The most overlooked key toboils down to one word: “no.”
Learn to say “no” in a polite but firm tone. It’s not necessarily easy, especially if you’re a people pleaser, but it frees up time for more important tasks.
Responding with “maybe” may seem like a nice compromise. But it’s actually a time-sapping mistake, because your inability to commit to an up-or-down answer leaves others hanging. They will follow up and push you to make a decision.
Train yourself to say no and feel good about it. When consultant Rory Vaden asked to meet a famous author, he was repeatedly rejected. But he was impressed by the way the author replied.
At one point, the author emailed Vaden to decline his request for a meeting. Instead of typing a terse message, the author wrote, “Right now, I’ve promised my spouse that I will not add any discretionary get-togethers to my local schedule. My calendar has become so tight that I need to protect the increasingly limited time I have at home for family time.”
Two years later, Vaden contacted the author again to request an endorsement of his first book. And again, the author said no, graciously.
For Vaden, these rejections taught him a valuable lesson: It’s possible to say no with honesty and integrity. You don’t have to dance around the issue or mislead people into thinking you’re weighing their request when you’re not.
“People can take no,” Vaden says. “But they want to be treated with dignity.”
— Adapted from “Creating a Strategy That Works,” Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi, www.strategy-business.com.