Cicada | 7 Ways to Say No
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7 Ways to Say No

Claire DeBerg Cicada How to Say No

7 Ways to Say No

I love saying yes. I love being asked to do some awesome project or task or job because it lets me know the asker thinks I’m fit and capable for the work. That feels great. It is like unsolicited back pats or like a virtual coronation ceremony. And here’s what I discovered…I can feel all those things and NOT do the work simply by saying…wait for it…: No.

Are you catching on? Part of what I’m really saying yes to is the compliments, the affirmation. Instead, when I say “no” it means I want to be saying “yes” to something else–something I’m passionate about (even if it means a nap).

Minnesotans are so super nice. Truly. I also notice that we in the Mid-Coast are overly apologetic. There are lots of apologies happening (not enough from certain people, agreed) but really I hear a lot of “sorry” when I feel the sacredness of that word is getting washed out. I learned early not to apologize unless I was truly sorry. Like deeply sorry. Actually remorseful. Really apologetic. Truly sorrowful.

And somewhere in the history of niceness we Northerners collapsed saying no with apologizing for saying no. Are you really sorry when you say no to a project, volunteer task or job? If you are truly sitting in the place which is “Sorry” maybe saying no isn’t very life-giving and instead you should say yes!

But back to saying no…

When I say “no” to something I get a little buzz because in turn I’m not sorry for what I’m saying yes to. Know what I mean? Does this sound familiar:

Oh, I’m so sorry I can’t do this quick-turn project. My parents are in town and I’m also feeling a little under the weather plus I have this super funky ingrown toenail (ouch!) which needs some serious TLC.

Okay, what? What is happening here? Is it story time? I’m 100% guilty of doing this in the past. I work to not do it anymore (most especially with clients). It just seems to feel better, doesn’t it, to explain why you have to say no. “I can’t because…” “Sorry, I can’t because…” “I’m SO SORRY I have to say no because…”

But does the other person really care? I mean, really? Toenails? Sickness? Parents? What if the REAL reason you are saying no is because that client didn’t treat you well last time or the projects were underpaid or you were undervalued? Well then your toenails and parents excuses are straight up lies. Boo, hiss. No one likes fibbers.

Here are 7 ways to say no that might refresh your commitment palate:

  1. No. My dear, sweet husband taught me that “No.” is a complete sentence and nothing has to come after it. No backstory, no bull, no blahdy blah. Simplicity can be beautiful.
  2. No. Please ask me another time. I love using this when I am asked to do something that I know I would enjoy or be good at but also am realistic about my capacity for more projects and can’t take anything on. It works, too, because often companies have a go-to list for talent so you won’t be forgotten (in fact you could appear in high-demand!).
  3. No. This won’t work in my production queue. I actually have a production queue. I plot my work and plan my schedule and sometimes things just will not work (especially if I am unwilling to give up sleep [which is most often]).
  4. No. Thank you for thinking of me. I do feel honored when somewhere in some office someone thinks, “Hey, let’s ask Claire if she is available.” I get to feel like a celebrity for .02 seconds. So I always offer thanks IF I’m thankful for being asked.
  5. No. This isn’t my area of expertise, I’d suggest reaching out to____. Want killer friends and allies? recommend them when you’re not the right fit. I’ll never forget working for an agency that would say yes to EVERYTHING any client ever brought to them and then they’d rush back from client meetings and Google whatever new task they didn’t know how to do. It just felt so manic and inauthentic (because it was). I do not pretend for one second to be a technical writer, though technically I am a writer (HAHAHAHA). I do have a cache of technical writer friends who I happily pass work to when that need shows up at my email’s doorstep.
  6. No. This doesn’t sound like the right fit. And then there are times when I don’t have a person I can offer up and I don’t see myself enjoying the work so boom: not the right fit. Lately the lack of fit has been budget. I just don’t slum my writing anymore–I’m a professional, I’m not scrappy–so often the rate just doesn’t fit, so I say so and move on.
  7. No. I’m learning to limit commitments. I must admit, I do feel superior when I say this and I haven’t used this but once or twice with requests. It is hard to argue with that, though, right?
  8. BONUS! No. I’d rather eat my own hands. This is probably not the winning approach you want to go for but it is hilarious.

Say no! Own it! Say no without explaining why and enjoy the joy of what you’re saying yes to. Oh, and be honest. You want to tell the truth, no?

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