I get the feeling you don't really believe that I'm going to try to say "no" more. Those of you I see in person, you get a little smirky when we talk about this, like yeah, whatever, we'll see. But some of the female faculty at work had a meeting, an actual meeting, to talk about how to say no (I couldn't attend because I was barfing my brains out). So I'm not the only one, succotash, fighting this particular problem.
One of the websites circulated after the meeting, in an email, featured 20 ways to say no. Like, actual ways. I think some of these are pretty great, though when I read them they enter my brain a little bit like a foreign language. So I'll practice them here, and then maybe you'll actually hear one come out of my mouth in the near future.
"I am in the middle of several projects."
"I am not comfortable with that."
"I am not taking on any new responsibilities."
"I am not the most qualified person for the job."
"I do not enjoy that kind of work."
"I do not have any more room in my calendar."
"I hate to split my attention among projects."
"I have another commitment."
"I have no experience with that."
"I know you will do a wonderful job with that."
"I need to focus more on my personal life."
"I need to focus on my career right now."
"I need to leave some free time for myself."
"I would rather decline than do a mediocre job."
"I would rather help out with another task."
"Let me hook you up with someone who can do it."
"Not right now, but I can do it later."
"Some things have come up that need my attention."
"This really is not my strong suit."
I plan to use one of these quite soon. Can you guess which one? It's with a colleague who will absolutely not take no for an answer. Lord, he just will not. So now I'm in a bind and have to get out.
Here's another one, which I used in a recent email:
"If I take on one more thing, my head will explode."
The level of professionalism in that one was tops.
The only problem this list doesn't address is when you've got some sort of fundamental ego problem and take on new things because it makes you feel needed and worthwhile. Not that I have this particular ego problem or know it intimately. So another one for the list might be, "I feel very flattered by your invitation, and my ego would very much like me to take this gig, but my ego gives me the shaft every five minutes and I'm trying to shut that beeyotch up."
One other landmine: a lot of those in the list above might invite more work down the road, which I have to be careful about. Do you have a favorite "no"? I'd like to hear it.