Let me make it easy for you.

#13 in my series of Lessons Learned blog posts
Sometimes you have to say no and sometimes people will thank you for it.

Although, I’m not sure why, “no” comes fairly easily to me. And, I don’t typically experience  any anxiety when I have to say it.  My current role occasionally requires the ability to say no to a customer, so it’s a good thing I’ve had some practice saying it throughout my career.

In 2010, I learned that sometimes people will accept “no” because it means you’ll take the heat on their behalf. Here’s an example. My office has a mandate to reduce our campus reliance on print and I got a call about producing a print piece that was a slam-dunk, no judgment required candidate for web-only communication. I started out suggesting that a website would be a more effective medium for this internal communication piece. The customer hesitated, and then said, “we know that no one reads this, but we’d like to print it one more year until we can get committee approval that a website is okay instead.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. (He was making this easy for me by admitting that he knew print wasn’t effective.) I tried again: (me) “How about I offer my student interns to migrate your content to a new website in place of a print brochure?” (him) Well, I really think we need to do both this year …[more checking with the committee language].” Finally, I went in for the kill and said, “Let me make this easy for you, our office can’t do the print piece this year. We can create a website for you but I won’t be able to produce the print.”

I said no, he said okay, and his boss later thanked me. Apparently, she had been suggesting the same thing and was pleased that I made it easy for them to change their communication strategy. Happy to help.

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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