If you’re asking someone “Will you do [whatever]?” it is a closed question. That means it can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No.” Two options. Not one. Two.
“No” is as valid and acceptable an answer as “Yes.”
When I’m asked for something, I like to say “Yes,” most people do. But there are times when you have to say “No” for various reasons. So, why am I writing this? Well, for two reasons – annoyance and acceptance.
Anyone who does freelance work will tell you that you can get some right odd clients who make you gnash your teeth and want to scream. The nice thing about being freelance, is that sometimes (a very few times) you are in a position to make the decision that something just isn’t worth the money. Well, there was this particular person, who wasn’t at that point even a client (and will ever remain that way) and I was already getting annoyed with The Person over the tone and demands of their emails. Totally unnecessary demands and restrictions to be honest. And the sample I’d already done hadn’t exactly enthralled me with The Persons talent. So I told The Person that unfortunately, I didn’t think I was the editor for them and gave them two recommendations of other editors who might better suit their needs. (After checking with these editors that they would be prepared to deal with The Person.)
Guess what happened next – Yep – insults and aspersions on my professionalism. I shrugged this off as The Person not being important enough to worry about. More ego than ability. But that way lay the Trolls.
A while ago I had a colleague ask for something, but I was up to my ears and had to say no so that I could meet other deadlines. No insults this time. Not to me anyway. But in a more recent session with my line-manager I got it in the neck for not being helpful and had to go through exactly what had happened and my reason for saying no even though to me it was a minor incident that barely even registered. When I explained my line-manager understood, and even though I was not in the wrong, the black mark is still on my record, not the complainer’s. She Who Cries First won that situation. She Who Cries First, I’ve noticed over the years and various jobs always does – even when the tears are crocodile.
The point is that people always seem to presume that the answer will be “Yes.” But “Yes” is not the only answer.
You may be wondering where the acceptance comes from. Well, it’s this.
I recently asked another author to read my manuscript – which has been accepted for publication – and IF (stressed the IF in the approach) The Author liked it, could The Author give me a positive quote to go with the book. Now there are a couple of things I should mention about The Author – who will go unnamed because it was an exchange between me and The Author and that’s all – I do not know this person personally, just by reputation, and the fact that we have various social media connections. I very much admire The Author’s work. I prefaced my approach with an acknowledgment that I was being cheeky just in asking.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do my research or I would have known up front what the answer would be. And clearly given the topic of this blog you know what the answer was too – it was “No.”
To be honest, not only was I being cheeky in making the approach – I didn’t actually expect any response let alone a positive one, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. If you don’t ask you don’t get, right?
The response was surprisingly quick and very polite. Clearly, it was also negative. Look, as far as I’m concerned the fact that I got a response at all is a testament to The Author’s good nature, and that it was so pleasantly constructed a negative just shows how considerate The Author actually is, too.
Did I rant at The Author? Did I ask how dare The Author refuse? No, of course, I didn’t. I can’t imagine why I would, or why anyone else would, either, but I know they would. All I did was send back a quick note to say thank you for responding and wish The Author a good evening.
So what am I saying with the blog? Well, three things actually:
- If you have to ask, do your homework before you do.
- If you do ask and get a “No”, accept it politely.
- If you have to be the one saying “No”, do it carefully (and keep copies just in case you’re dealing with a disguised Troll).
I’d also like to say “Sorry for bothering you” to The Author, but don’t expect The Author to read this so that might be pointless – still, it doesn’t hurt to try.