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Sam Davidson's blog

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How to Say No - Part One

This will be very timely advice for you as we head into the holidays. In just five steps, I'm going to tell you how to say "No" so that you can keep your schedule free for things that matter. We all get bombarded with requests for things we don't want to do - committees we don't want to be a part of, extra responsibilities we can't fit into our schedules, and other obligations that add stress to our lives. By declining these opportunities we'll be happier and healthier.

It's time to say no to the wrong opportunities. Here's how.

How to say no

Step One: Be polite

Most of the time, people close to us - family members, friends, coworkers - are the ones that ask us to do things. We certainly don't want to upset these people or strain these relationships. I've found that a little politeness (like a smile if being asked in person) goes a long way to prepare the person to hear your "no."

Step Two: Say "Thank you"

Again, err on the side of politeness. Let the person know you're honored to be considered. Mean it when you say it, and don't belabor it. Look them in the eye and say thanks.

Step Three: Use the word "no"

A lot of times - because we don't want to offend - we never get around to actually saying the word "no." We say things like, "I'm really busy right now." Or, "I wish I could." These aren't technically "nos" and can lead the asker to think you're still in the running for their offer. Make sure to use the word "no" and formally decline their offer. That way, they know to move on to someone else.

Step Four: Give a reason

No one needs to know all of your personal business, but if possible, offer a reason why you're saying no. This is especially important to those closest to you. Let them know things are busy. Better yet, let them know what kinds of opportunities you want to leave time for, such as chances to further improve a strength. This also lets them know you're available under certain circumstances so they can start to know what opportunities to bring you in the future.

Step Five: Offer another option

Don't volunteer someone else unless they are a good fit for what you're turning down. But, if you know that a friend is looking for the opportunity being described, mention them to the person asking and offer to do an introduction in person or via email.

Tomorrow I'll share an email template you can copy, paste, and change when declining an opportunity. I've found that it goes a long way toward making sure you say no to the wrong things while also letting people know the kinds of opportunities you are looking for. Then, you'll find that people stop bringing you offers that don't play to a key skill of yours. You'll soon get lots of chances to say yes because people will know what to bring you.

Personal note: Both of these steps (how to say no and the sample email) are in my book, Simplify Your Life, which is on sale on Amazon for less than $10. The Kindle Edition is just $3.99. Pick up either (or both) for more ways to keep things simple (and keep you happy).

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