Haven’t we been trained to take every opportunity that presents to us? So we say ‘yes’ way more often then ‘no’. And I think it is a great attitude to live by. A lot of yeses brought me great experiences and even a few others that weren’t great to live through turned out to be great lessons. A ‘no’ wouldn’t have gotten me any of that. However, there are occasions when a yes doesn’t align with your goals. When you can see that a no is the best option. Time is limited and the more happens in your life, the more often you have to say no. So you have to pick your yeses and nos carefully.
In the moment a yes often seems easier, entails less effort, and is less uncomfortable, but only in the short term. With the decision to friendly decline the invitation, a new dilemma begins. How to say no?
I still spend ridiculous amounts of time brooding over such emails in an effort to find good reasons for my rejection. The reasons I find are never entirely false, but usually, they are not 100% correct either.
“I am sorry, I cannot (want not) make it on Tuesday (or any other day). I have a doctor’s appointment (yes, but that’s in the morning and doesn’t keep me from anything). I am sorry ( I am), but I think you can have the meeting without me (always).”
Too often I would get a happy reply telling me how Bob decided to move the meeting to Thursday. And then I find myself either drafting another elaborate email or end up in a meeting I never wanted to attend.
If you are giving reason for why you are declining a request, you are basically challenging the other side to solve this problem for you. That is what we do; we are problem solvers. Broken leg? I can pick you up. You are sick? Let’s meet in a week. You just got the chicken pocks? No problem I am immune. Your entire family is visiting you and you want to spend time with them before you won’t see them for another five years? Bring them along, no problem. There is always going to be a solution. So either you are being honest and explain the real reasons, which BTW can be a good option if you are in a position (and have the guts) to do so, or you just skip giving reasons at all.
My lesson learned. Say: “No, I can’t [insert verb if needed].”
Period. That’s it. Try it! It doesn’t hurt and saves everybody a ton of time.
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