Say No Faster

Chris Brogan

I’m cleaning up my inbox this morning. I use Google Apps and as such, have a Gmail type interface. When there’s something I think is important and requires follow-up, I put a star next to that piece of mail (if you’ve never seen it, it looks like this):

stars on Gmail

It’s come to my attention that I don’t really use stars to mean something is important. Instead, I use stars to say, “I don’t really want to deal with this much at all, but I took on the responsibility, so the potato is mine until I’ve dealt with it.” In several cases, this all would have been much better if I’d learned to say no faster.

Say No Faster

Why do we linger before saying no? One reason is that we hate to disappoint. This is my primary reason. The other reason is that we sense that something might be a good opportunity, even if we have absolutely no capacity to handle what’s being pointed in our direction. In both cases, no one is all that happy with the way you end up handling things that end up falling into this category.

I think some of the problem is that we don’t fully understand the syntax of saying no in such a way as to say, “What you’re doing is important, and I’m very supportive of you, but I’m not able to take on what you’d like me to do because of my own full plate of commitments.”

That sentence is often what’s missing. That, plus the ability to accept that we shouldn’t feel guilty for being busy.

No Fast is Better Than No Response At All

Today, I sheepishly deleted several emails with stars on them that were waiting for a quick response, and that ended up getting no reply at all. Dozens. Maybe 100 overall. So that means almost 100 people got my attention, got me to read something, got me to think that maybe I should do something, even though I really didn’t have the capacity, and then received no response. To those 100 people, I didn’t respond at all. I’m more of a jerk than if I’d said no politely.

Make the “Say No Faster” Resolution

Repeat after me:

From now on, I resolve to say no faster. I will say no with grace and poise and kindness, but I will say no. Even when something takes “just five minutes,” if I don’t have the time or don’t feel compelled to sway from the course of my own commitments, I will say no with kindness, and wish the person well. Saying no faster is much better than not responding, and much better than the guilt I will feel if I say yes, but can’t deliver.

And so it is.

You all deserve better. I’m sorry if you were one of the people I never responded to, and I will do much better at communicating in the future.

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • TJ

    this applies greatly in life, whether in relationships or work, the tendency to say “yes, I will do it later” further commits us to something we may or may not be able to fulfill. Personally, it is one of my problems, to say Yes to everything that comes my way, with my belief that rejecting something/someone means opportunities being lost. I realized that I have to say No quickly, so as not linger and feel guilty about it later on.

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,

    I dig the resolution.

    One add: nobody is required to say No. We are busy, so busy we can’t keep up at times. Say No quickly but if you say nothing at all, forgive yourself.

    Other truly successful, busy people will understand, for whoever has a problem with no response is taking things personally….and these folks are probably not a good match for us anyway.

    I find myself saying Yes to a few things right now that might be No’s. I’ll think about them after the post, because each person who asks something of me deserves the full me, not the light version who’s trying to handle 2 things at once.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Chris.

    RB

  • http://ajleon.me ajleon

    Good Lord, I needed to hear this, Chris. I’m printing this post out, and stapling it to my forehead. 

  • http://www.redheadwriting.com The Redhead

    You know what I love about saying no as quickly as possible? I never find those emails that I ignored and have a subsequent, “oh crap” moment about. Say it often, say it quickly, and MEAN IT.

  • Julia Rymut

    Chris, You are right on about this.  I have dozens of emails that have been waiting for my attention for months.  Every time I think about them, I feel guilty.  So not only have I been a jerk to people I wanted to be nice to (otherwise why would I have starred them?), but I have taken a notch from my own health with worry and guilt.

    Sheesh.

    I need to say no faster.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.igobydoc.com igobydoc

    Chris, this is a very hard lesson to not only learn, but to put into practice.

    I have been guilty on too manu occasions not saying no, fast enough or at all. 

    I used to try to be everything to everyone, and in the end it drove me insane. I still find myself saying yes too much, and no not fast enough, but this post reminded me to get better at saying no.

    Thanks,

    Doc

  • http://www.twitter.com/mariobox/ mariobox

    It helps to have a clear isea of what you would and would not do with your time, money, business, etc so that when time comes to decide yes or no, we can run it against that list and decide quickly. We can call it our line in the sand…

  • www.TherExtras.com

    Accepting the limits of finite time is part of growth and personal development, eh?
    Barbara 

    • http://www.videoconverterfactory.com/resource.html HughDiego

      Haha, I agree with you~

    • http://www.videoconverterfactory.com/resource.html HughDiego

      Haha, I agree with you~

  • http://twitter.com/creativevibe Creative Vibrations

    I said “no” to reading this article. I hope it was a good read for those who said “yes”.

  • Pingback: Did People Think You Were Phoning it In?

  • http://www.johngallagherblog.com John Gallagher

    Chris, I think this is a great idea.  How will you know you have been successful?

  • http://JonathanRick.com Jonathan Rick

    Chris -

     

    Thank you for writing this. Here’s my two sense:

     

    To concretize the issue, Is it better to be rejected or
    ignored? Almost always, being ignored implies rejection, but most of us don’t
    want to say “no.” It’s far easier, as you say, to “sheepishly delete” the
    e-mail.

     

    “Sheepish” is the right word here, since in clicking “Delete”
    rather than “Reply,” we know we’re taking the easy way out. Sure, delivering
    bad news is hard, but it’s also one of the responsibilities of adulthood. And as
    you demonstrate with your “thanks-but-no-thanks” reply, it’s eminently possible
    to apologize, explain, and decline in just 32 words. That shows character.

  • http://JonathanRick.com Jonathan Rick

    Chris -

     

    Thank you for writing this. Here’s my two sense:

     

    To concretize the issue, Is it better to be rejected or
    ignored? Almost always, being ignored implies rejection, but most of us don’t
    want to say “no.” It’s far easier, as you say, to “sheepishly delete” the
    e-mail.

     

    “Sheepish” is the right word here, since in clicking “Delete”
    rather than “Reply,” we know we’re taking the easy way out. Sure, delivering
    bad news is hard, but it’s also one of the responsibilities of adulthood. And as
    you demonstrate with your “thanks-but-no-thanks” reply, it’s eminently possible
    to apologize, explain, and decline in just 32 words. That shows character.

  • Marc Queralt i Bassa

    The more times I say no, more friends I have. Obviously in a polite way.
    However it is a difficult process. In my country, as in many others, you could be considered an egoist.
    So, I try to keep in mind that the only person that can administer my time is myself.

  • http://www.ferreemoney.com/ Video SEO

    No wonder 152 ppl hit the RT button and 69+ ppl commented on this post. I echo a similar mantra w/ my SMB clients “get to NO as past as possible” so you don’t waste valuable time w/ suspects who wont’ turn into prospects who won’t turn into customers. 

    If you ask the right questions early in the sales funnel process, you will likely uncover and answer NIMTC  = Need, Interest, Money, Time, Commitment issues. Unless all are present and adequately addressed, you can flounder for weeks only to come up empty handed.

  • Anonymous

    This is in fact a lot truer than it might seem from the outset. When we say no we can have the opportunity to be more real and let people know that our finite amount of time is really that. Broken commitments and promises are very tough to recover from and letting the inbox just overflow is a bad excuse for not being organized so YES say no as much as possible and do it with tact

  • Pingback: Saying “No” Is Better Than Saying Nothing - Jonathan Rick, No Straw Men

  • Pingback: CommDigest » Saying “No” Is Better Than Saying Nothing

  • Pingback: Reshared post from Chris Brogan — Kaplak.net

  • Pingback: Just Say "No"... More Quickly, More Often - Travelllll.com

  • Pingback: Just Say “No”… More Quickly, More Often

  • Pingback: Win Or Lose? The Difference Between Try And Do

  • Pingback: What Color is your Time Sheet? | Membership Software by YourMembership.com

  • Pingback: Focus is about saying no « mariarociopaniagua

  • Pingback: Eatin' Crow: My Biggest Social Media Lesson of 2011 - cksyme.org