If you’re like most people, you can easily recall several instances in which agreeing to something when you really didn’t want to caused you frustration, overwork, financial loss, or heartache. If you’re running a small business, it can also cost you opportunities, because saying yes to a bad deal now will often prevent you from making a better deal later on.
Being able to turn people down firmly yet kindly is an essential skill for every leader. But how do you go from being an always-yes person to a sometimes-no one?
In many cases, you don’t really need to say yes or no to a request right away. So, when someone asks you for something and you’re not sure whether you should say yes, practice saying this sentence: "Let me think about it and get back to you."
The very next thing you should say is when you will get back to them, e.g., "I’ll give you my answer in 24 hours. Does that work for you?" If someone insists they need an immediate answer, that’s usually a good reason to say no.
Now that you’ve bought yourself a little time, use it to think about why you’re reluctant to say yes, and whether there would be negative consequences to saying no. Also think about how you could use the time or other resources you’d save if you say no, and then make your decision.