I’ve found myself saying no a fair number of times this week. For someone who attempts to be available and of help, saying “no” is always a bit of a wrench. I avoided it for years until I realized that I was both compromising on quality by saying yes too much and not taking care of myself. I’ve definitely found myself getting better at it with practice.
One technique that has helped me say no is to not think of it as a partial no and not a complete no. A complete no aims to end the conversation immediately while a partial no keeps it going by offering up an alternative. An alternative I typically end up offering is to continue the conversation via email versus scheduling a separate chat.
A simple example – over the past year, there have been regular requests from folks who found me via one of my “MBA Learning” blog posts asking for 30 minutes for a conversation about business school applications. While I’m unable to do a call justice, I generally send a list of FAQs I’ve compiled and also respond to any follow up questions they might have. It isn’t perfect but it hopefully, at least, covers most of the basic questions they might have.
The principle here is that every non-essential no is an implicit yes to something essential that’s high up our priority list. Focus less on the no and more on what you are saying “yes” to. And, where possible, make it a partial no and offer up a few alternatives.