Being successful in your field, or possessing a great deal of knowledge in it, tends to lead to an increased amount of attention from strangers, semi-acquaintances, friends of a friend, and so on. It’s not uncommon to get a lot of requests for networking, meetings, coffee dates, or general feedback.
If you’re not used to this, you can get into the habit of saying “yes” to every request you receive. It’s flattering when people want to speak with you and get your thoughts on things, not to mention a great way to give a little something back. If you had someone do the exact same thing for you, it’s more than likely that you’ll empathize with these requests and immediately want to say “yes” to them.
There will come a time, however, where your schedule will become too busy to keep this up. You will get to the point where you will need to learn how to turn down these requests, to reduce their number and their impact on your schedule. It’s great to help people, but it’s also necessary to focus on your own work and priorities. We all have commitments.
At this point, especially if you’re a faithful reader to this blog, then you know what we’re going to talk about…
When the time comes to start declining requests, it’s probably going to be somewhat awkward and maybe a little tough. The word “no” is much, m.u.c.h. harder to say than the word “yes.” Unfortunately, it’s quite necessary to learn how to say “no,” in order to effectively manage your time. After all, your time is your most valued commodity and this is a leadership lesson that all business owners need to learn.
To catch up some of the “Power of No” posts that we have written, here’s a short list to get you caught up:
If you need to politely say “no” to someone and decline a request, try one of these six ways.
1. “I’m completely booked out this month and have no room in my schedule. If you get back to me in five weeks I might be able to fit you in”.
Asking people to get back to you in X amount of time tends to make many requests disappear. People often don’t follow up on these requests, either because they completely forget to, or because they have found someone else to help them.
2. “With my current schedule I’ll be unable to fit in a meeting, but we can set up a quick ten minute phone call if that suits. Maybe I can answer some questions via email?”
Going to physical appointments or meetings can take up a lot of time, especially if there’s travel involved. Offering a quick phone call as an alternative can be easier than saying “no” altogether, and email offers another quick alternative. In-person meetings tend to run long because they lack structure, and the other person feels more comfortable talking and going on tangents.
3. “I’d be happy to provide you with more information on my consulting fees and the types of services that I provide.”
Charging for your time can be a very quick deterrent for most people. Just be aware that this particular type of response isn’t appropriate for all types of requests. If someone is reaching out for networking meetings or an interview, this isn’t appropriate. However, if someone is wanting to get your input on a for-profit business idea, there should be no guilt is asking to be paid.
4. “Before we set up a meeting to speak, could you please send me through more information regarding [your business plan, your interview questions, your business idea, your organization]?”
Asking for additional information from people is a completely justified next step. Strangely, most people will not take the time to circle back with that information.
5. “I’m short on time this week, but I can make a couple of suggestions of [people, resources, websites] that you might want to check out instead.”
If you know someone with the time and the inclination to take on these types of meetings, you can always direct people their way. Any good website or resources that you know might also be helpful. Consider constructing a FAQ document where you collect the answers to these types of questions. Send this to people when you don’t have time to speak to them and it might help to guide them in the right direction.
6. “I’m sorry, I wish I could help you but the reality of my schedule is that if I don’t turn down some of these types of requests, I’ll never stop working or see my [spouse, family, kids].”
There is nothing wrong with saying “no”, as long as you’re saying it nicely. Most people understand that a work/life balance is necessary, and will be respectful in response. If they aren’t, then you know you’ve made the right decision to not speak with them.
Be aware that there’s nothing wrong with saying “yes’ to these types of requests, and there’s nothing wrong with offering your time to someone at no charge. Most people who are successful will tell you that they’re actually very generous with their time, and that it’s rewarding to share their insights with others.
Be strategic and choose the people you meet carefully. Consider the type of person they are, and if they’re someone you genuinely want to touch base with and help.
About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:
At Out of the Office, we offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.
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