For the majority of overachievers, it’s a rare occasion to miss out on any opportunity for a chance to prove themselves, even more so when it comes to climbing the business ladder. Whenever go-getters are presented with an important task that may very well set them ahead of everyone else, they’ll gladly take it, regardless if it makes them feel overwhelmed or anxious.
So why do we continue to put more stress on ourselves even if we think we have the slightest chance in coming out ahead? Because if we don’t say “yes,” as a result, we may be afraid of looking uninterested to the rest of the bunch– we might even believe that we’ll miss future opportunities like this. While they’ll always be missed opportunities when we say no, doing so can also open new doors (if you’re looking for a silver lining).
What’s so hard about saying “no?”
For many entrepreneurs, success is often built on a reflexive habit of saying “yes” to anything that comes our way. While success does tend to attract bigger and better opportunities, when we become faced with too many to handle, we tend to lose our ability to prioritize them. And this is exactly what happens when you don’t know how to say “no” in business. Keeping our options open seems like a great idea in the beginning, but we also need to maintain our clarity and not overcommit. After all, the last thing we want to do is disappoint those who are counting on us the most, especially customers.
Whether you can’t bear to let anyone down or you fear that you’ll always worry about the lost opportunities that could result from saying no this one time, really consider the underlying emotions that are affecting your actions. Rejecting one project shouldn’t prevent you from taking on new ones in the future– it simply means that you know what your priorities are and where your boundaries lay.
Be graceful with your rejections
Without a doubt, any kind of business is abundant with opportunities, and there’s always that nice feeling of being able to say yes to your customers, employees and vendors. However, there is also a time when saying yes can lead to disaster. If you’re having trouble deciding on whether to say no or yes, ask yourself the following:
— Is your team ready?
— Are both parties compatible with one another?
— Can you handle another new project right now?
— Is it realistic?
— Will you need to regain lost ground?
— Will it be profitable?
— Will you and your team be able to meet expectations?
It would be safe to say that if your answer was no to any of the above, consider turning down the project for now or suggest another individual to take it over. Always remember that when you’re declining someone, you are not rejecting them, you’re simply saying no to the request. Be polite and explain why you are not able to take on another project at the moment.
It’s already difficult enough to move forward with your current goals, so if this new opportunity won’t propel your business forward, you don’t need to spend much time in finding justification for saying yes. Furthermore, if you’ll be moving backwards by taking on another project, how can you expect to be profitable?
How are you managing right now?
When thinking about how you’re managing your time, career and business, you’re not going to be doing yourself any favors by overcommitting. If you ever struggle with saying no, take the time to reflect on those moments when you said yes regrettably, and then ended up dropping the ball on your other priorities. Estimate how much time, energy and stress you put yourself through that might have been saved by saying no right from the start.
Be as direct as possible and avoid those wishy-washy responses. A simple “I can’t commit because I have other priorities” will more than suffice.
As people tend to be quite optimistic about how quickly and how well they can things accomplished, it can be a bit discouraging to please a customer if you come back with over-promising and under-delivering. If you see no possible way in meeting the expectations of your customers, then be honest and let them know whether the project is unrealistic or not.
When they won’t take “no” for an answer
Now, there will always be that one person who simply won’t accept your rejection. Whether they take it personally or just doesn’t give up easily, make sure you are as resolute as they are pushy. In fact, they might even respect you more for it.
Learn to recognize your emotional cues and before you give in to those feelings of anxiety or regret, or that faint voice in the back your head that keeps whispering, “Are you sure you want to turn this down?”; try facing the discomfort of saying no once in awhile if you have too much on your plate. Turning down a project is similar to any other interpersonal skill– it may feel clumsy and awkward in the beginning, and you’ll only be able to improve through practice.
Begin with low-risk situations at first. It could be something as simple as saying no to the waiter when he asks if you would like dessert. When passing a kiosk in the mall and the clerk requests your attention, politely decline and move on. That “no muscle” of yours will be tough as nails in no time!
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