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How to say “no” without actually saying “no”

A funny paradox happens at work: Most people think hard before accepting a task, but hardly think at all when assigning a task to someone else.

So, your Slack and email are full of messages like…

“Hey, can you spin up some new headlines for me?”
“Hey, can you review this campaign we’re working on?
“Hey, can you join this meeting with our Head of Sales?”
“Hey, can you…”

And if you’re like most marketers, it’s hard to say no.

So you sit there on Slack, palms sweaty, writing and rewriting a message that basically says, “Ummm, no.”

Here’s a better way to turn down a request:

Wes Kao, co-founder of Maven, recently shared her approach with Lenny Rachitsky.

Instead of saying “no,” state the tradeoff of doing what you’re being asked to do.

For example, if someone asks you to spend a day working on a new project, you could say,

“Sure, I can do that, but it means I’ll miss the deadline you assigned me for the Facebook Ads project we’re working on. Should this take priority over that?”

It’s simple, but this approach is refreshingly effective for killing those notorious ad-hoc requests. And it’ll make your life a whole lot easier.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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