As my business grows, I continue to meet fascinating people experimenting with interesting ideas, events and opportunities. Whether it’s apps to help working moms feel like they don’t have to do it all, coaching programs with frameworks for women to define flexible careers, or career transition workshops guiding senior level women toward their next step—there are hundreds of people who share my mission and I’m hungry to meet them all. Because I’m a connector-type, this is one of my favorite parts of the job. Where it can get sticky is the next step—deciding which of these dynamic people or companies to move forward with in a collaboration and knowing which of these opportunities, committees or projects is going to make the biggest impact on my business—and be the wisest use of my most scarce resource—my time.
In order to figure out how to move forward, I walk through the following line of questioning…
1. Does this align with my top three business priorities?
2. Am I excited about this or does it feel like a “should?”
3. Would I regret not doing this?
Often after asking myself these questions—the opportunity falls into the “no” camp and I feel an instant sense of obligation to my new favorite person who will be receiving my “no.” I recall our dynamic conversation—our mind melding, our shared vision—and then I feel guilty, as if I am letting that person down. I have two choices—ignore follow-up emails that leave me with the stomach pit OR say no.
In order to turn these feelings around, I ask myself, “If I say no to this project, what other exciting project can I say yes to?”
And from this place of possibility, I’m reminded that “no” can be “no for now” and not “have a nice life!”
Next comes the creative part. It is possible to say “no” and simultaneously make someone feel valued and supported and admired. I call it, The Inspired No.
How To Write The Inspired No
1. Be upfront and honest that now is not the right time for this project.
2. DON’T give excuses or reasons as to why. These feel empty and they are unnecessary.
3. DO be open and detailed about how much you enjoyed the conversation you had and respect their mission and their work.
4. Be clear that you’d love to keep in touch so that you can potentially collaborate down the line.
The beauty of The Inspired No is that it communicates that you are authentically in awe of what the person is doing AND that you don’t need to be a part of it to be a fan. I’ve been amazed at the encouraging and gracious notes I’ve received back from my Inspired No’s—and the relationships that have been built when that door was left open to simply see what could happen. Most importantly, The Inspired No gives me another opportunity to celebrate the boundaries I set to build the business and life that’s right for me—while building a world of future co-conspirators in the process.