One of the ways to make sure we have enough time and energy resources for our own use, is to know how and when to say “no” to a request.
Recently I experienced two great examples.
One of them was a friendly request from a friend of a friend. She wrote a book, didn’t know how to market it, and needed my advice.
In the past, I would have made space in my diary, no matter what my own pressures and projects were. I would have literally gone out of my way, moved my diary around, to say “yes” to this person. Mostly to avoid feeling selfish, and also because it was a referral from a friend, and I wanted to be kind to everyone involved and give my friend a reason to refer people again.
The difficulty with this kind of request (that I’m getting more and more often) is that my time is one of the resources at my disposal to create an income. I don’t work for a boss, and if I use my non-renewable hours to help someone else to my own detriment, I’m on the losing side of this equation.
Yes, I LOVE helping people. Yes, I really CAN help this person with information and my hard-earned experience. And in order to go for a friendly 90 minute coffee date, I’d need to give up the possibility to earn an income during those 90 minutes, as well as the possibility to do other non-income producing work that will lead to an income.
This person was not asking me to pay me for my time. She was expecting me to give away my time and expertise for zero compensation.
The other difficulty I had with this request is that I have recently invested thousands (and yes, I mean THOUSANDS of dollars) to learn about marketing books. This knowledge and experience did not come for free, I paid dearly and have put in hours and hours of my time to implement, try out, correct course and try different strategies.
Another challenge for me is that I’m currently busy with enormous projects that I’ve never even dipped my toe in before. I’m in the process of putting together a Telesummit. It takes, literally, weeks of work to produce an event with 12 speakers, most of them from across the big pond. I need every hour I can get to work on my own projects and priorities in order to get the results I would like.
Notwithstanding all of this, a year ago I would probably have adjusted my diary to accommodate this person and give away some free hard-earned advice. I must admit, it would have happened with a few grumbles and a dose of resentment, yet I would have complied. Almost as if I had no choice in the matter.
Have you ever come across a friend of a friend asking a doctor to go for a coffee to ask him for some free advice? Do you contact an accountant friend of a friend and say “I really would love to get together so you can help me to come up with an accounting strategy?” Do people contact professional engineers and ask them to part with their knowledge and expertise over a coffee, UNLESS it would lead to a big project for that engineer?
Then why, oh why, does this occur so easily in the helping industries? And why do we think we need to feel guilty when we decline?
Again – don’t get me wrong, I LOVE helping people - which is precisely the reason I work in a helping profession. However – do people consider that this is the way I earn my income, and that if I say yes to every request for a free advice session I’d simply go out of business and have to get a JOB? And stop helping the clients who need the help I can provide?
So this time, with plenty of experience under the belt and a whole book about ‘saying no’, I could answer with honesty, completely in integrity and without even using the word “no”.
Thank you so much for contacting me – isn’t our friend a delight?
I would’ve loved to be able to meet for a coffee and discuss the book marketing world with you. The truth is that I have massive projects on my plate, and am working every spare moment to complete them before they’re due.
Here are some other particularly helpful resources you can look up right away. If they don’t help you, contact me again and let’s see what else is possible.
A note: the other resources really were incredibly helpful. 2 online book marketing Telesummits that she could subscribe to right away and receive more than 40 book marketing experts’ advice. At no cost.
It was an enormous relief to send the email. I didn’t HAVE to help just because there was a request. In that moment, I wasn’t the best person to help her. And I didn’t need to jump through hoops to feel like “I need to keep the peace” or “I need her approval”.
Can you see what worked here?
- I was honest about my own situation – it was my authentic truth that my own projects were incredibly important to me and I knew I couldn’t spend time on other priorities.
- I gave her some great options (4 or 5 different resources).
- I never once used the word “no”. It wasn’t necessary.
- I used positive words (not “I can’t because…” but “I would’ve loved to… “ and “Thanks for contacting me” and even an invitation to contact me again.
- I didn’t promise to help her next time, either. I said “what else is possible” which already offered an intriguing possibility for her own mind in that moment.
The next day, she sent the most delightful email - thanking me for the help and the enthusiastic email I wrote. My eyes nearly jumped out of my sockets – I was expecting a little disappointment or even no reply.
I felt absolutely great to be able to stand in my truth, speak my truth, stick up for my own priorities and still be able to help her. Just not in the way that she asked.
The truth is, we don’t HAVE to offer our services just because someone made a request. Even when it’s a paid service! I had to learn that lesson as well. Just because EFT can be helpful in so many situations, doesn’t mean I HAVE to work with every person who asks for my services. I can decide who I want to work with – paid or free.
Another truth is that sometimes we are not the best person for the job. I’m one person, with my perspective. This person now had to her disposal more than 40 different experts in the area she needed help with.
Remember this next time a request comes in for your time or energy:
- Are you clear on your own current priorities and values?
- Can you truthfully spare the time or are you going to do it resentfully while wishing you never said you would?
- You don’t HAVE to say yes!!
- Can you offer them other options?
- Are you truly the best person for the job they need done?
- Can you find positive, inviting and feel-good words to communicate your message?
We’re creating our lives with every decision we make. Using our time comes at a price. Are you willing to pay that price, or is it a good time to learn to say “yes” to yourself?