The Art of Saying “No”
Opting to turn down an opportunity can be a gut-wrenching decision, but sometimes the long-term benefits outweigh the temporary discomforts. By saying no, we allow ourselves more time and energy to devote to the activities that serve our best interests. Saying “no” to a bad opportunity is like saying “yes” to a good one.
When to Say No
“Saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and saying yes is not always a virtue.” -Paulo Coelho, Brazilian lyricist and novelist
You never want to be the person who just says no out of habit, someone who misses out on success because they’re afraid of failure. On the other hand, it isn’t wise to say yes to every offer that comes along at the risk of over-committing yourself. It’s a fine balance, and it can be hard to find the perfect middle ground. That’s way it’s wise to consider a few major factors before making a final decision:
Your mental and physical health are your most important assets, and you need to know when you’re stretching yourself too thin. Write out your schedule. Figure out how much time you have to commit to this opportunity, and don’t forget to take into account your own mental bandwidth (efficiency towards/tolerance of heavy workloads).
2. Culture Fit
Is this the best opportunity for you, personally? Does this job/internship/opportunity that you’re being offered fit with your personality, your goals, and your values? Even if the offer itself is promising, make sure to consider the culture of the organization or workplace you’ll be joining before taking the plunge.
3. Existing Commitments
When you say yes to everything, you might end up with more on your plate than you can handle. If you find yourself stretched too thin, your quality of work will certainly suffer. And guess what? The obligations to which you’ve already agreed take precedent, so don’t think you can renege on a promise if something better comes along. Never compromise on your existing commitments or else you risk looking irresponsible and unreliable.
4. Level of Interest
Sometimes, you’re just not crazy about what’s being offered to you, and that’s okay. If you can afford to wait until something better comes along, don’t take something that doesn’t interest you.
5. Opportunity Cost
Remember, saying yes to one opportunity means potentially passing on another. So consider, “How much is my time worth?” and “Could my time be better spent on something else?” As I’ve said, your existing commitments take precedent, so don’t commit to something if you’re not sure it’s what you want.
Even taking all these factors into consideration, sometimes you just need to take a chance and say yes. Fear or uncertainty are not good reasons to say no. Keep yourself open to opportunities, and you’ll be surprised at the doors that will open for you.
How to Say No
Of course, there will be times when you just have to walk away, so make sure you know how to do it the right way.
Remember, it’s not just a matter of learning when to say no; it’s also an issue of learning how to say no without burning bridges.
Even if the opportunity doesn’t interest you, remember to show appreciation for the offer and any time that has already been invested in you. “Thanks, but no thanks” is not an acceptable response. Instead, take some time to explain that the opportunity would be detrimental to you current commitments or that it would not be the right fit for you at this time.
Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t leave room for negotiation, and make it clear that you can’t accept the offer at this time. No one likes to be strung along while you wait for something better to come along, so make sure you provide a definitive answer in a reasonable amount of time.
Leave the Door Open for Future Opportunities.
Say you’re a college student juggling classes, extra-curricular activities, and an internship. It may not be wise to accept a part-time job offer during the school year, but you might be able to take on new commitments in the summer.
While you may not be interested in an opportunity at this time, you may still want to keep communication open should something else come along. It’s perfectly fine to reject an offer but acknowledge that you’d still like to keep in touch.
Have you ever made the tough decision to let go of an opportunity that wasn’t right for you? What happened? Let me know in the comments!