I was reminded recently that “No!” is a complete sentence, and probably should be used that way more often than it is.
I was talking with a potential writing client. We had agreed on the general outlines of the piece of writing he wanted, or at least I thought we had. Then he asked “Would you be willing to create a flier for no additional cost?”
“No,” I said and as tempted as I was to offer an explanation I didn’t. I knew I had uttered the negative in a pleasant tone of voice and had thoroughly answered his question. I figured if he wanted more information he’d ask for it, meanwhile, without more information or more questions anything I’d add would sound apologetic and as if I weren’t sure of my ground.
“Okay,” the client said, “I’ve got a graphics guy who can do it.”
I was relieved and the truth is I don’t like doing flyers much even though I know how to do it. The longer piece of writing is what I wanted to do for the client without the distraction of graphics.
Really, “No!” is a complete sentence
Notice too that in this example my “no” was a non-issue. He already had a solution and was trying to get a bit more for his money.
I tend to use “no” as a complete sentence in other situations too, including:
- “Will you write a 500 word article for $5?”
- “Can you finish this by tomorrow?”
- “I’m broke; will you reduce your rate?”
- “Will you take a percentage lieu of pay?”
Sure, sometimes I’ll say more than just “no.” Explanations can be helpful. Often clients and potential clients don’t understand exactly what they are asking for and a little bit of education gently given never hurts.
Those explanations can, however, sound like excuses – or a willingness to consider the offer in some fashion.
A firm, respectful “no” as a complete sentence can work wonders.
If they want more information let them ask for it. Be willing to explain, but don’t insist on it. It’s surprising how often a simple ‘no” is the end of it.
Of course, “yes” is also a complete sentence.