“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” ~ Steve Jobs
We have a strange relationship with the word “No.” From childhood, we don’t like hearing the word, and as business people, “No” often signals the premature end to opportunity. Hearing a refusal can be painful.
Unfortunately, our dislike of the word too often means many of us have problems saying “No” ourselves. We have a bias to taking on tasks, of saying “Yes” when at all possible. As a result, we overcommit our time and limited resources. Trying to be positive and agreeable, we find ourselves increasing our own overhead beyond a safe point.
On occasion, we even take on projects for which we have little expertise or even interest. Agreeing to take on tasks we should leave to others is one of the surest ways to stall your progress. There are times when we should be trying to get to “No.”
Think for a moment: how often to you find yourself involved in a project where you either were not equipped at a professional level to undertake or which you did not enjoy doing? Many times, such projects cost you opportunities where you could put your talents to better use. Simply put, it’s a mistake to try to be everything for everyone and end up being less of yourself at your best.
Evaluating every opportunity rationally for its suitability to your travel practice, time and expertise is an absolute necessity, especially when your portfolio is otherwise at capacity. Firstly, understand your reasons for wanting to say yes:
- You don’t like hearing “No” yourself;
- You actually want to be of service;
- You want to be agreeable and not be rude;
- You don’t want to give up business or opportunity;
- You don’t want to create a conflict or damage a relationship.
Each of these reasons has real merit. In reality, however, saying “No” does not necessarily implicate any of these issues. Truthfully, we do sometimes appreciate someone for saying “No” when they can’t do an adequate job for us. You can be of service by listening and making better suggestions and saying “No” isn’t inherently rude!
What we need to do is learn the appropriate way to say No. Firstly, listen carefully to the request and evaluate the project and its potential for you. If you are not absolutely certain you are the best person or you cannot otherwise take it on, the answer is simple: say so. Carefully and respectfully decline the opportunity by giving a simple answer:
“Jim, I want to help but right now I’m not the best person to do so…
[This project is not truly in my area of expertise]; or,
[I am involved full time in other projects right now] or,
[I gave up doing [destination weddings] some time ago].
Then, demonstrate your concern for their request:
However, I do know someone who is an absolute expert and may be of some assistance. Do you want me to see if they can take you on as a client for this project?
When you approach a refusal in this manner, you express an honest concern for the well-being of the other party. You indicate your willingness to assist in a way that serves their request. Remember, too, refusing an occasional request is not the same thing as removing the word “Yes” from your active vocabulary or taking on a negative persona. Chances are, in fact, by not spreading yourself too thin you will have more time for projects and opportunities for which you are better prepared to serve.