The word “no” can inspire regret, fear, anxiety, obligation and a host of negative feelings and perceptions. When you’re a small business owner who’s trying to serve your clients and grow your business, actually turning down a project or request can feel like an impossibility. But “no” is not a bad word. Similar to how we’ve previously discussed that mistakes are not fatal, saying no has the potential to remove the burdens that come with overcommitting. Declining an offer that isn’t a good fit for you or your company is healthy.

Now, that doesn’t mean that saying no comes easy. It's important to have a clear understanding of why you need to refuse a project or request. And if you're uncomfortable saying no, take the time to practice your response.

Here are a few ways to say no in a constructive and healthy manner:

  • “Thank you for thinking of me, but not at this time.”
  • “I can’t take this on right now.”
  • “I am not taking on any new projects at the moment.”
  • “I would not be able to give this my full attention.”

If you’re still struggling with the idea of turning down a project, think of it this way: If you say yes to something, the resources have to come from somewhere. Is what you’re being asked to do taking away resources from other work and going to lead to inferior results? Is it worth doing worse work for your existing clients? Will you sacrifice the quality of your reputation or the quality of your products and services?

There is only so much of you and your bandwidth to go around. Declining an offer when necessary will give you the ability to focus on the abundance of work and responsibility you’ve already taken on. It will allow you to reserve time to say yes to the 100% worth it opportunities that come your way. It will help you to build up your confidence and self worth.

The next time you receive an offer, think about it in the long-term. Decide whether adding new work to your schedule will benefit you and your organization. The more you understand about your capacity, both personally and professionally, the more you may find yourself saying no – and that’s okay.

Help out our readers and let us know in the comments: when was saying no the right move for you?

Want to get a better understanding of your personal bandwidth? Need to understand the actual cost of a “yes” or a “no” in your small business? Let's set up some time to talk.

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