Making decisions is hard. Disappointing people is no fun. But it's impossible to do everything, so sometimes I need to say no to people who ask me to do things. Here's why it's important to do that, and how to make it easier.
I'm writing this post because a few months ago, I sent out invitations for people to submit stories to my forthcoming anthology, What Fates Impose. I got three types of answer: yes, no, and "no response." Those non-responses left me feeling a bit freaked out, with many unanswered questions on my mind about why I didn't hear back. I'm not here to try to make anyone feel bad about not responding. In some cases, they may not have received my email, or other things I didn't know about may have been going on. However, some of them may have felt uncomfortable with directly saying no, as many people are, or they may have believed that it didn't matter.
Here's why it matters. We all have the same amount of time: not enough. I understand if you don't have time to work on a new project. I often have the same problem. That's why I'd rather get a quick, polite negative answer than wait around for an answer that never comes. I just want to know where I stand with you, so I can proceed. Here are two easy notes you can send to tell me no ANYTIME YOU WANT:
1. If you don't want to work on THIS project, but you might want to work with me in the future:
Thank you for inviting me to submit a story. Unfortunately, I can't commit to this, but please think of me for other projects in the future.
2. If you don't feel convinced you want to work with me at all:
Thank you for inviting me to submit a story. Unfortunately, I can't commit to this, but I hope the project goes well for you.
(You don't have to wish me well on the project if you REALLY don't want to work with me, but it's a nice touch. SOCIAL SKILLS, Y'ALL.)
These basic templates are easy to customize. If you know the person, include a little personal note. Ask about their cat. Sign off with "Best" or "Take Care" or, if you're really close, "Hugs." If you really would have said yes, but there were unavoidable obstacles, mention that. Ultimately, though, it is way better for your business and personal relationships if you say SOMETHING rather than NOTHING.