One of my favorite 90-second segments is a perfect example of that genius balance of principle and practice that actually makes a difference in a reader’s daily life. I now have a ready arsenal of 8 graceful ways to ‘choose no’–a practice absolutely vital to maintaining focus and keeping commitments as an entrepreneur. Interestingly, most of these don’t actually involve using the word “no.” Here they are:
1. The Awkward Pause: own the silence after an in-person request. Simply counting to 3 before responding both gives you the time to get past the impulse to give an unconsidered ‘yes’ and the person asking you the sense that you’ve actually considered their request.
2. The No-but: clearly decline, but suggest an alternative to the request.
3. ‘Let me check my calendar and get back to you’: take back control by deferring on-the-fly requests.
4. The Email Bounce-back: It’s not just for vacations and holidays. People will adapt to the level of availability and responsiveness you project.
5. The ‘What should I de-prioritize?’: force the requester to grapple with the inherent trade-offs involved with saying yes.
6. The Humorous No: Keep it simple. A flat ‘nope.’ followed by a smile is unexpectedly disarming. Note that sarcasm can easily backfire in this context.
7. The “You are welcome to X, I am willing to Y”: couch what you will not do in a clear statement of what you are willing to do. This response beautifully maintains both parties’ ability (and responsibility) to choose.
8. The Handoff: Often, people don’t really care if you’re the one who helps them, as long as they get the help. Simply suggest someone else with the capacity and inclination to help.