Why is it that people have such a hard time saying “No thank you, I’m not interested” to someone’s face or email address, when it comes to business?
Are you afraid of offending someone? Worried about burning bridges? Concerned you will insult them? Anxious about appearing unprofessional?
What exactly stops you from answering the simple question, “Do you want to go ahead with the work?” with a no?
Because let me tell you this: it is way more offensive, way more insulting, way ruder, way less professional and reflects very poorly on your leadership and communication skills (and your downright respect for human beings and their time), to ignore their emails – not to answer at all.
Guess what folks? Business is business!
When I ask, “Are you going ahead with coaching, training, the project, etc… ?”
It’s not a marriage proposal for God’s sake! My heart is not going to shatter into a thousand pieces if you say no.
My world will not crumble, my business will not fall apart and I won’t be offended. All that will happen is I will be able to plan my business calendar better because I’m not maybe holding a spot for some flake who might or might not go ahead with the project after they consult the oracle and confer with their astrologist about the alignment of the stars and the potential positivity of the relationship.
For one thing, it’s extremely arrogant of you to think that I (or any other person) will collapse in a heap of snot and tears if your response is negative to their business proposal. It is also conceited.
If you do want to come across as a professional, as someone who is ballsy and respectful of people, their time, and their skill, all you have to do is politely reply that this is not what you need right now. Be assertive!
So what stops you from saying No? Do you feel the need to have a proper, logical, reasonable explanation to exactly WHY you are No-ing?
Let me tell you something honey: You owe people an answer (Yes, I will work with you, or No, thank you, I will not work with you.) What you do not owe them is a detailed explanation of why exactly you will not work with them. That is a courtesy that you will extend them if you wish to.
Giving an explanation will only push the other side to negotiate terms, or try to fix the problem for you. Too expensive? Discount. Not the right timing? When would be better? Your boss said no? Connect us so I can explain to him.
Look, I’m not oblivious to the real world (in these parts at least!) and I know that although you may be assertive, there’s always the risk of speaking to someone who is not. Some people (adult-sized kids usually) can take it personally and behave like sulky little spoiled brats because their ego is generally pea-sized and every transaction in the world is either interpreted as a win or a rejection.
So, if you’re dealing with that kind of person, then go ahead and dish out a nice little vanilla-flavored white lie and pour on the chocolate syrup and maraschino cherry onto your No-Thank-You ice-cream Sunday.
There are about a million ways of saying NO nicely without being rude or offensive, while maintaining a professional standard.
A couple hints.
- Keep the language to ‘I’ or ‘We’ so you are in control of the reason (We don’t have the adequate budget vs. Your prices are too high)
- Take charge of the next steps so the other side doesn’t have to. (I will get in touch with you when I’m ready, vs. …nothing, prompting weekly emails of: “So do you want to go ahead?”, “Hello, are you there?”, “Hey, so about that contract?”, “Anyone there?” from the other end!)
To help you in the future so people don’t see you as a spineless amateurish jerk, I’ve compiled a small list of possible answers you can plug into your emails or your mouths when you need to reply in the negative.
- I don’t think I am ready to start a coaching relationship right now. I will be sure to get back in touch with you when I am.
- I can’t commit to anything right now. I’ll let you know when I can.
- My plans are uncertain. I will call you once I know what I’m doing.
- I am not willing to make that kind of investment right now. I will resume my search when I am ready.
- I don’t feel we are a good match. I think I want to keep looking.
In all cases though,
NOT replying is such a copout from your end, as a professional and as an assertive adult.
Be clear with people, I promise if they are adults, they will appreciate the honesty, they will respect you more, and you will stand out in their minds as someone who doesn’t let a little fear stop you from behaving like an assertive professional, and letting people know where you stand.
In short, that you are someone with cojones.
Also, THIS is how you maintain a professional relationship. If you disappear without an answer, how comfortable is it to go back to this person/business at a later time (if you have to, you know the whole burning bridges thing!) and tell them you need to work with them? Then you’re in the position of a groveling little mouse rather than one of mutual respect and strength. Think about it!
I respect a client so much more when they are strong enough to say ‘No, thank you’, than when they just disappear.
So please, grow yourself a pair and say “No, thank you!” when you need to.
Original Artwork by Fadwa Al Qasem – I Am What I Art