It happens all the time. Maybe you didn’t check your schedule. Perhaps it felt embarrassing to say “no” at the time. Whatever the reason, everyone accepts commitments only to discover later that they have to say “no” after saying “yes.” It’s a stressful situation that can feel daunting even to the most emotionally intelligent person. But don’t worry: Here’s how to do it with grace and honesty.
Let’s begin by agreeing to a basic principle: Lying is almost never a smart strategy. In many cases, telling a lie may feel so much easier than being truthful. However, lies can easily backfire and you don’t want to earn a reputation as insincere or lacking in character.
Getting caught lying can easily damage a friendship or burn a professional bridge you may need later.
Instead, be honest and state the real reasons why you have to decline a commitment. When they have to say “no,” a lot of people experience guilt because they feel that they are being too self-centered.
Learn to look beyond this understandable reaction and dig for the real reason why you have to say “no.” Very often, you’ll discover that you have a valid reason. For example:
- You are exhausted
- You want to spend more time with your family
- You already have several overlapping commitments
- You don’t feel qualified to complete the task
Remember that It’s OK to Say No After Saying Yes
Saying “no” after saying “yes” is so difficult in large part because it runs counter to many things we learn as children. Things like “Be true to your word” or “Always keep your promises.”
The truth is that real life is a bit more complex and nuanced. As adults, we make mistakes or miscalculations and it’s OK to correct them.
If you have to turn down a commitment you previously agreed to, keep in mind the validity of your reasons. Author William Ury calls it ” a positive no.” This strategy means showing the other party that you have to say no to them in order to say yes to something more important, or more basic. For example:
- “I hate to backtrack on this, but I just realized I just don’t have the bandwidth to deliver the quality this project requires.”
- “I’m so sorry. I know I said I’d do it, but I’m experiencing some signs of burnout, and I feel I need to slow down a bit.”
More Tips to Propel Your Business Forward
Read these previous posts for more tips that cover every aspect of the management of your organization, from communication to online security.
- How to improve your written communication
- Handling difficult conversations at work
- How to deal with the wave of post-pandemic career changes
- What is timeboxing?
About the Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
At the Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GRHCC), our core mission is supporting small businesses and economic development with advocacy, business referrals, marketing opportunities, training programs, student internships, and scholarships.