well. It's been a while since we last tweeted

TonyH
TonyH

Fantastic to see you back Griddy and you haven't lost your touch (or your ability to annoy Gini with your word count!)

I agree that saying no is sometimes hard to do and we can all quote examples when we agreed to something as it was the easiest thing to do and lived to regret it later. Can't do anything about them now but sure can in the future.

Often in those situations I found myself ignoring the little voice in my head (you know, that thing called instinct) and I think I maybe need to listen to it more. That's the easy part, communicating the decision is the hard part so thanks for the suggestions.

Thanks for a very worthwhile 1344 words, I am so glad Gini said yes to you when you exceeded her limit :-)

SharelOmer
SharelOmer

Hi Ingrid :) nice to see your post here. (followed from your newsletter to your post to this one LOL )

It's hard for us to say No since someone think of us and want us to do something for him/ with him...

On one side you want him to keep asking you things that may be more relevant to you, on the other hand you don't want to do this specific thing..

When emotion is involved its hard to say no.... and we are in the biz of emotions..

Most people dismiss the decision until they reach the deadline, and when forced to give a decision say.. "sorry, but i think i will skip on this opportunity for now,..."

Thanks for maling us think...and good luck with saying no and saying LOTS of YES!

Sharel

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell

OK -- here's another issue. How do you say "No" to a client's copy ? This actually falls loosely into the domain of #5 above.

How do you tell a client that their copy will not work for their audience (or possibly any web audience) without getting yourself into extensive un-paid coaching sessions ? I actually know how tell them. I just haven't figured out how to avoid the extensive discussion (which have, in extreme cases, extended to writing me emails with questions on grammar, hyphenation, etc.)

A competitor/occasional-collaborator suggested having an Allowance in the Proposal for rewriting the customer's copy. That's the best idea I've heard on this.

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@shonali Hey Shonaliiiiiiii :)! How are ya? Hope your weekend is going well. Talk to you see dear. All the best. Ciao

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@ericamallison Hey Erica :). It's good to be back - slowly but surely. How are you? Long time. HOpe all is well on your end. talks soon.

nittyGriddyBlog
nittyGriddyBlog

@jamesdburrell2 Hey you!!!! For some reason I wasn't getting any of my mentions in my hootsuite - just saw this now. Hope U R well Jimbo

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Thanks for the list Griddy! I was missing you and am glad to see you back!

I have used 1 & 2. 2 in the sense that I was asked to comment in a local magazine on a medical treatment that I haven't formed an opinion on/didn't fully endorse. I just declined to comment.

Clinically we don't get project creep as much as we get "Oh by the way" as you are walking out the door of a consultation that you have already spent more than the allotted time. By the way, never say this to your doctor as she walks out the door. Or we will black list you in the computer when you come in next (kidding of course!).

It took a long time to find a nice/diplomatic way to deal with this. Rather than say no we cannot address your 15th problem today, I get a little information and start the evaluation, make a suggestion of a plan and then have the patient come back. Unless of course that "Oh by the way" is chest tightening that radiates to their jaw... Then my schedule is really a mess (insert curse word) for the rest of the day.

Best,

Rajka

JamesDBurrell2
JamesDBurrell2

I started to comment yesterday, but I was wholly unsatisfied with what I had written. So delete the comment, I did. See, I said No. No to my impulse to immediately comment on @Griddy 's first post back. Trust me; the enthusiasm was bubbling within me. But, I digress, I'm back today to share my thoughts.

I was thinking about saying NO and how the concept relates to my current state in life. More importantly, I was thinking about why we sometimes say YES. Without conscious thought, I often say Yes because it provides an easy excuse for failure. If I overload myself, stretch Jamey too thin, take on a task which we I'm incapable of completing, I DON'T have to be successful.

I don't have to wear that burden -- yes, I may show the stress of having such a full plate, but I don't have to produce any outstanding results. I have a safety net.. "sorry, it was the best I could do at this time..." which is just a load coming from the north end of a south bound steer.

I've said a metaphoric yes to relationships that I knew to be doomed from the onset -- which seems silly now -- but it was because I knew I wouldn't be the one to blame when it didn't work out. It was purely circumstantial. I was absolved of guilt/responsibility.

What I'm attempting to say is that it's easier to try the knowingly impossible because failure is excusable as opposed to trying to achieve what lies on the margin of feasibility because if we should fall short in that endeavor, it lies with us and only us.

Say no to what you cannot do to allow the opportunity to say yes to what you can do.

Griddy, it's so nice seeing you back here, there, and everywhere.

Besos pa' ti.

Jimbo

EmmaofCEM
EmmaofCEM

It's so difficult to say no sometimes. These are all wonderful suggestions. Thanks for sharing!

Shonali
Shonali

Love it. That is all.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

There is instinct involved, and I think another point is to Heed your instinct because it's usually right. After a month on a project getting mistreated by a bit of a bully client I began to prepare to resign; something I've never done -- walked away from $. Then he patched it up with help from the office manager and I agreed to stay. When, at the end of the engagement, the client asked me to do the near impossible for $2K, I said, "I'm so sorry, but it's going to cost you this much for this and this much for that." The ball was in his court and he said, "let's put things on hold."

The point? (Hey, I was telling a story 'cuz Gin Blossom said we should.) My instincts were spot on, @ericaallision , and I didn't listen.

Welcome back, Friend!

tomewer
tomewer

You're back! About bloody time too. This post came at a good time for me - as my blog is starting to gain just the tiniest modicum of traction, I am starting to get proposals that just aren't for me. Letting people down gently is an art form.

I do have a big problem with saying no - I want to please everyone. This is especially the case when you have a tiny little blog and want to get as much exposure as possible! I think if you ever feel uncomfortable with a request, you should either defer the decision or say no. Saying "yes" on the spot is never the right thing to do in those situations!

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

How 'bout this one for #6

"My mind is telling me NO, but my body....my body.... is telling me YES!!!!"

(Sorry, had to slip that one in there for a fellow 80s lover ;-)

Griddy, this post kinda made me sad. Why? Because I think you've used each of these at least once with me since we've known each other! ;)

Ok, I'll stop joking now. But here is the thing--- No that you're getting your groove hopefully back on, I'm going to hold you to this post young lady, got that!!! Ya betta practice what ya preach with all them 'pro bono' folks in your neck of the woods. ;)

M

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

@nittyGriddyBlog I feel your pain. #5 is really difficult. When I did consulting work a million years ago, project creep was always a challenge. It's difficult to find that line between going the extra mile for service and allowing unprofitable project expansion.

Good to have you back Ingrid!

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

I hate saying I'm not the right person for something! But I love couching it in a recommendation of a colleague. I feel justified, Griddy, thank you!

bdorman264
bdorman264

Who are you? Do we know you; you must be new around here?

I used to say 'yes' all the time and all it got me was over-committed and ended up letting some people down because I couldn't do a good job. That was not a good feeling for me so I got a lot better at saying 'no'.

What I did not say 'no' to was Ms Gini's invite to her TweetUp in Orlando last night and I got to meet her in person for the first time. Cool beans, huh? You just have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them...............yikes, that was bad..............

Well, I would like to say it sure is good to see you but I'm not sure if it is a mirage or not. Hope all is well in your world these days and we sure do miss you...............

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

No. My apologies I don't have the time to comment.

No. I would comment but I can not read English. Can you post in Canadian please? I have no problem reading @Danny Brown because he writes in exemplary Canadian.

Thank you for the offer to comment but I don't comment.

Sorry but I only comment on posts that discuss my specialty...the mating rituals of african green tree frogs.

I would prefer referring this to @Griddy for commenting since she is a better commentor than myself.

Great post @Griddy saying no is a very hard thing for most of us to do. And the ones who excel at it often get labeled Bitch or Prick or Ass. But the rest of us are often jealous of them which is why we label them that.

mombizcoach
mombizcoach

@nittygriddyblog It was fab, Ingrid! I've delivered the same message a zillion times, but I totally adore your take on it. Made me laugh!

Griddy
Griddy

@EmmaofCEM Hey Emma - it sure is tough sometimes - depending on each situation of course. I'm glad you found this article useful. Thanks for dropping by.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@Shonali I'll talk that! :)) Thanks so much Shonali. I appreciate it a lot. Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing@ericaallision I think you're right about following our instincts Jayme! Your answer to your client was also spot on - that's the kind of answer I have trouble with when I'm already working on a project and other things get asked of me. That's where I hesitate. If it's from the beginning - I give my price and it's take it or leave it - but when I've already started and the extras start coming along...that's where I have a bit of trouble sometimes.

Thanks so much for sharing that story Jayme. I'm in the process of growing some cojones haha.

It's good to be back. I missed you all very much! :)

Have an amazing week my dear.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@tomewer Haha! About bloody time is right Tom :)!

I think it's in many of our natures to try and please everyone - but I think we also know deep down - that you can't! It's mission impossible in many ways - whether in life or business.

I have no problem saying no in general - except for certain things - and those are the one's that usually get me into trouble - or in over my head to put it better.

And you're right - when your blog begins to grow and the attention begins - you want to be there for everyone and you want to help out as best you can. Sometimes it's the excitement that leads you. But there comes a point where you get asked things that you know you can't possible fulfill or that are out of your scope of expertise - or simply - you might be uncomfortable with. And saying no or referring them somewhere else is usually the smart thing to do.

Great to see you here Tom. Very happy to hear that your blog is taking off! Good for you :). It's a wonderful ride.

Talk to you soon and thanks again for that thoughtful message you sent me not long ago. Much appreciated.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@Marcus_Sheridan Hahahaha! Ummm...I mean...no clue what you're talking about hat there - I wans't born yet in the 80's. COUGH, COUGH and CHOKE! lol ;)

I've actually used all of these many times Mufasa - but the last one is the one I have the most trouble with as you well know. That whole project creep thing often seems to happen to me and although I still go out of my way to accommodate a client - especially if I know them on a personal basis - I know that I really should get compensated for it.

Next time - I'm calling you for support - or I'll have you answer them. Start working on your Griddy voice please hahaha.

Thanks so much for dropping by M. It's good to be back my dear friend. I missed ya much.

TTYL

Griddy
Griddy

@Adam | Customer Experience Hey Adam,

Great to see you here :)!

You're right - finding that line is pretty hard. I always thought I was pretty good at saying no when I needed to but in these cases where I'm put in delicate situations - I kinda hesitate for some reason - even though I know inside the answer that I should be giving. I'm even thinking it while replying but....,

You know - I feel like adding a little project creep clause to my proposals that my clients sign. But then again...God knows if they read them and if they do...reminding them would be just as big of a challenge lol.

It's good to be back and thanks again for taking the time to stop by and share your input. Appreciated.

Have a great day.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@ShakirahDawud Hey Shakirah. As much as we might all hate saying that at times - I think it's necessary. There are many ways to phrase that sentence so that it sounds the way you want and divulges only what you want or are comfortable with as well. But it's always nice to recommend someone else when you do. In general - both parties are appreciative.

Great to see you here Shakirah.

Have a nice day.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@bdorman264 Well Howdy Bill :). It's great to see you - and I sure as heck missed ya during my little (cough) absence.

You and Gini met last night? That's awesome!!! :) I guess that's when you don't think twice to saying YES eh? ;)

Hope you guys had a blast - wish I could have been in Orlando with you - I'm sure you must have had some good laughs.

OH..and definitely not a mirage. I'm slowly getting back to my usual ways - little by little. Thanks for being so patient with me.

Hope all is well on your end. Looking forward to catching up soon.

Cheers Mr. Dorman!

Griddy
Griddy

@bdroth I haven't read that article - thanks for sharing the link :). Will check it out when I get the chance.

Cheers

Griddy
Griddy

@HowieG@Danny Brown Oh how I've missed you my dear Howie - but more so - your fabulous cracked-up comments that somehow make a lot of sense LOL! How have you been? Hope life and work are treating you well my friend.

DB writes Scanadian actually hahaha! But it's still exemplary :).

Oooooo - I like "thank you for the offer to comment but I don't comment" - I wonder if anyone would believe me if I used that one lol.

As for for the "I cannot read English" - I actually said something similar a few days ago to some random person on the street who tried talking to me from the car. Said I didn't speak that language - in THAT LANGUAGE haha.

Happy you like this piece Chief Alien. And yes - saying no is sometimes much harder than we think. I just can't wait to be labeled one of these things you mentioned here haha.

Cheers to ya

tomewer
tomewer

@Griddy My pleasure :-) "Taking off" would probably be an exaggeration, but I am the optimistic type ;-)

Griddy
Griddy

@glenn_ferrell@HowieG@Danny Brown You gotta love Howie and the stuff that comes out of his mouth - -- ummm... I mean his keyboard! LOL! He always manages to put a smile on our face and it's always a pleasure interacting with him.

Griddy
Griddy

@tomewer Nothing wrong with being optimistic my friend :).

Trackbacks

  1. [...] blog – an AdAge Power 150 site might I add – to read my latest guest article, “5 Effective Ways to Say NO” or as I like to call it, “How to Say NO Without Inflicting Any Pain, Tears or [...]

  2. [...] MIA for more than two months! Gasp! And, to inform her community she’s baaack, she hit up the Gin Blossom to announce her comeback on [...]

  3. [...] Five Effective Ways to Say No (Spin Sucks) [...]